Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

There is a new book out by Steven Johnson which is discussed by Michael Humphrey on “Open Salon.” http://www.salon.com/books/nonfiction/?story=/books/feature/2010/10/12/steven_johnson_interview

“The idea behind the book,” says Humphrey “is that the ‘Eureka moment is overrated.’ In his sixth book, “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation,” popular science writer Steven Johnson tries to dispel the notion of the ‘eureka moment.’  Johnson points out, “As with nature, new concepts, like the Internet, slowly grow out of old concepts. They don’t spring forth from nowhere. Darwin’s theory, for instance, was built on centuries of observation, including his own.. ”

Do you agree?

It is quite true that the evolution of  new ideas particularly in science cannot take hold until there is sufficient understanding to comprehend it. For example let’s assume that we are in a time machine and it lands in the cave man era. We leave behind a battery operated computer. It might be an object of intense curiosity or even considered sacred, but there would be no ability to use it: the knowledge gap of these people and us is simply too great.

So one conclusion we might draw is that meaningful evolution depends upon our ability to grasp an idea and use it when it “arrives.” A second observation might be that if we are working on discovering a new or better way there is intent and desire on our part, two ingredients necessary to stimulate a response from the field.

When a discovery presents itself “out of the blue” but as a result of arduous effort in a particular direction perhaps it is an “awareness” related to Buckminster Fuller’s ideas of precession. Precession in this sense meant that the true purpose of endeavor is 90 degrees to its intended path. For example Fuller noted that the honey bee leaves the nest to collect honey. But is that its’ true purpose? Well, not necessarily. It is actually pollinating plants (metaphorically a 90 degree activity to gathering honey) and keeping life on the planet moving forward.

Perhaps our great discoveries which surface after much effort are in this mode. The question that looms is whether the ideas come from greater minds in the collective unconscious or does the collective unconscious simply through chaotic energy evolve to the next level?

My take on this is that it does not matter. What is important is the decision making idea of you believing  that your efforts will produce “something” eventually quite useful as opposed to the possibility of endless defeats.

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