Where Do Truly Original Ideas Come From?
Every so often, an individual comes forward with a completely original idea that changes how we view the world, starting as if from nowhere, without relying on the gains of the past.
Human progress relies on a pan-generational dissemination of knowledge. Information discovered by one group of people is passed on to the next, who contribute to and modify that knowledge. Isaac Newton expressed gratitude to those who came before him, saying that even he "stood on the shoulders of giants." But every so often, an individual comes forward with a completely original idea that changes how we view the world, starting as if from nowhere, without relying on the gains of the past.
Having set down the precepts for logical argumentation and moral behavior, Aristotle is perhaps the example most taken for granted. The creation of the computer, which has revolutionized modern life, relied on a break with Aristotle's logic. A contradiction in set theory was discovered by Claude Shannon which stated that information is separate from content. More recently still, the iconoclastic physicist Richard Feynman envisioned nanotechnology, seemingly from his own imagination. Today, it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Aristotle, Shannon, and Feynman were all brilliant polymaths capable of synthesizing information from across various fields. To arrive at novel ideas about our current fields, we must venture outside them. This cross-pollination of information is what can ignite the strongest creative spark within us.
The actor Rainn Wilson recommends taking some drastic action to change your surroundings if you're looking for creative inspiration:
Read more at Creativity Post
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.
- The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
- The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
- It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.