I am seriously lost in terms of innovation. You may give kids money and they'll open up their Lemonade bars but how can you expect innovation without any research? And research without any education?
I can't fathom any kid dropping out and then inventing a satellite? or solve any medical problem? And if they don't innovate then how can they even think of ways of bringing it to the consumers (which is the difficult next step) ?
You definitely missed an opportunity. My first year, I volunteered without pay in a research lab just to see what was going on, and then by the second through fourth years I was contributing to actual research.
Of course, it's not entirely clear that I was more help than hindrance to the group until midway through my third year, but I certainly learned a lot and got a lot of mentoring you can't get via youtube and e-books :-)
Working in a research lab would have been my dream (and it's all for free while you are a student, isn't it). I just didn't have a clue as to how to get there. I don't blame the system, as I wrote in another post. Although it wouldn't have hurt to get some directions.
I went to a German university. I don't really want to bash them, as the level of education was actually very good. I was just clueless as to how to best direct my education. Studying maths also didn't help with getting involved in creating things.
There actually is a European Space Agency thing nearby, and an acquaintance DID work on satellites there for his PhD, so as I said, I can't really blame the system.
I guess the key thing for me is the cluelessness about how to go about reaching goals effectively. I still relied on the system to somehow stir me towards a nice job.
There are definitely different magnitudes of innovation. There's innovation in terms creating new products and services that people will pay for, and there's innovation that nudges the entire human race forward a little bit.
The scientists and engineers who enable the first manned mission to Mars will not be college dropouts.