In the last millennium, there was a group of people called alchemists. Their job was to take the ordinary stuff around them: lead, iron, acids and so on, and create gold. They believed, or hoped at least, that there was a way to create an incredible amount of new value from the ordinary things around them, if they could only figure out how to do it.
They conducted complex experiments, and used all the ideas and knowledge and art that was available to them. In the end, they were not very successful, although the idea was right. In modern times, we have created incredibly valuable new materials—plastics, carbon fiber, safety glass and so on. Read more