" Let me warn you, `important problem’ must be phrased carefully.
The three outstanding problems in physics, in a certain sense, were never worked on while I was at Bell Labs. By important I mean guaranteed a Nobel Prize and any sum of money you want to mention.
We didn’t work on (1) time travel, (2) teleportation, and (3) antigravity. They are not important problems because we do not have an attack.
It’s not the consequence that makes a problem important, it is that you have a reasonable attack.
That is what makes a problem important. When I say that most scientists don’t work on important problems, I mean it in that sense.
The average scientist, so far as I can make out, spends almost all his time working on problems which he believes will not be important and he also doesn’t believe that they will lead to important problems.”