Superhuman innovators: How experimentation and struggle fuel new ideas

Why Django Reinhardt might just be the greatest musical innovator you've never heard of.

Videos
  • David Epstein recounts the incredible life of 20th-century Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt, who couldn't read or write and who suffered a horrific accident that made two of his fret fingers useless.
  • Reinhardt didn't stop playing, instead he invented a new style that revolutionized the music scene and gave birth to the modern guitar solo, inspiring artists like Jimi Hendrix.
  • Anyone can innovate, says Epstein, it is in no way dependent on a formal education. In fact, our creative work may fare better if we learn like babies do: through trial, error, and struggle.
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Lateral thinking: The reason you’ve heard of Nintendo and Marvel

Here's why generalists triumph over specialists in the new era of innovation.

Videos
  • Since the explosion of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, generalist inventors have been making larger and more important contributions than specialists.
  • One theory is that the rise of rapid communication technologies allowed the information created by specialists to be rapidly disseminated, meaning generalists can combine information across disciplines to invent something new.
  • Here, David Epstein explains how Nintendo's Game Boy was a case of "lateral thinking with withered technology." He also relays the findings of a fascinating study that found the common factor of success among comic book authors.
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Why are IQ scores rising? Industrialization rewired our minds.

300 years of industrialization have boosted our IQ scores in one very specific way.

Videos
  • Human intelligence is increasing by approximately 3 IQ points per decade, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect.
  • The increases come from one area of intelligence in particular: abstract thinking, which can be tested using puzzles like Raven's Progressive Matrices. Watch this video to see two kinds of puzzles: One your modern mind is perfectly geared for, and another that might just fool you.
  • In this video, David Epstein recounts a natural experiment in the Soviet Union in the 1930s that tested the intelligence of isolated subsistence farmers compared to people who had been exposed to industrialization. The experiment revealed fascinating information about abstract thinking, intelligence transfer, and how modern life has changed the way we perceive the world.
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