Every truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
This is a great way of explaining why I find myself signing up to any site that I think shows some promise:
“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”
— Stewart Brand, an American writer, best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. He founded a number of organizations including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and theLong Now Foundation. He is the author of several books, most recently Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.
Via Quote Vadis.
The most recent service I’ve signed up to is This Is My Jam, one for the music lovers. I have a few invites to spare, so leave a comment on this post if you’d like to sign up.
Every culture that has lost its myth has lost its creativity.
- Author A.S.Byatt on the need to keep myths and legends alive, speaking at a recent 5×15 event around the launch of her latest work Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, which was her contribution to the Canongate Myth series. I was reminded of it a couple of days ago when I heard about GE’s new initiative to showcase innovation in China by recalling ancient Chinese folklore.
In a world where everything can be Googled, this piece by author Neal Stephenson, painting the picture of a world led by science fiction, is fascinating. It emphasizes the importance of encouraging ideas rather than throwing them away just because it already exists in some form, because existing idea 1 + existing idea 2 can equal something altogether brilliant – he’s advocating remix culture basically.
Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one—or at least vaguely similar—and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.
What if that person in the corner hadn’t been able to do a Google search? It might have required weeks of library research to uncover evidence that the idea wasn’t entirely new—and after a long and toilsome slog through many books, tracking down many references, some relevant, some not. When the precedent was finally unearthed, it might not have seemed like such a direct precedent after all. There might be reasons why it would be worth taking a second crack at the idea, perhaps hybridizing it with innovations from other fields. Hence the virtues of Galapagan isolation.
The counterpart to Galapagan isolation is the struggle for survival on a large continent, where firmly established ecosystems tend to blur and swamp new adaptations. Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author of the recent book You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, has some insights about the unintended consequences of the Internet—the informational equivalent of a large continent—on our ability to take risks. In the pre-net era, managers were forced to make decisions based on what they knew to be limited information. Today, by contrast, data flows to managers in real time from countless sources that could not even be imagined a couple of generations ago, and powerful computers process, organize, and display the data in ways that are as far beyond the hand-drawn graph-paper plots of my youth as modern video games are to tic-tac-toe. In a world where decision-makers are so close to being omniscient, it’s easy to see risk as a quaint artifact of a primitive and dangerous past.
“It’s easy to see risk as a quaint artifact of a primitive and dangerous past.” Think about that.
Championing the cause of the idea connector, in this case Marissa Mayer at Google:
Companies need formalized processes for people with ideas to get to people with the influence to move on them.
“I had never defined our studio as not having structure; we just worked that way because it was faster,” he says. “But once you have more than 20 people, having no structure actually makes things worse and makes things slower.” Now they’re taking the time to look back at previous projects and try to figure out how they do, in fact, do things. “We have to write this stuff down,” acknowledges Barton. “Even though it’s really hard to make a process that tries to externalise things that to an extent are intuitive and synthesised within an individual mind.”
…..be intellectually honest about what is really going on. We all have a tendency to hear what we want to hear, and our filters make us listen for the data that confirms our preconceived opinions. It takes mental discipline to allow oneself to hear and understand what is really going on. Keep in mind that there is nothing as useless as solving the wrong problem.
“But, Leo, only you can shut these doom-talkers up. Invent something that will make the future brighter, well rounded, infinitely joyous. You’ve invented bicycles, fixed the penny-arcade contraptions, been our town movie projectionist, haven’t you?”
“Sure,” said Douglas. “Invent us a happiness machine!”
The men laughed.
“Don’t,” said Leo Auffmann. “How have we used machines so far, to make people cry? Yes! Every time man and the machine look like they will get on all right – boom! Someone adds a cog, airplanes drop bombs on us, cars run us off cliffs. So is the boy wrong to ask? No! No…”
His voice faded as Leo Auffmann moved to the Curb to touch his bicycle as if it were an animal.
“What can I lose?” he murmured. “A little skin off my fingers, a few pounds of metal, some sleep? I’ll do it, so help me.”
“Leo,” said Grandfather, “we didn’t mean-” But Leo Auffmann was gone, pedalling off through the warm summer evening, his voice drifting back. “…I’ll do it…”
“You know” said Tom, in awe, “I bet he will.”
— Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.
Via Beep Industries; superb home page quote.
J.K. Rowling’s thoughts on patriotism:
I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s; to be citizens, with everything that implies, of a real country, not free-floating ex-pats, living in the limbo of some tax haven and associating only with the children of similarly greedy tax exiles.
A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug.