“Rigid business organization and sharply delineated functions had no place at Genentech, a company in which flexibility, improvisation, and quick action were essential”(128).
Genentech’s business model and inter-company interaction are consist with innovation and a perfect level of casualness that makes the company so successful. Genentech was obviously not going to be a company forged on the conventional seriousness of the corporate world. Rather, Genentech embodies the facilitation of ideas that Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, would love. The fact of the matter is this: in the realm of science, innovation, and product-based development, it is very important for employees of whatever company to be comfortable, casual, and unconventional. This, in turn, will create an atmosphere that can spread innovation.
“To make your mind more innovative, you have to place it inside environments that share the same network signature: networks of ideas or people that mimic the neutral networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible.” – Johnson (47)
Ideas, in my mind, are like babies. They must be incubated, nurtured, and talked about. One person coming up with a great idea without any sort of advice, adjustments, or critiquing, is almost unheard of. When a great idea comes to mind, it only makes sense to put it to the test and see what type of response its gets from your peers. The people in these liquid networks are what elevate mediocre ideas into great ideas. These networks provide a platform where ideas can be edited and enhanced in an intellectually competent environment. Liquid networks push individuals to think on another level and get advice to further develop these ideas. Whether it be a laboratory or a coffee shop, liquid networks positively contribute to idea development. Its almost hard to imagine a scenario where networks wouldn’t contribute to the development of an idea. These networks are what allow ideas to develop and mature, while maybe inspiring new ideas in the process.
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow figure, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” – Johnson (31)
The adjacent possible explicates how simply following an idea, and digging deeper into the subject matter, can lead to wonderful things. I’ve always been a person who never settled for “just because…” I always wanted to know why things were they way they were. What circumstances and scenarios led to this happening? The adjacent possible would tell me to dig deeper, and to find out why. Who knows what I might find, or what ideas may be sparked in the process. The important thing is that just by analyzing and searching for understanding, there are endless possibilities of what I might find or what I might discover. There are so many different ways to reach the same objective, its all about taking that first step and digging deeper. This opens up new doors of discovery and inspiration, which we may never have gotten if we just settled for “just because…” The adjacent possible reveals to us, how the world is capable of extraordinary change, but we’d never know if we just settled for the basic answers. The adjacent possible is what keeps discovery interesting and reminds us how truly capable the world is of change.
“This Acceleration reflects not only the flood of new products, but also outgrowing willingness to embrace these strange new devices and put them to use.” – Johnson (13)
It is amazing how fast we are adapting to new technologies, and then moving on to the next big thing. Technological progress has been greater in the past 50 years than all of humanity combined. We are developing new technologies at a ridiculously fast rate that its becoming tough to stay up to date with current technologies. Its forcing us to learn these technologies and further our technological knowledge. Unless of course, you decide you don’t want to adapt to societies technological progression, which is becoming very difficult to do as technology plays a larger role in our lives every year. A study conducted by The Emerging Future predicts that in the next 20 years, we will have surpassed our technical progress one million-fold. At this rate, it seems impossible to be able to adapt based upon one current lifestyles. It will be interesting to see how our lives will change when all this technology is released.
“Tucked away in one of the genes we were studying was this peculiar stuttered piece of DNA that actually gave us the golden key that unlocked the door to [the evolution of genes].” (Weinberg, 113)
Its interesting how this can relate to serendipity in Johnson’s book. They weren’t necessarily looking for this “key”, but through experiment, they found it. Although they were conducting an entirely separate experiment, this breakthrough presented itself. Johnson told us how this can apply to real life situations and this was a first hand testament to Johnson’s idea. The concepts in biotechnology actually range across the whole realm of science, forensic science in particular. Johnson would appreciate knowing that his ideas were brought to life in a separate realm of science.
Here is a good example of a submitted group book review. Please note that it is not perfect. You also do not need to refer to every chapter in the book. For future reviews, please make sure you use the provided rubric to help you get the most points possible!
Where Good Ideas Come From: A Method to the Madness of Innovation?
In Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, readers are able to get a glimpse into the process of creating major innovations. Johnson has already established himself as an insightful and creative author with his other books like The Ghost Map, which looks into the spread and cure of cholera in London. In each of his books, Johnson explains complicated concepts in a novel and simple way, allowing contemporary readers to understand the points he is trying to make. This book is no exception, with each chapter illuminating a different quality of the ideal idea-making process. To prove his points, Johnson uses a myriad of examples of innovation ranging from lone inventors to the exploits of coral reefs to the creation of the very first computers. Through each example in his novel, Johnson shows his idea-making concepts at work in real life.
“This is why it is just as useful to look at the sparks that failed, the ideas that found their way to a promising region of the adjacent possible but somehow collapsed there” (Johnson, 72).
I can see this as true because most of the time the people who failed were the first ones that acted upon their ideas. This in turn made others try the idea, which helped produce someone who actually succeeded on the idea. It is because the people that succeeded on a specific idea were only able to do it because they knew which path was already a failure, and which path was never tried yet. This had people creating so many ideas just to see if one of their ideas actually was the better one. Ultimately, all these people, failures and perfecters, actually helped produce ideas from generation to generation. That is something that is so important because if these people never acted on their ideas, who knows if we would be able to make helpful advances for our everyday life.
“If we’re going to try to explain the mystery of where ideas come from, we’ll have to start by shaking ourselves free of this common misconception: an idea is not a single thing. It is more like a swarm” (Johnson, 45-46).
This sentence is important for us to understand. We as society tend to overlook the smaller details in the bigger picture. That is how we miss those moments where the smaller details actually mean the most. However, this is still a hard thing to do because we have so many things on our mind, I feel as if it is hard to interpret with all those ideas in our heads are actually ideas or just random thoughts. Although this may be the case, I’m kind of steering towards thinking that maybe all our thoughts in our head are all ideas, it just depends how you use those ideas in your life. You can choose to use it to benefit people, or just not use it at all and put it in the back of your mind. All and all, we must understand that an idea is not a single thing and that it is more like a swarm because everyday we are learning and seeing new things, which makes us produce many ideas everyday.
“What the adjacent possible tells us is that at any moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only certain changes can happen.” (Johnson 31)
I find this to be a very powerful statement that provides some real inspiration. To me, this is the idea that anything can happen at any moment but no matter what it was, good or bad, it happened for a reason. It is the idea that change is natural and must be embraced rather than fought because if you fight it you will lose. This idea gives hope to those who are going through a rough time because it lets them know that things change and will continue to change so they may be down now but they know that it won’t always be that way. The world is always changing but these changes can only be certain things that can happen. Therefore, these changes must make sense according to the laws of nature and cannot possibly happen under the circumstances. The idea that the world is ever changing is a beautiful perception of reality and how we live our lives.
“Science long ago realized that we can understand something better by studying its behavior in different contexts” (Johnson, 19).
This sentence is so very true just by looking at all the advances we have had in technology, medicine, and other helpful innovations. When we study things in different contexts, we can learn more about the thing we are studying about. This can help us produce ideas just from studying other ideas. That is why it is so important to understand that something or someone’s behavior can tell a lot about it. By studying their behavior in different situations, we can try to get a good sense on why the things act the way they act or think the way they think. I feel this strategy helps us as a country become healthier and stronger with every year that came. Furthermore, this can also help the world as a whole and strengthen us to spawn new ideas for generations to come.
It is inconceivable to think the historical, political, cultural, economic, societal, ideological, and many other powers that would have changed if 9/11 did not happen. Granted, the Phoenix Memo in this chapter was considered to have been not enough to prevent 9/11. Sure, there is logical reasoning to believe that this memo in of itself was still not enough, but what if it was enough? What if it had uncovered the plot a mere two months and a day in advance on that July 10th? The implications are so grand that it, in a morbid perspective, may have brewed another, stronger terrorist plot. 9/11 was a wake up call (now I am not condoning the tragedy of that event, just hypothetically for the sake of arguing) , but if that 9/11 was prematurely stopped, would terrorists have created an even more secretive and deadlier plot? Food for thought.
Neurons in the brain are incredibly reminiscent in a visual sense of what the Internet is portrayed as in this picture. Johnson speaks of brains as networks. These networks are no coincidence to the fact that neurons, networks, and brains all share fundamental parallels that create entities that convey and transfer information. A neuron in of itself is incredible complex, for there are billions of neurons that make up the electric-like function of the brain. The Internet was originally made up of HTML’s, URL’s, text pages, and other neuron-like forces that power the brain-like function of the internet.
The adjacent possible, as Johnson eloquently describes, is a fruitful manner in which information can be passed along to generate new and unexpected information. When you hear the sayings, “I am opening a new chapter or door to my life,” or “maybe our paths will cross again,” they illicit this same concept that the adjacent possible illustrates. Although the adjacent possible is geared more toward the spread of ideas, I also see it as a way that new people can meet each other. Through social media, we have become so interconnected, and we do not even realize it. All it takes is a couple clicks of a mouse and you can be speaking to a complete stranger. Now this may sound creepy,but our society is becoming more and more adjacent to one another. In this, we connect to people, and then those people lead us to new and different people who we would never have met otherwise. In career building, it is most important to network yourself to as many contacts as possible; to know as many people as possible you must adjacent yourself to more people. It may seem simplistic, but Johnson’s adjacent possible is as much a narrative for meeting new people as it is for ideas to renew themselves in different ways.
“I can hardly explain the reason, but there is to my mind much grandeur in the view of the outer shores of these lagoon-islands.” (- Charles Darwin) (Johnson: 7)
Sometimes it takes a long walk on the beach, a walk in the park, a good run, and sometimes even a long sleep for people to come to terms with sought after information. In Darwin’s case, he is contemplating and calculating theories, hypothesis’s , and ideas that will shake the world of its then more faith-based belief of origin. If it took a man like Darwin, traveling all over the world, probably taking many long walks on many different beaches, imagine what we could all accomplish if we pumped the breaks a bit on our lives. Meaning, if we all just took the time to take a break and go to a serene place, where ever it may be, and just sit there and ponder on moments or thoughts that we normally don’t get the chance to reflect on, we’d all be much calmer, possibly solving many mysteries in our own lives.
In Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, readers are able to get a glimpse into the process of creating major innovations. Johnson has already established himself as an insightful and creative author with his other books like The Ghost Map, which looks into the spread and cure of cholera in London. In each of his books, Johnson explains complicated concepts in a novel and simple way, allowing contemporary readers to understand the points he is trying to make. This book is no exception, with each chapter illuminating a different quality of the ideal idea-making process. To prove his points, Johnson uses a myriad of examples of innovation ranging from lone inventors to the exploits of coral reefs to the creation of the very first computers. Through each example in his novel, Johnson shows his idea-making concepts at work in real life. Continue reading “Where Good Ideas Come From: A Method to the Madness of Innovation?”→
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson is not just a book on how an idea comes to be, but rather it is a book on the seemingly gear-like movements that make up the origin, flow, and future of an idea. Johnson brilliantly crafts the conception of an idea as a far more complex formula than it is superficially seen to be as. To define and position this book in one particular genre would be an injustice to Johnson’s intentions; this novel purposely transcends the realms of science, economics, history, politics, technology, culture, and other societal aspects. Moreover, Johnson is a master at his storytelling, pulling together information that one would never expect to be used in conjunction with another. To some, this book may appear predominantly related to the whole domain of science, but Johnson only uses science as one of his platforms to exhibit the fabrication of ideas. Johnson even uses Charles Darwin as his symbolic character for the creation of an idea—Darwin’s epic idea of natural selection and evolution. This book comes as no surprise, for Steven Johnson’s writing career has been bred from books “about world-changing ideas and the environments that made them possible” (247). The intended audience of this book can reach out to anyone who is keen to see a perspective into how our world works from a humanistic approach; meaning, one who is curious and seeking a conceptualization of how people think of an idea that is incredibly transcendent—like air conditioning or the Internet. The greater beauty is that this book is not just narrow to curious people, but it can be read by anyone who is yearning to learn something new every page. Overall, Where Good Ideas Come From is a book that is able intellectualize the greater meaning and provocation of an idea. Continue reading “The Art of Ideas: How Innovation and Ingenuity Take Their Form”→
Theoretical and Evolutional Networking Connections
Our physical, emotional and mentally evolving universe has many known limitations in fields of chemistry, biology, biotechnology and innovative sciences overall. These limitations are nothing but mental barriers that are bound to be overcame using the basis of innovation that our great ancestors founded many years ago. Where Good Ideas Come From written by Steven Johnson makes clear and somewhat short the long and tedious step-by-step process in which innovation progressed. In this science related nonfiction piece, Steve Johnson, a formidable writer and historian, talks about the different variations of ways in which ideas come to be, how they are/were implemented, the best ways these ideas can come to surface and how they contribute to the overall spectrum of innovative thinking. This writing contains a wealth of information relative to what everything is today and how it came to be, thus making it relevant and interesting to audiences of all sorts. Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Many people ask where do I get ideas or how do ideas come to be. In the first book we read this semester Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson he seeks to answer that question by developing his own theory of the “slow hunch” rather than the traditional flashbulb ideas. The book is a nonfiction look at business, science, history, and psychology used to analyze innovation. Properly cited and filled to the brim with scientific facts, the book is able to defend its position in a scholarly way. Johnson is aiming his book at no particular group in general, instead calling for everyone to take a step into becoming more creative. Continue reading “Group 6 Book Where Good Ideas Come From Review”→
Imagine you are driving along a busy highway in an area you are unfamiliar with. You miss your exit and end up in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Panicked, you grab your GPS and it reroutes to the correct destination. In this moment, do you think to yourself, where did this invention come from? How did it become so successful?
Steven Johnson’s novel, Where Good Ideas Come From, is successful in answering these questions ashe proposes the seven steps to creating good ideas in a page-turning and thought provoking novel meant for individuals of all disciplines. Johnson offers insight on how good ideas arise in such a way that has never been considered before. He proposes that good ideas come from adjacent possibles, slow hunches, liquid networks, serendipities, platforms, error, and quadrants. Johnson focuses on the theme that ideas build off one another by coexisting in a prosperous environment. Specifically, Johnson’s fascinating and flawless discussion of hunches, platforms, and serendipities are perfect examples of how readers understand some ways in which good ideas form and thrive. Continue reading “The Root of Ideas: A Review of Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Looking at our world’s most compelling innovations, theories, and discoveries, it seems as if brilliant minds of those like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Charles Darwin could produce ingenious insight in the blink of an eye. Author Steve Johnson however, believes that the components of our surrounding environment play a vital role in how we arrive at these “eureka moments” of enlightenment. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson documents the roots of innovation and creativity, while exploring the factors that play a role in determining how we ultimately arrive at ideas. Johnson uses seven different elements of thinking to outline our thought process; The Adjacent Possible, Liquid Networks, The Slow Hunch, Serendipity, Error, Exaptation, and Platforms. Slow hunches, densely populated areas, liquid networks, platforms are important themes our group noted as critical for the growth of innovation. Through Steven Johnson’s use of biological metaphors, scientific research, and innovative stories we are able to read where great ideas come from.Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”→
Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From will walk you through how the greatest thinkers form their ideas. In fact, his book explains in depth to you exactly what the subtitle says, “The Natural History of Innovation.” Johnson’s extensive experience of technological progress shows itself inside his chapters as he fully explains his main idea of the “slow hunch” by examining hunches like “a plot involving multiple radical Islamic fundamentalists” and how different ideas about how to identify these men are more successful than others (74). By using several other microcosms like that throughout his book Johnson incorporates his knowledge about how science has progressed in a way that is engaging and fast paced. Johnson’s goal is to show us how great ideas form, and where, like how “a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand (11). His writing is full of interesting facts such as this. As a nonfiction book, Johnson presents historical evidence in support of his analysis of how the many great ideas in science have formed. His writing is both informative and entertaining, chock full of behind the scenes looks about great scientists like Charles Darwin and how they came to the realization of their great ideas. Our society is pushed forward by great inventions like the printing press and by revolutionary ideas like the punnett square. Johnson breaks down the process of these discoveries and finds a system that identifies the keys to forming a great hunch. This system proves in fact, where good ideas come from. Continue reading “Where Good Books Come From”→
In his book’s introductory chapter “Reef, City, Web”, Johnson gives the reader information about a few significant discoveries and theories. Johnson first begins talking about Darwin’s paradox, then moves onto negative quarter-power and superliner scaling, and the Web. Johnson’s main point in this chapter is not to inform the reader about the question Darwin asked himself while observing a reef being hit by sea waves. His main point is to introduce the “science” behind the relationship between good ideas and where they come from, hence the title of the book. I believe Johnson does a good job of opening up his novel and mapping it out for the reader. Johnson presents good information that already encourages his audience to think and question social norms. I like the fact that Johnson clearly states the objective of his book and how he will go about accomplishing it. Continue reading “Book Review – Griffin, Padawan, Jose, PF1287”→
“By some measure, every important innovation is fundamentally a network affair” (Johnson, 221).
If monetary gains were not an issue for innovators, perhaps works of innovation could have reached further than the have. Since we lie in a physical and online network, anyone who has an idea and wants other people’s ideas would share with others who could give suggestions and put in factors that could make it better. But most of Us are worried about the profit and try to keep it for ourselves. In the conclusion of this book, Johnson talks about the four quadrants. How a product could be in am market of the individual and the network, and the Non-market for both of them. The main difference between the individual and the network is was something created within a web, the Alphabet was created by many individuals, so it would be a network non-market, because it has no value, where a market would be ball bearings. Individual comes into play when one individual was not able to use the network due to outside factors. but the market and non-market still play a factor. But to conclude all of this, even when something is individual or of a netork, it is from one amount of extreme to another, of the size of a web. just because you thought of somehing, does not mean that someone somewhere did not think of it either. we are all connected, all ideas are in a way connected, webs are simply where good ideas come from.
“Multiple developments precipitate this shift, starting with Gutenberg’s press, which begins to have a material impact on secular research a century and a half after the first bible hits” pg. 228
The printing press is a remarkable invention which has greatly helped millions of people. During the 1400’s a very basic for of printing existed. Letters or images were cut out on blocks of wood, the wood would be dipped in inc and put on paper. A German man named Johann Gutenberg observed this and realized he could make printing bigger and better. He wanted to make a machine and instead of using wood he chose to use metal. Today the printers are electronic and take the forms of the words with ink and transfers it to the paper. The printing press has been a wonderful invention because people can have tangible books, magazines, newspapers etc.
“Scientists have long recognized the importance of the relationship between the coral and a microscopic algae called zooxanthella” pg. 201
In a coral reef system it is normal for symbiosis to occur. Symbiosis comes from the word “sym” which means together and “biosis” which means life. When symbiosis occurs two organisms get together and benefit from each other. Corals have a symbiotic life. Inside each coral polyp lives an algae called zooxanthella. The zooxanthella gives off oxygen and other nutrients for the coral polyp to live. In return, the polyp gives the zooxanthella carbon dioxide and other things that the algae needs. Coral reefs usually grow closer to the surface of the water. There the sunshine is closer for photosynthesis to occur.
Here is an interesting video featuring coral reef symbiosis : Video
Millennials are people born between 1977 and 2000. They are a distinctive group of people because they are living in a booming technology era. Johnson defines millennials as the “digital age mode” (pg.172). The brain of a millennial works differently because it has been exposed to various amounts of technology. These amounts of technology are readily available at their fingertips. They are exposed to a large amount of information and are able to find that information fast. Millennials are great at multi tasking, group collaborations and brainstorming. Since millennials are always around fast efficient technology, they to seek to work fast yet efficiently. In addition, millennials are open to new ideas and do not limit their thinking. I think the greatest thing about being a millennial is that we have access to networking. For example my favorite network is LinkedIn, a social network which makes it easier for people to network for jobs.
In the conclusion of Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson ties together his book of good ideas with introduction of the quadrant system. He explains the fourth quadrant, and the inventions that have succeeded from this category. In his explanation, he goes back to his discussion of slow hunches…
“A slow hunch can’t readily find its way to another hunch that might complete it if there’s a tariff to be paid every time it tries to make a new serendipitous connection” (Johnson 232)
This made me wonder about the amount of good ideas that have fallen short because of patents and the economic endeavours of fellow scientists. I wondered if the fourth quadrant could start to wither in the future, for the exchange of fame.
Johnson asks why many good ideas flourished in the fourth quadrant, despite the lack of economic incentive. Innovations driven by economic gain usually include an expiration date. They are designed to solve a problem or make life easier in some way, but they do not always last the test of time. The typewriter was a novel innovation until computers and keyboards took over. Typewriters now lack any real monetary value, while the discovery of cell division is still relevant.
“The problem with these closed environments is that they inhibit serendipity and reduce the overall network of minds that can potentially engage with a problem.” (124)
I have never understood why people, scientists, corporations, could be so caught in the prospect of making a profit that they forget that they should be inventing because it betters society. Besides a small percent of innovations, everything we have today is a product of building upon others achievements, improving and perfecting them; patents and intellectual property rights are in place to protect the inventor but at what cost? R & D departments are the most secretive parts of corporation but they also are the ones on the cutting edge of science, science that, if shared with other R & D departments, could not only be perfected faster but also help a lot of people in the process.
“these non-market, decentralized environments do not have immense paydays to motivate their participants. But their openness creates other, power opportunities for good ideas to flourish. All of the patterns of innovation we have observed in the previous chapters—liquid networks, slow hunches, serendipity, noise, exaptation, emergent platforms— do best in open environments where ideas flow in unregulated channels.”
To me, the fourth quadrant represents the best of humanity, selflessly and persistently working with your fellow man towards a common goal, not for financial rewards but for the simple reason of moving forward into the great unknown as one; to be better than we have been, to be smarter. to be wiser. We see everyday in news about stories of seperation and conflict over our petty differences, but its the innovations in the fourth quadrant that reflect the best qualities of humans. It is reassuring to see that over the centuries we have seen an increase in the fourth quadrant because it gives me hope that one day our children won’t have to live in a world of hate and fear, this “coming together” quality of the fourth quadrant need not just refer to technology but in every aspect of human society. One of the most sobering, yet inspiring speeches ever given, that encompasses the fourth quadrant is Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”- Carl Sagan
The invention of the Snuggie was strange in the fact that its just a blanket with arms. Who would of thought that this simple adjustment to a blanket sold like hot cakes. It was a basic design that came in different sizes and colors. Most everyone knows the struggle of being comfortable on the couch and trying to do work as well, but the fact that someone stitched arm holes into fabric made this simplistic idea be worth millions.
The idea of a free market like the one exhibited here in the United States, makes what seem to be silly innovations, be worth a ton of money. I think that in order to become a successful product it has to connect to each gender, race, age etc. Some products are geared towards one of these aspects, limiting its marketability and ultimately its success in business. Something like the Snuggie, interest anyone who enjoys relaxing on the couch watching movies. This innovation may fit in the quadrant that was made by an individual for the market.
“APL was a superb environment for inquisitive young kids, and particularly so in the Research Center. It was an environment that encouraged people to think broadly and generally about task problems, and one in which inquisitive kids felt free to follow their curiosity.” (187)
The Advanced Physics Lab is world famous for its innovation, and in its making the impossible, possible. What caught my eye in this particular passage was the fact that Johnson made sure to say that these scientists, were “inquisitive young kids”, I think the importance of these scientists being just kids is crucial to the success of the APL. Young minds ask more broad questions because they haven’t been conditioned by the older members of society to think and act a certain way, they (we) let our minds wander and wonder about the impossible because our species has proven time and time again that the impossible is most certainly possible, as long as you have the new generations asking the questions. The day we truly let our kids, and I mean kids, not young adult scientists, question everything and not chastise them for not being realistic or possible, is the day we raise the smartest and most innovative generation the world has ever seen.
“Apple’s approach, by contrast, is much messier and more chaotic at the beginning, but it avoids this chronic problem of good ideas being hollowed out as they progress through the development chain.” (171)
I found Apple’s chaotic approach to innovation very interesting because people were encouraged to think outside the box, and those ideas were embraced. However, I thought that there could be a side effect of this process, that being could the openness of Apple’s system also side track some of their employees? As in, I feel as though many of their employees could get side tracked with ideas that are simply not feasible at the time, not because their ideas impossible, but they include technology that doesn’t exist yet. Apple has been slowly but surely making their phones thinner and thinner, however, an employee who designs a paper thin phone, as genius and innovative as it is, while not be able to make that dream possible because no technology exists to make it real. Being Apple, they could invest billions into the R &D of said paper thin phone, but they still have other projects that need that money too, making this employee’s design, that may have taken him hundreds of hours, unable to be made.
After reading Johnson’s chapter about Quadrants, I decided to look into the idea of Quadrants a little bit more. I looked up “quadrants of innovation” on google, and after checking a few different links I stumbled upon a New York Times article that was written by Steven Johnson. The link is below.
In the article Johnson talks about how he “analyzed 300 of the most influential innovations in science, commerce and technology — from the discovery of vacuums to the vacuum tube to the vacuum cleaner — and put the innovators of each breakthrough into one of four quadrants”. He connects his science research to communism and capitalism. It’s actually pretty interesting. Check it out!
The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, invent. Build a tangled bank.” -Johnson, pg. 246
I think this is a really effective way to end the book. By offering all of these simple suggestions, Johnson goes through a quick summary of all the ideas he discussed: hunches, serendipity, errors, liquid networks, the strength of weak ties. But he’s also encouraging his readers to cultivate good ideas of their own. And maybe we won’t pioneer new platforms that spark a change in the lives of millions of people, or create an invention that changes the world. But as we’ve seen throughout the book, good ideas can come from and can be found anywhere; they’re not limited to any particular field. We can use this advice to help us come up with the topic for our next essay in our writing class, or maybe we can use it to become better problem-solvers, putting pieces together to see the big picture. Maybe we can apply this knowledge in our chemistry or biology labs, and it comes time to make a hypothesis regarding the experiment we’re about to do. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we do with what we’ve learned from Johnson’s book, because he’s shown us a wide enough variety of innovations from all over the world and from throughout history for us to know that this knowledge can be applicable anywhere.
“Solo, amateur innovation (quadrant three) surrenders much of its lead to the rising power of networks and commerce (quadrant four).”- Johnson (p.228)
After reading Johnson’s chapter on quadrants. I was interested in finding understanding why amateur innovations would surrendered it lead to the big power of networks and commerce. Upon surfing the web I stumbled across a cool article explaining about a new innovation that will be revolutionary for trauma medicine. The invention that would lead to save many is called VetiGel.
It is a gel used as a clotting factor in animals (and in the near future humans) in extreme blood trauma situations. It can stop bleeding as fast as 12 seconds! The creator of VetiGel, Joe Landolina, created the product when he was 17. Joe is an amateur innovator interested in the pursuit for the advancement of biomedical science and technology. After further reading a dew more articles I found that one of the main reasons why Joe decided to commercialize the product was not only to set himself financially but to also for the benefit of society. By designing this product Joe also gained national and worldwide recognition and opened many doors of opportunityto continue further research.
Johnson notes how Carrier’s story “is the archetypal myth of modern innovation” (Johnson, 216). He was able to come up with his invention without the use of a liquid network, coffeehouse exaptations, or error. Similarly, just today, scientists discovered a way to detect gravitational waves. This is the first time anyone has been able to track these waves. Hundreds of years ago, Albert Einstein proposed the idea that these waves exist, but as of today, this is the first time there is proof and data to back up his claims. Just like Carrier, the scientists who made this revolutionary discovery had very minimal, if nothing, to help contribute to the discovery. Both Carrier’s discovery and today’s discovery seem to be the exceptions to Johnson’s’ steps as to where good ideas come from. Article about this discovery: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/2/11/10966366/ligo-gravitational-waves-einstein
After reading the last chapter of Johnson’s Where Good Ideas come from it became more clear to me how the process of implementing an innovation is played out. Putting this process into four quadrants I feel helps others understand the time and commitment that must go into fully implementing a hunch or idea. What this made me wonder was in order to reach the forth quadrant when talking about a hunch or innovation, the innovator must have had many reoccurring instances of failure, if these failures for a certain hunch were used in the four quadrant process for another hunch I feel it is more than likely that the process for implementing this hunch would be a lot faster and more efficient. This is relative to the ideas seen in Chapter 3 of Johnson’s book.
“It is in the nature of good ideas to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them, which means that by some measure, every important innovation is fundamentally a network affair.” p.221
This was the most interesting quote to me in the conclusion because it really made me think about if we really do need to base our ideas on a great thinker before us. Does this make us not as intelligent? Are generations to come destined to not be as intelligent as the ones who came before? I hope that we use previous knowledge to make ourselves and our generation even greater than the last with technological and medical advancements that will help us live up to our full potential.
This article was very interesting and talked about modern day platforms and the advantages that this business model provided. It also says that this will create the most value in a business and help it to grow.
After reading the chapter, The Fourth Quadrant, I thought it was very interesting that Johnson displayed the sort of evolution of innovations through a four quadrant system. After reading, it made me understand the relationship between platforms and stacks and the development of innovations from one another. Essentially, over periods of time, those stacks open the doors for new innovations to occur and reach the fourth quadrant. Johnson touches upon this ideas when describing the type of environment in which innovations occur. Johnson states,
“Because innovation is subject to historical changes – many of which are themselves the result of influential innovations in the transmission of information – the four quadrants display distinct shapes at different historical periods” (p 226).
Essentially, what Johnson is saying is that to reach the fourth quadrant innovations come from the building of ideas on innovations that were already presented as the stage for further development. This clearly relates to platforms and ideas that were previously presented that allowed innovations to develop over time. This suggests that innovations reach the fourth quadrant from an environment in which ideas are constantly developing.
This idea also correlates to evolution and things I have learned in my Evolution course. Essentially, evolution is change over time, but over time new ideas or traits come about from things presented prior. This relates back to coral reefs in which Johnson talked extensively about again in this last chapter. Over an historical time period, new developments came about from observing the coral reefs.
This article from noaa states that indeed, thousands of species live on coral reefs in oceans across the world. The creatures exist on coral that is thousands of years old, even older then colonization and humans in North America at all. These corals today, and all fish and other creatures that make reefs their home, are standing on the shoulders of giants. This idea of the liquid network concludes in Johnson’s final chapter. Do humans have any responsibility for maintaining the coral? Do we have any responsibility in maintaining the shoulders we stand on in our own networks? If those shoulders crumble then we too will fall with them, so yes we do have a responsibility.
This was an interesting word to learn for me because I had never heard of it before. When I looked up the definition it was defined as “a term used in evolutionary biology to describe a trait that has been co-opted for a use other than the one for which natural selection has built it” (Google Dictionary). I was curious to see the evolution of the archaeopteryx that was talked about in the chapter so I also looked up a picture to see how it had changed.
“The fourth quadrant should be a reminder that more than one formula for innovation.”- Johnson 236
I believe that this is the main message of Johnson’s book. Clearly, he has defined methods through which innovation has developed in many different aspects of science and nature. However, Johnson never comes out and says “This is how you innovate. This method is the way that you can become a great inventor and make amazing innovations. This is mostly because a method like this doesn’t exist. Johnson does a great job showing us this, as well as showing us specific factors that influence the process of idea making. He chooses to not try to define the Eureka! moments so that we can use his advice to go out and think freely rather than try to follow some formula he claims facilitate idea-making.
Internet platforms have a great potential for the sharing of ideas and concepts. Johnson mentions Twitter in his chapter about platforms, but there are so many other areas where idea sharing can occur. The great thing about the Internet is that you don’t have to live in a specific area in order to access complex and vastly different communities, like you have to with cities. One has access to troves of information, and if you can find the right websites and forums one can expand their adjacent possible almost infinitely. In addition, the availability of blogs allows people to publish their discoveries much quicker than they would before the advent of the Web. However, this has drawbacks. For example, internet posters depend on the will of seemingly random public opinion to “go viral”, or receive recognition. Regardless, the Internet is a budding new platform that is already leading to innovation and will clearly lead to more in the future.
“Ideas, Jefferson argues, have an almost gravitational attraction toward the fourth quadrant. The natural state of ideas is flow and spill over and connection. It is society that keeps them in chains.” Johnson 241
Ideas in the fourth quadrants are “networked,” meaning that they evolved through collective, distributed processes, and involve a large amount of people. Johnson states that it is society that is holding the flow of non-marketed ideas in the fourth quadrant back, specifically in the form of patents. Are there inventions that could be improved upon or are there instances of exaptation that are being restricted because of patents? After reading this and forming these questions in my mind, I did some more research and found that several collegiate professors at MIT had actually published a study about this. They found that once someone patents his or her research, others tend to drop their research in the same area, thus stopping innovation.
Something starting out of virtually nothing, this is what this section of Johnsons book talks about. How something can be the platform for a web to eventually grow out of it. How coral polyps can eventually make an atol, how a beaver dam can create an ecosystem with many new animals coming into it, or how a talk at lunch can eventually lead to GPS. I think this is not only very interesting, but can also be also applied at every level, you could say that the platform of gold got people to go out west and the eventually settlement community of the western united states. or the platform of youtube leading to the almost dominance of internet cable.
“Most academic research today is fourth quadrant in its approach: new ideas are published with the deliberate goal of allowing other participants to refine and build upon them, with no restrictions on their circulation beyond proper acknowledgment of their origin.” -Johnson (233)
The fourth quadrant, arguably, can be seen as innovative for all the right or all the wrong reasons. Are the financial incentives the cause of this sudden scientific revolution? Or has the advancement of society just allowed more doors to open and ideas to flourish? These quadrants all tell a story about who, what, why, and when. But all we see are the inventions that came from them. How can we subjugate all that history and work into a single quadrant? We shouldn’t, but we do. And even though we shouldn’t, the quadrants have spoken to us and proved that the method in quadrant 4 is the most effective. We should never impose a certain way of approaching things when it comes to innovation and creative process, but the quadrants don’t lie.
At the very end of the book, Johnson says that we cannot turn our governments into coral reefs, but we can create comparable environments on the scale of everyday life. In my opinion the government is a reflection of the general population, so if people are able to create “coral reefs” in everyday life, then wouldn’t the government ultimately take that form as well? Or is there a reason why we don’t want the government to take the form of a “coral reef?” Would it function better if it was continuously trying to innovate? Or should it be focusing more on creating a stable structure for it’s constantly innovating society?
“In Darwin’s language, the open connections of the tangled bank have been just as generative as the war of nature. Stephen Jay Gould makes this point powerfully in the allegory of his sandal collection: ‘The wedge of competition has been, ever since Darwin, the canonical argument for progress in normal times.’ he writes. ‘But I will claim that the wheel of quirky and unpredictable functional shift (the tire-to-sandals-principle) is the major source of what we call progress at all scales” -Johnson 239
I really agree here with Gould’s second point, that the tire-to-sandals-principle is “true” progress. I think that the most innovative and useful for moving human life forward are the principles that rely on what we have in excess or even whatever we have just lying around. Johnson illustrated this with the incubators which were made out of car parts in poorer countries where car parts were all over and easily accessible. Not only was this an efficient way of building new beneficial technology, but it ensured that it would be fixable and reliable when the time came.
Personally, I think that humans have a much greater potential for innovations such as these (sandals made from tires or the incubators made from car parts). I think that the former point made by Gould is the reason why these innovations are not made more often (or we are not made aware of them). I think part of our capitalist society is the motivation to get ahead, and so innovators, even from the fourth quadrant, tend to be focused on advancing this country, and not focused on benefiting poorer nations and people. This is obviously not necessarily always the case, as there are tons of inventions from and in developed countries that have and can help out poorer nations. But I think the focus is usually on making a prosperous country more prosperous, and finding more efficient ways to do this. I think with a cooperative effort from many prosperous nations and the creative minds within, by creating networks that are much more international and internationally accessible, we can greatly expand the “wheel of quirky and unpredictable functional shift [that] we call progress at all scales”.
The idea of platforms is ultimately formed off the notion that ideas can always build off one another in order to improve innovation all together. When thinking about this idea I come to realize that if this idea is such a success renovator then why do governments suggest the use of patents? Patents are basically the complete opposite of the idea of platforms. In my eyes I see less problems and controversy arising from the use of patents. Due to the uncertainty of creation that would arise from platforms I do see cons in this theory. Although it may help innovators come up with ideas in a much more smooth and speedy way it will eventually cause ownership problems.
In the final chapter, Johnson writes about why the “fourth quadrant” has seen great success in innovation. Throughout the book so far we have looked at the importance of working environments, also the crediting of ideas, or patents. In class we have discussed who should get credit for certain ideas that have been built upon, but in this chapter Johnson shows a clear connection to the open flow of ideas and their relative success. Johnson writes about the restrictions on private-sector firms, how they try to protect and profit off old ideas thus hindering innovation. While those in the fourth quadrant are able to come up with new ideas because they do not focus on the potential profits. In the closing chapter, Johnson collects the ideas he wrote about throughout the book and applies them to the big picture. This forces me to question the ideals behind private firms. The world has become filled with greed, so much so, that companies have lost sight of the fourth quadrant. Ideas should be “challenged, enlarged, exapted, and recycled in countless ways” (Johnson 234) and this will spur new innovations. So why have economic incentives casted a shadow over the fourth quadrant way of thinking? Johnson has clearly shown that the open flow of ideas and information leads to innovation, yet today people are so focused on finding a way to profit off what already exists. If the world was less greedy, outlandish as that may be, imagine what we would be able to accomplish.
“State-run economies were fundamentally hierarchies, not networks.”
In the beginning of the book we learned that networks come to be when things work together. At the end of this chapter, we learn how ideas can become something bigger and can change the way we live. However, in economies where the government leaves no space for people to make their decisions, and so there is no space for growth and for the adjacent possible. The government chooses what can be seen and what cannot be seen. However, in a market there is competition and people can discover new things by themselves. In my opinion its better when there is a market.
“The purpose of these laws is to give an incentive for people to develop creative works that benefit society, by ensuring they can profit from their works without fear of misappropriation by others.” Source- IP Law Article
Near the end of the final chapter Johnson mentions IP laws which allow for the protection of an intangible thing, an idea. I was really curious how the law actually has that work so I googled IP laws and found a quote which I thought was really interesting. The article I found claims that IP Laws were made to create an incentive for people to create ideas because it allows for monetary gain. I thought it was very interesting because I think that if this book is right IP laws would hinder innovation. I just thought it was an interesting question to pose.
“We may very well decide as a society that people simply deserve to profit from their good ideas, and so we have to introduce a little artificial scarcity to ensure those rewards” – Johnson, p242
This quote struck me because I was wondering about patents and whether or not they impede on the free flow of ideas. In this passage, Johnson sheds some light on the idea that has been in my head since we started reading this book; Should we do away with patents in order to promote more collaborative and connected environments? Johnson suggests that we do need some form of patent laws so that the inventors can be compensated and rewarded for their hard work. I agree with this because if there was no reward for a groundbreaking invention, I fear that people would stop trying to create great innovations. Maybe, someday the patent laws can become more lenient in a way that the inventor will still get the credit, but other people can use that idea, add to it and improve it, or exapt it to use in a different context. By doing so, we can combine some artificial scarcity with liquid networks that promote serendipity, exaptations and platforms.
“Distant reading takes the satellite view of the literary landscape, looking for larger patterns in the history of the stories we tell each other,” -Johnson (224).
Just a couple weeks ago in my English class I was taught about the concept of close reading and how it allows us to, word by word, draw deeper meanings from a text. Johnson talks about how Franco Moretti used “distant reading” to track the genres of a bunch of books over the course of a century and a half. He argues how distant reading allows us to look at the bigger picture and, more specifically, what that means in terms to the innovation of literary genres. I would argue, however, that close reading can be just as important as distant reading when one is trying to see a bigger picture in a way like this. I believe these two types of reading should go hand in hand when trying to discern the overall genre or theme from a literary work. Sure distant reading can allow one to see the bigger picture, but does it allow one to see all of it? Close reading very carefully can reveal little things about characters in a text that can greatly shape different themes throughout the text. Recognizing seemingly hidden themes in a work can allow one to better piece together the overall genre and themes.
“But if you want to wrestle with the question one link farther up the chain–how do good ideas tend to come about– you need to take on the problem from a different angle. There’s a place for counting barnacles. But sometimes you need to zoom out and take the longer view.” (Johnson, 222)
The way that Johnson describes observing the formation of ideas reminded me of the graphics concept of perception. Pictured below are the Gestalt Six Modes of Grouping. Each mode displays a different method of perceiving an image. For example, the human brain processes the first mode, proximity, as a large group of sixteen circles, instead of individual circles that just happen to be near each other. Their proximity determines how we perceive them.
The mode that comes closest to what Johnson means is continuity. Just as Johnson encourages readers to step back from the individual works and see the system as a whole, the human brain processes the image underneath “continuity” as a cross instead of four lines intersecting. In reality, we subconsciously use Johnson’s advice every day. Perception makes all the difference.
I have been fortunate enough to know personally some amazing orthopedic surgeons. My mother has always worked in the medical field in close contact with these professionals. Ever since I was young, I had always been interested in the medical field and when I was 16 I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. A close family friend took me into his operating room at 16 years old to watch a total hip and bilateral knee replacement. I was offered an opportunity that most medical students haven’t even experienced yet. During the surgery, Dr. Porth handed me a glob of white material that reminded me of play-doh. He told me to make a mushroom out of the dough and I was confused as to what it was. After about 20 minutes the material had hardened completely. What he gave me was bone cement that he was using to hold together the metal implants in the surgery. I later had put my name on it and the date to remember the moment.
When reading this chapter on platforms, I found it interesting that scientist mimicked the corals growth mechanisms to create this cement for repairing fractures. Now this cement is used world wide as a tool for holding the implants together so they wont separate. What is also amazing is that the body doesn’t usually reject it. However, its usually only found on the inside between two implants, not on the outside of them. Before reading this chapter I had no idea where the idea for such an innovative tool came from. Coral reefs have a huge effect on the ecosystem underwater but I would of never thought to use their mechanism to come up with a surgical tool.
“Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behavior” (Johnson, p182).
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of platform innovations is Google. Google began as an idea for a search engine back at Stanford University. Two college students were looking for a way to bring endless amounts of information to people using an online search engine, so Google “emerged”. The Google search engine was the base foundation, or “platform” that set the ground for the large amounts of information that one can find today online. In fact Google even led to more search engines. As people saw that the innovation of Google was successful they wanted to gain some of the glory. So, they adapted the idea of Google and turned it into new search engines.
Johnson has made social media a very prominent theme throughout each chapter of “Where Good Ideas Come From. In the chapter, Platforms, he shows how different social outlets can be used as a source of information. The internet can help us share information, and help us find answers quickly, and with less effort than 30 years ago.
“Stacked platforms are like that: you think you’re fighting the Cold War, and it turns out you’re actually helping people figure out where to have lunch” (Johnson 210)
This ties back into exaptation, and using information/inventions in ways that it was not originally intended create to perform to do. With the information we have available to us on the internet, we are able to mold information into the answers we need.
The platform for the GPS system that is commonly found in cars nowadays and most definitely on everyones cellphone was set up over fifty years ago. It all started with the use of satellites to track the Sputnik in outer space, but Guier and Weiffenbach probably never imagined what would result from it. This development of satellites for GPS purposes and even other types of timing and tracking is a great example of exaptation. The general idea for the satellite was to serve one purpose, but its uses now reach in many different fields. It is used for the times on your phone, geotagging pictures on social media, and even certain apps that children play with on computers or phones.
“Third, a long tradition exists of citizens committing time and intellectual energy to tackling problems where there is a perceived civic good at stake” (Johnson, 196).
When I read this line I immediately tied to back to Twitter. Just last semester, I studied citizen journalism in my Introduction to Journalism course. Citizen journalism is becoming an increasingly prevalent activity. All that this means is that average citizens are doing reporter-type jobs, whether they may be in person or online. Out of all social media platforms, Twitter has noticed the most citizen journalism activity. As an active Twitter user, I have noticed this myself. People will often live tweet important, breaking news, sometimes including a hashtag for others can track it. Personally, I think Twitter is a good way to get news out quickly — as long as the facts are correct.
Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behavior”-Johnson (pp.182)
This is a scanning electron picture of a phytoplankton. These microorgansims account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. Just as the beavers described by Johnson, these organisms provide the base foundation for many other aquatic species to exist. The Nation Centers for Coastal Ocean Science explains that, “In a balanced ecosystem, phytoplankton provide food for a wide range of sea creature including whales, shrimp, snails, and jellyfish”. Without these crucial microorganisms providing nutrition and oxygen our aquatic ecosystem would not look as it is today.
The web can be imagined as a kind of archaeological site, with layers upon layers of platforms buried beneath every page…all he [Tim Berners-Lee] had to do was build a standard framework for describing hypertext pages (html) (Johnson 189).
The web built on top of a network of computers that were already communicating between themselves all across the world. For me often this idea of world wide computer communication is synonymous with the internet. But in reality the web was just another door that opened following this network. HTTP was already in practice with computers internationally. HTML is simply the language that computers use to create the web pages we look at every day. Tim Berners-Lee even based his HTML off of SGML, which was IBM technology. This is further evidence that collaboration between scientists produces at a higher rate then solo work. The web was a collective effort between many scientists, Berners-Lee just stood on the shoulders of giants like HTTP and SGML.
All the talk of recycling in this chapter (corals and zooxanthellae exchanging waste products, Constantz using carbon dioxide to grow carbonate cement) reminded me of another kind of recycling I learned about in psychology last semester: the reuptake process that our neurons use. Neurons send signals using a variety of chemicals called neurotransmitters; they’re released by terminals in the neuron’s axon, and are received by dendrites at the opposite end of the cell. And after a neuron receives those signals, it starts transferring the neurotransmitters down the axon to the opposite end of the cell. That way, the neuron can reuse the neurotransmitters the next time it needs to send a signal, and the neurotransmitters stay within the vast network of neurons rather than becoming waste.
After reading Chapter 7 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it interesting that Johnson described coral reefs as a platform. In the introduction of this chapter, much of the focus was on Darwin’s observations of a coral reef and the ecosystem. He often noted the life forms that existed as well as the way in which they play a role in their environment. While this was known, this chapter focused on the ideas that the coral reef is the platform for many life forms that carry out different functions, making the ecosystem successful. Essentially, coral reefs were present, and intricate food webs, flow of energy, symbiotic relationships, and functions of organisms came about. The link below details the energy flow of the coral reef and the new “innovations” or “functions” that many organisms possess due to living in a reef. It is clear that coral reefs gave rise to new relationships between organisms and their environment. Reefs set the stage for the formation of food webs, energy flow, and symbiotic relationships between animals, thus making the ecosystem successful. Therefore, Johnson’s understand of a platform as a something that sets the stage for other uses or innovations was clearly conveyed through the example of coral reefs, its inhabitants, and the success as a result of formed food webs, energy webs, and biological relationships.
“The most generative platforms come in stacks, most conspicuously in the layered platform of the Web.” – Johnson, page 189
Out of the whole chapter, the way platforms came stuck most my attention. That was because the way platforms are made help innovation. Like it all starts from small to bigger ideas. And so, when small ideas and platforms come to be, bigger come to be. For example, social media started out as something small and now it is something incredibly big where people are able to communicate. Not only are they able to communicate, but now it is a place where they can watch and read the news.
Once again, chance and happy accidents are central to narrative: a random mutation lead to the evolution of feathers selected for warmth, and by chance those feathers turn out to be useful for flying, particularly after they’ve been modified to create an airfoil.
It is incredible to me how nature is. We start getting used to how we are and then with our nature we start changing and adapting. In the beginning we don’t get it, but then we realize that nature knows what it is doing. We may think that evolution may be for one reason, but nature is always one step ahead of us. It does not only change species for one reason, but because of what might come ahead too. For examples, these feathers that came to be for one reason and then it helped them fly in a certain way.
“Platforms have a natural appetite for trash, waste, and abandoned goods… Emergent platforms derive much of their creativity from the inventive and economical reuse of existing resources…” -Johnson 199
“Nature has long built its platforms by recycling the available resources, including the waste generated by other organisms. Two things we have in abundance on this planet right now are pollution and seawater. Why not try to build a city out of them?” – Johnson 205
The first quote and idea of Johnson really struck me in regards to new ways and places of human habitation. A common theme in sic-fi books taking place in the future is proposing places where the author imagines humans will be living come some 50, 100, or even a thousand years from now. One that I came across was underground cities. At this point in life, humans had polluted the earth so much that the decided to move underground and build vast networks and infrastructures that were prosperous and habitable while sparing the earth’s bounty above. Other story lines suggest that humans trash their habitats so much that they just move on to other places and must start from scratch.
I think these two proposed situations illustrate an aspect that Johnson’s doesn’t really address about platforms and their efficiency. For one, I think that for used platforms to be successful in fostering new ideas and having ideas built on top of them, they cannot be overused or dried up. For example, humans being forced to move underground or completely abandon cities because of the level of pollution and destruction does not allow for new ideas to grow or human life to prosper, unless they be animals or organisms that can make use of the environment.
Secondly, Johnson suggests that we build cities out of pollution and seawater, his point being that we can use waste and products which are just sitting idly but largely at our disposal to create things. This lead me to wonder, with all this recent craze about moving to space and inhabiting it, are we moving/thinking in the wring direction? Should we focus on allowing human life to expand into space, which I am sure that scientists are going to be able to do, or should we focus on making use of the tons of untapped resources that are still on the earth (and maybe make existing resources a bit cleaner while we are at it)? I think it this is such a hard question to answer because there are so many factors involved. Ethics, government, profit, wealth, individual and corporate interests, country’s interests, these are all factors that make the issue complicated.
“In the online world, the most celebrated recent case study in the innovative power of stacked platforms has been the rapid evolution of the social networking service of Twitter.”
Heres a link of the growth and statistics of the use of Twitter, we read all about how innovative it was, but thought it might be interesting to actually see in numbers about how innovative it really is!
“Twitter’s creators recognized that there was another kind of competitive advantage that came from complete openness: the advantage that comes from having the largest and most diverse ecosystem of software applications being built on your platform” – Johnson, p194
This quote really stuck out to me because it was interesting to me how Twitter created this platform where anyone could add their ideas or make the software better. It also prompted me to question whether this open platform causes issues with crediting someone for their work. In other words, should the Twitter creators receive full credit for their invention or should they have to share it with tons of people because they only made the basic platform? Once everyone inputs their own ideas into a project how can we determine who should receive the credit? Should it be shared by anyone who has ever submitted an idea? It is clear to see how for Twitter having an open platform was beneficial because the site was able to grow immensely, but can this kind of platform work for other ideas, concepts, and businesses? I believe it takes a certain field, like building social media, for open platforms to really be beneficial. I cannot see large businesses benefiting from an open platform because usually when I am in a decision making setting where a lot of opinions are being considered, we do not usually reach a conclusion.
This video not only discusses the relationship between brain folding, diseases and intelligence, it also gives great examples of exaptation. It’s amazing to see the different fields that we can pull information from to better understand how the brain develops. Who would have thought math had anything to do with the way the brain is shaped? It also ties in nicely with previous discussions of surface area to volume ratios and how the human body employs wrinkles and folds in various organs brain, lungs, digestive tract, testes to fit them into small spaces and provide a greater surface for biological processes such as diffusion, absorption, gametogenesis and the processing of neural signals to occur.
“A tool that helps you see in one context ends up helping you keep warm in another. That’s the essence of exaptation” – Johnson, p157
This quote came right after Johnson’s example of having a match to light up a dark room, which in turn helps you find a room with a fireplace, where the match can have a completely different use (lighting a fire). I thought this quote really captured what Johnson was trying to convey to his readers in this chapter because it gives a clear example of what exaptation is. Personally, I see exaptation occurring all the time in my life, even though before reading this chapter I did not know there was a word for it. Even small things such as learning information in my macroeconomics class that I can apply in my speech pathology courses, or even at the dinner table with my friends, exaptation is at work. I was able to take that information that I learned in economics and apply it to other contexts and broaden my knowledge even further.
“When it first emerged, Twitter was widely derided as a frivolous distraction that was mostly goof for telling your friends what you had for breakfast.”-Johnson (192)
When Twitter was dreamed up in 2006, the founders were not expecting the many uses for Twitter that it is used for now. I find it interesting to see how the web platform evolved from just a place to write simple thoughts to one that fosters news such as political protests, provides customer support for large corporations, and acts as a place to bypass government censorship. I would argue that, like the wings of birds from chapter 6, Twitter is an exaptation. Wings are recognized as originally existing for the purpose of being a dinosaur wrist bone, which would provide flexibility. Wings however, turned out to be used in other ways such as flying. Twitter has many better uses than just letting your friends know your every thought.
Since I was a kid, I have loved to play video games. I really enjoy watching games evolve, and I marvel at how games went from simple simulations like Pong to such varied experiences as Super Smash Bros and GTA. In many (if not most) of these games, exaptations serve as a key method to making a game feel fresh and exciting. One of my favorite games, Undertale (which released last year), takes the traditional style of an RPG like Final Fantasy and merges it with the tactics of a completely different style of game, bullet-hell shooters (games where you have to shoot or avoid a large amount of fast-moving particles, such as Galaga or Super Hexagon). Undertale uses these fast-paced mechanics to solve a problem that many gamers had with the RPG genre; namely, that there was not enough challenge and that fights quickly became repetitive and boring. This is only one way in which exaptation is used in the modern era.
“The platform builders and ecosystem engineers do not just open a door in the adjacent possible, they build an entire new floor” -Johnson (183)
Ecosystem engineers have to be the most undervalued species in any ecosystem. Whenever I read a textbook in science it always mentions the significance of ecosystem engineers, but not specific species. There are countless amounts of animals that I could name based off the knowledge Ive attained throughout my years, but not more than a few keystone species or ecosystem engineers. They have the most important job of all. Why are we not learning about them? They are the backbone of ecosystems and it seems like we don’t value them anymore than we value learning about an animal that may not contribute to their ecosystem at all. Ecosystem engineers are the reason ecosystems are sustainable or even in place to begin with. I think they deserve a little bit of recognition.
“Apple’s development cycle looks more like a coffeehouse than an assembly line.”-Johnson (170)
As a marketing major I am not only interested in the way a good company builds consumer relationships with consumers, but also what makes their creative process so great. I found Apple’s coffeehouse technique fascinating, as well as, useful. I feel that one of the reasons why Apple is at the top of the game when it comes to computers and phones is because of this creative process. Instead of using a more traditional approach and losing the creative vision along the line of what can and can’t be done, Apple makes sure each line of production has a say. Apple takes group brainstorming to a whole new level as sales people and engineers of a product will sit down and talk about the one central creative vision. This makes me wonder what other companies use this type of coffeehouse approach.
“Genius, then, lay not in conceiving an entirely new technology from scratch, but instead from borrowing a mature technology from an entirely different field, and putting it to work to solve an unrelated problem” -Johnson (153)
I feel as if every idea is sprouted from some sort of related concept. When thinking on a deeper level, its hard to imagine an idea that doesn’t somehow compare to a previous one. What then, would define an organic idea? Is every idea not part of a creative pyramid that expands as ideas are created? How then, can we argue against the idea that every “new” concept isn’t directly sprouted from another? I don’t think we can.
“If you sail due east sixteen nautical miles from Delaware’s Indian River Inlet… you will find roughly seven hundred subway cars, deposited there by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control over the past decade. The trains have been planted off the Delaware shore to create an artificial coral reef… the Delaware reefs have seen a 400 percent increase in biomass since the first cars were sunk.” Johnson 198
I lived in Delaware for over 10 years and had never heard of this project before. When I first read this passage by Johnson, I was very surprised. To me, it seemed almost counterproductive to dump a subway car, something that I assumed would be more biohazardous than helpful, into the ocean. Wouldn’t there be repercussions, such as poison from the car paint, for placing an artificial and unnatural thing in such a habitat? However, after reading the statistics, that there was a 400 percent increase in biomass, I was much more content with the idea, though without further research I do still have my concerns regarding the project happening in my own backyard.
“If open and dense networks lead to more innovation, how can we explain apple, which on the spectrum of openness is far closer to Willy Wonka’s factory than it is to Wikipedia”(Johnson, 169).
We all know the scenario, we get our special whatever order at starbucks, and we look over and see a group of people with laptops and ipads talking about who knows what. It may seem annoying, but this is small scale “coffee” liquid business networks at work. So much in recent times can seem ot be tied with these kind of meetings. So what happens when a company closes it’s doors to the outside world like apple? Well as it turns out, there can be an internal “coffeehouse” thinking of good ideas. But it also takes fire and passion, when concepts come out, it is so futuristic and innovative, that by the time it comes out it is barely an upgrade. apple has mostly been able to avoid this and stay with teh adjacent possible. Which raises the question of why companies aren’t putting as much fire and passion to push the limit of the adjacent possible.
In the chapter Johnson talks about an artificial reef off the coast of Delaware that is made entirely out of old subway cars. This reminded me of an article I saw online from a few days ago which talks about how sunken World War Two planes and ships create artificial reefs all across the Pacific. I thought that was really neat because 70 year old machines that were designed to blow stuff up and cause chaos are now in a way giving back to the planet. I also think it relates to the idea that we are recycling so much of our world and how much we are able to re purpose will play a large role in helping the planet.
“The songbird sitting in an abandoned woodpecker’s nest doesn’t need to know how to drill a hole into the side of a poplar, or how to fell a hundred-foot tree. That is the generative power of open platforms. The songbird doesn’t carry the cost of drilling and felling because the knowledge of how to do those things was openly suppled by other species in the chain. She just needs to know how to tweet.”
-Open platforms are so powerful because it allows connections to be made between peoples’ idea that may have not been made without the platforms’ existence. I want to know if people have become less curious due to open platforms. With all these ideas available to us, have we stopped seeking results ourselves rather than looking to see how other people did it. I think there is great power in open platforms, but can they hinder the drive for discoveries yourself?
Cities, then, are environments that are ripe for exaptation, because they cultivate specialized skills and interests, and they create a liquid network where information can leak out of those subcultures, and influence their neighbors in surprising ways. -Johnson 162
Are suburbs or more rural communities also suited for exaptation? I grew up in both Georgia and Delaware, two very rural and idle communities. I believe that we have liquid networks there as well, in the form of more personal relationships than people would have in a huge city. Though I have never lived in a bustling, such as NYC, I couldn’t imagine that its chaotic environment and its seemingly infinite number of residents could produce more exaptations than in a more personal and settled community.
“The most creative individuals in Ruef’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse field of expertise. Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Ruef’s analysis, were three time more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks.”
I think this is an interesting excerpt for many reasons. One, being the connection to open platform and liquid networks. Throughout the whole book Johnson has written about how surrounding yourself with a variety of different people leads to more productivity, like in his comparison between city and town. Johnson really focuses on the environment of someone who is trying to create something, and here he is saying that you should be surrounded by people that think differently than you in order for ideas to be shared more quickly.
Towards the end of Chapter 6, Johnson discusses what Apple does differently to ensure innovation in their products. They use a “coffee house” approach, with continuous meetings between designers, engineers, and manufacturers. This differs from the traditional assembly line approach where ideas are passed from one department to the next with no real interaction. But, Apple has proven that their method is effective. So, why don’t more businesses attempt this approach at developing new products. I think the automobile industry could seriously benefit from an approach like this. They are always releasing new models and “cars of the future,” but by the time they actually make it to the market, many of the innovations are no longer a part of their product. Taking an approach similar to Apple could hurt efficiency, but innovation would greatly increase and I think the technology in cars would take a huge step forward. Once they make that leap they can get back to worrying about efficiency and mass production.
Since music was first played artists have been accused of stealing others music and “ripping them off”. One of the most famous examples of this when Ray Parker Jr made the Ghostbusters theme sound very similar to a Huey Lewis song. However Johnson chapter got me thinking about exaptation and if it could be applied to music. If you take a part of someone else song and use it in a way that it wasn’t intended for and is that still stealing. I used these to songs as an example because while its clear Ray Parker Jr used the same or very similar notes for the main theme, for me the two songs sound different because of the theme and the lyrics so for me its more like Ray Parker Jr re purposed the song. While this case was settled in court it made me think that if artists were willing to collaborate we could possibly get some new themes of music.
“The elevation variation in volcanic islands was immense: some tapered off a dozen feet above sea level; others, like Mauna Kea, surged ten thousand feet into the sky. Most volcanic peaks lay thousands of feet below the surface.” (Johnson, 178)
Immediately the first image that came into my head was the volcano from Disney Pixar’s short “Lava”. The animated short traces the tale of a volcano singing a love song for years. As he sings, he is eroded away. But the lava he emits creates a new volcano. So while he is descending, she shoots through the water. He descends below sea level, but because he is so much closer to the peak of the water, when she emits lava, he immediately grows to meet her.
I think it’s incredibly how accurate the short portrayed volcanic evolution. Granted it was not the most accurate representation, but it was still rather informative. If I really thought about it, I could probably recover a lot of valuable information from cartoons that I watched when I was younger.
In this chapter it was mentioned that the idea of ‘exaptation’ is central to the idea that animals develop certain adaptions and physical prowess for a specific use. Following that point, it is mentioned that after years of research on a specified animal, the function that we had thought the animal had grown a certain adaption for was for something else. For example, for decades we thought that birds had developed feathers for warmth, but it turns out that a birds feathers have many more functions that we had thought in the first place, like air regulation and flight stimulation. What I got from this idea brought up in chapter 6 was it may be possible that birds could have used this unknown trait for the specified uses stated for many years, we just hadn’t known about it. All in all, I feel that certain theories are solely based off of human idea, not biological evidence.
“Many of history’s great innovators managed to build a cross disciplinary coffeehouse environment within their own private work routines”
This is Nikola Tesla. He was an Serbian American scientist focused on the development of new technology for society. He was heavily involved in many different fields of science including physics, electrical and mechanical engineering. His interest in these different fields along with his futuristic ideas allowed for the creation of inventions that were beyond his time. By the late 1800’s Tesla went to pursue his ideas of wireless lighting and electricity. He also speculated the possibility of wireless communication, a technology used so often today. These hobbies and interests in these different fields proves as an example of how scientists can come up with great ideas by integrating concepts together.
Chapter 6 was all about exaptation, and how it can lead to new or unexpected innovation. While I was reading, I picked up on a section that discussed the media environment. This led me to begin thinking about the idea that everyone is an innovator. Every time we post a thought or status on Facebook, or any form of social media for that matter, we are publishing an idea. As people see that idea they may comment on it with their ideas, or share it with their friends. Their friends then do the same, and so on. You are left with a never ending cycle of of adapting ideas. A simple idea that we published has now caused other people to think differently about it.
“A good idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons-thousands of them-fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness.” (Johnson, p.45)
I found the idea of networks to be quite interesting. We as humans explore the adjacent possible connections in our surroundings. That is how we reach new innovation. If somebody says something to us that we find interesting, we may go research it. That research may lead to another connection about that topic, and before we know it, we will have a full network of ideas that leads me to a new innovation. It is a kind of hard to believe it, but this Commonplace Book itself is a network leading to new innovations. We all post things we find interesting, and that leads others to do further research and come up with new ideas about those interesting things.
After reading the introduction of Johnson’s book, I began to question why some environments allow for better innovation. I started wondering whether or not competition strikes more innovation in environments. I immediately started to think about school, college in particularly. College students in different majors are all competing to get the best GPAs, do well on tests, and eventually graduate and find work in their field of study. However, in the process of fighting to be the best students work to out do each other and make themselves stand out. This extra effort to stand out leads to new questions, new ideas, and perhaps even new innovation. Below is a quote from Forbes Magazine that I found interesting and wanted to share.
“Human beings survived and evolved because they cooperated to compete against the elements, says Buchholz. In the working world, competition often creates cooperation, be it in team projects or in a company-wide effort to beat out the opposition” -Forbes Magazine
“Two brilliant scientists with great technological acumen stumble across evidence of the universe’s origin- evidence that would ultimately lead to a Nobel Prize for both of them- and yet their first reaction is: Our telescope must be broken.“- Johnson 139
In this chapter, Johnson proves that one of the greatest forces of innovation in the world is, strangely enough, making mistakes. Seemingly limitless amounts of inventions, from Viagra to vacuum tubes, were discovered by accident. This raises the question, “Why do schools tend to punish people so harshly for making mistakes?” I went to a kind of competitive private high school, and when it came to tests and grades (especially when taking the SAT and ACT exams) I was taught that mistakes were unacceptable. People got taunted for getting bad grades, for making tiny mistakes or misinterpreting the questions asked. My friends who went to public high school tell me similar stories, if not as extreme. If schools are supposed to teach us to generate ideas, think freely, and live independently, then why do we so aggressively attack something that is proven to be one of the greatest sources of innovation ever, specifically human error? I believe that this is a major problem with our school system today and it needs to be addressed before more people are misled into putting perfect scores before good ideas.
Did you know that people with higher IQ tend to have worse handwriting than those with lower IQ? In our scientific society, a person is considered smart when they are organized, in control, and thorough. However, the mind of the truly smart person seems to lie much closer to the stereotype of the “absentminded professor” than the “stern headmaster”. This gives me much hope, seeing that my life is constantly a mess of balancing schoolwork, friends, plans for the future, and leisure activities. Johnson clearly shows us that a mind needs randomness, or serendipity, in order to truly function to its full extent.
“–Just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book.”- Johnson 84
Both this quote and this whole chapter gave me inspiration to start up my journal again. It’s something I’ve been trying to do since I entered college, but I could never keep up on it. But after hearing about the wonderful things that keeping a journal can do, I’ve been inspired to keep one once again. It’s very hard to get into the habit of writing every single night, but its worth it just to organize your thoughts for one hour or so a day. Not only that, with the modern push to bring everything onto the Web, there are plenty of apps that one can use to journal, not to mention blogging or just writing in the notes section in cell phones. I found this article. I also found this great article that goes in-depth into different ways you can jot down your thoughts.
One of my personal philosophies is “everything in moderation”: I try to find a balance at which I can enjoy everything life throws at me, by not being too extremely inclined toward an idea or thing that I cannot consider the other options. For example, dieting is good and I try to eat healthy, but overdoing it by eating almost nothing of substance would ultimately harm me (as would eating only fatty junk foods). It seems that liquid networks work because they have a moderate amount of order; suffocating corporate environments create too little communication while TBWA/Chiat/Day’s “non-territorial” offices led to too much freedom and were a failure. Liquid networks form because of a supervisor moderating the control they have over the network, keeping enough order to keep things flowing but enough open space to stimulate conversation, creativity, and, ultimately, the growth of ideas. I think that I already employ liquid networks in my life, and I hope that others find ways to incorporate them into theirs
I really enjoyed this chapter on the Adjacent Possible. I had never thought of defining a limit of what you can do and think, and after reading this chapter I realize it’s a great tool not just for building ideas but for organizing thoughts and solving problems. One space that has a very clear adjacent possible which I think would apply very well to this concept is video games and cell phone apps. In many short games, especially apps like Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run (two apps I play way too much of), there is a clear ceiling that you are aiming to hit. In these games, your main motivation is to get money to upgrade your character so that the game gets easier. However, there is always a point where there are no more upgrades, no more reasons to continue playing the games. In a way, the goal of all game developers is to expand the adjacent possible of their games. In the games I mentioned above, the way to do that would be to add more upgrades to the game, thus expanding the amount of things you can buy. In the same fashion, adding content to a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto expands the adjacent possible of what players can do. This is only one way to use the adjacent possible in the development of ideas that Johnson may not have had in mind when he was writing this book
“The poet and the engineer (and the coral reef) may seem a million miles apart in their particular forms of expertise, but when they bring good ideas into the world, similar patterns of development and collaboration shape that process.”- Johnson 22
This quote sticks out to me because it summarizes the concept this book is trying to prove. When I first read this, i thought that this was a very exaggerated claim to make. However, as I thought more about it, I realized that Johnson was right, and that in many cases great ideas seem to come from the some trains of thought in many different fields. We are so used to thinking of science as its own field, separate from authors or philosophers who delve into the human soul, but not too long ago this wasn’t the case. In many ways, science is simply another school of philosophy, asking the same type of questions that Socrates and Aristotle asked but backed up by hundreds of years of critical thought.
In a professional world, we tend to steer away from chaos, for we see it as unproductive. But…
“Apple’s approach, by contrast, is messier and more chaotic at the beginning, but it avoids the chronic problem of good ideas being hollowed out as they progress through the development chain” (Johnson 171)
I understand this reasoning because more ideas are available at the start of the project, and yes it might be chaotic, but great ideas can bounce off of the many ideas that are flowing through a department in the beginning, messy stages. So many devices can be created in the beginning because the ideas are fresh, and open to exaptation.
Ever since high school, my classmates and I have been constantly told ” don’t be afraid to fail.” Yet, most of us strive for perfection anyways. It seems like a thing that is said to reassure some kids, but also as a mechanism to get the top kids even further. This chapter “Error” stresses benefits of making errors, and I liked that because we are not often given reasons why it is okay to mess up sometimes.
“Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.” (Johnson 137)
When you question your work and critique it, you might discover something unintentional, but progressive.
“A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they make in your mind”(Johnson,45).
This chapter talked about how when numerous minds are put together, they create a network. What stuck out to me in this section was the evolution of human innovation. What is stunning, and something that i never considered is the fact that when more people are put together, The more innovations and inventions are created. By the times cities were built, the creation of modern irrigation and structure was created, whereas in aboriginal times, when people were scattered barely anything was created. The same can be applied to today with the worldwide web, having ourselves even more connected than just 10 years ago can lead to more innovations than imaginable.
“All of us live inside our own private versions of the adjacent possible. In our work lives, in our creative pursuits, in the organizations that employ us, in the communities we inhabit – in all those different environments, we are surround by potential new configurations new ways of breaking out of our standard routines.” Johnson, p40
What I found interesting about this quote was the notion that we all reside in a personal bubble of the adjacent possible. If I live in the middle of the desert surrounded by a sea of sand and rocks, I would have access to a drastically different adjacent possible than someone living in a bustling city. I think it’s important to consider that the adjacent possible exists on separate planes for humans individually and as a species. Humanity’s adjacent possible expands as a result of individuals creating new technologies overtime and integrating them into the global network of possibility.
“After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called “negative quarter-power scaling.” If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami.” Johnson, p8
Johnson goes on to describe how Kleiber’s equation to determine metabolic rates in differently sized species applies to the “metabolism” of cities. I never really thought of any city being one big organism, but in a way the thought makes sense. Cities exists as large networks of people working constantly to make the city grow and thrive. As more people come together within the confines of a city, they’re bound to form bigger and brighter ideas when so many unique minds have access to one another.
“Chance favors the connected mind.” -Johnson, pg 174
In this chapter, Johnson talks about how people like Darwin had a lot of hobbies and were interested in a wide range of fields, which helped lead them to have more good ideas since they had more information from broad subjects to draw on. And this stood out to me, because I feel that I also have a broad range of interests: chemistry and physics and music and writing and theater. And I really love finding connections between my varied interests, or even between classes that I’m taking. When I took physics in high school, I realized I could use skills I’d learned in calculus the year before in order to solve problems about velocity and acceleration. It’s things like that which remind me of one of the reasons I love learning, because I can find connections like that and see how everything I’ve learned so far can fit together.
“The most creative individuals in Reuf’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse fields of expertise… Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Reuf’s analysis, were three times more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks” -Johnson 166
I think that most people would agree with this quote (even though it was already proven in a scientific study). Johnson alluded to this idea earlier when he suggested that the more people collaborate, the more innovative they are. But he also suggested an example where offices tried to encourage more talking between employees by having an “open” workspace, where people weren’t separated by desk barriers and behind computer screens all day. But he said that this design did not work because people preferred privacy where they could work. So if bringing people and their diverse ideas and ways of thinking together is the best way to move forward, how do we promote it? How do we “force” people to become innovative without actually “forcing” them to?
I think so far, Google has the best example. Like Johnson said, Google gives its employees mandatory time every day to work on their own project. But I think there are ways to improve upon this idea, and I think especially for companies that rely on new ideas to stay prosperous and afloat, it is a must to encourage more innovation. I think one way to do this is definitely to give employees time to work on their own projects like Google. But I think to take it a step further, employees should have to make their projects public at all times to other employees and mandatory for them to respond to a piece of positive and negative criticism once a week. This will encourage more human interaction and connections and force the more “diverse” and “horizontal” networks that Johnson refers to.
Darwin’s theories repetitively appear throughout this book and in this chapter it mentioned his “Origins of Species”. It prompted me to research more about the origins of tetrapods. Johnson mentioned how a fish evolved to now how feet to be able to walk on land. According to this website I found, it all began with ray-finned fish that slowly evolved into bony fish such as Eusthenopteron. These fish eventually continued evolving until they developed forelimbs and hindlimbs with fingers.
Organisms evolve based on their need for survival. Harsh weather can prompt an organism to use a body part, even if it wasn’t designed for that specific reason, in order to survive. The example Johnson gave was the birds feathers. The feathers were made for warmth but then they became useful for flying.
Its interesting to see how organisms keep evolving based on the environmental pressures. It makes me wonder if humans are done evolving or are we going to look different in the 22nd century? Or are we going to be extinct? I wonder.
These teachers understand that science is not a field that delivers quick answers, and through this project, they arm students with both the practical skills and the intellectual patience to quiet their minds and reject quick conclusions until all the evidence is in. – Jessica Lahey, Relearning the Lost Skill of Patience
This article in The Atlantic reminded me of the slow hunch. The idea that there ins importance in slowing down and engaging in deep, critical thinking, which is very much needed to make those crucial connections. The beauty of this is that it is applicable to many fields not just science. Hopefully, students are making meaningful connections in this course too!
You can learn a great deal about the history of innovation by examining great ideas that changed the world. – Johnson page 72
As said in a previous post, we can learn a lot from the ideas that have risen before. We learn from the mistakes and the achievements others have made in the past. This way we can learn what works in our society and what does not. Most great ideas are those that have a large impact in the world. It is important that we take into account that in order for us to know this, we have to have access to the ideas that were brought up before. This could lead to something good or bad depending on how people take it. I believe however, that ideas are to be shared and discussed so we know if it something better left untouched.
“A good Idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons – thousands of them – fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness.” – Johnson, page 45
I had never really thought of how I or people come up with ideas. It is the most common thing in our every day life. Every day we wake up and have thousands of ideas. However, in this every day life occurrence, there are millions of neurons making connections so that in one second we are thinking of an idea that help us make our lives easier. It is actually a process that we take for granted. These neurons all work in sync so we can think and motivate ourselves to do something with our lives. It is a network, meaning that they are working together to make something big.
“If mutation and error and serendipity unlock new doors in the biosphere’s adjacent possible, exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors” (Johnson, 156).
Exaptation is going beyond the adjacent possible. It is using outside knowledge and applying it to something else. This idea of sharing ideas seems very beneficial, and I think many people can agree with Johnson’s claims here. Everyday we witness the sharing of ideas in the classroom. Students raise their hands, answer questions and bounce ideas off of their teacher and peers. Exaptation is especially noticeable in our class. All of us in Biotechnology exhibit signs of exploration and the desire to discover new possibilities through the questions we submit on Moodle and the ideas we talk about during our discussions.
“Coral reefs make up about one tenth of one percent of the Earth’s surface, and yet roughly one quarter of the known species of marine life make their homes there” – Johnson, page 5
This was an astonishing number that caught my attention while I was reading the introduction of this book. I know there has been more awareness to save the coral reefs. Nevertheless, I never payed as much attention as I should have had. A large number of marine animals depend on these places to live and to reproduce. If they disappear then there would be a huge problem in the marine ecosystem. They are not just places that look pretty in the ocean but they are essential for aquatic life. Now that ai
“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore” – Johnson, page 33
Our history and culture has been changing as time goes on. We are always making discoveries about life and we are always innovating the way we live. Our culture is made depending on where each “tribe” is and it derives from the history every group of people is. Our culture and history come together. As humans we are always trying to make new discoveries to live better and it always comes from the adjacent possible. Every time we discover something it is only with time that we will open a path to learn something else. For example in medicine. We always start with small discoveries which eventually lead to a discovery that can save lives.
Penicillin is an antibiotic drug discovered by accident. It was founded by Sir Alexander Fleming who at the time was experimenting with the influenza virus in a lab. The scientist took a break from experimenting and weeks later found mold on a plate. When the scientist found the mold, he investigated it and noticed the mold prevented growth of staphylococci. After this discovery, Fleming tested the mold and found out it can work against bacteria. Today, the penicillin drug treats many life threatening illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia.
This is one of many serendipitous moments in science that has happened influencing society for the better. These accidental happenings in science are amazing and are so interesting to read out. I wonder what will be discovered next by accident.
“Silicon sits directly below carbon on the periodic table, and shares its four valence electronics . But silicon lacks carbon’s unique versatility.” pg. 50
I was interested in silicon when it was brought up in Chapter Two: Liquid Networks because I did not know much about it so I decided to do some research about it.Silicons atomic number is 14 and symbol is Si. Silicon may lack some qualities that Carbon has but silicon paired with other elements is beneficial and widely used in electronics. For example when silicon is paired with aluminum, large metallic parts can be manufactured. Silicon and aluminum creates a good fluidity balance so it can create parts with different types of shape and consistency. Silicon can also be used as a conductor when mixed with small amounts of elements such as boron. I am happy I looked into silicon because I learned so much information I did not know. Check out the link below for some cool facts!
This website discusses how amazing silicon is in our electronics
“Exaptation. An organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function” (Johnson 154).
Beyond the world of genetics I believe this word still has application in our daily lives. When exaptation occurs in the natural world, a trait created by genetic change, ends up having a purpose that was not the driving force behind the mutation. Like the feathers on prehistoric dinosaurs that led to flight, we often find second or third uses for goods in our lives. Creativity seems to be a cliche word used to describe someone but the human race in itself is exceptional at exapting uses beyond the intended purpose. I am interested in this reoccurring of biological processes repeating themselves in macrocosms in the world.
“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table”(Johnson,42).
sometimes the most jumbled up ideas or the most unlikely ones can be the most effective. In reading this chapter, I have found out so many things that surprised me. Building an incubator out of machine parts to accomodate hospitals in developing countries where they are not as tech savvy, is really amazing. What also is interesting is the idea of adjacent possible. Which asks the question if something is ahead of its time. Interesting to think that if Youtube tried to come out earlier than when videos online were possible, then it would maybe not be around. Hard to think of what would have happened, if we just try outside the box.
“We are constantly making equivalent conceptual leaps from biology to culture without blinking” (Johnson, 18
We are always making new innovations and inventions. Today we are connected in a web of the internet and our communities. What stuck out to me in this reading was the Idea of the 10/10 rule. This is the term that when something is released to the general public, it usually takes about a decade for it to be generally accepted. I thought this was interesting. I remember as a kid growing up and DVD’s were just starting to come out, but it wasnt until my later years that DVD completely took over the movie streaming business. But can some things come out too soon for it’s time? is there anything that just is to futuristic for us and it is eventually cast aside? reall makes you wonder
“The history of being spectacularly right has a shadow history lurking behind it: a much longer history of being spectacularly wrong, again and again” (Johnson, 134).
Innovative ideas, most of the time, come from a long process of trial and error. From a young age we are taught to strive for success and are often reprimanded for failures. However, success should not be synonymous with the absence of failure. Plenty of very successful people had to face multiple failures before they hit success. Even Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper company for lacking imagination and good ideas.
Johnson talks about the potential danger of losing serendipity in the wake of the Web. I believe that the Web can make serendipitous connections in ways that were never possible before the Web was created, but that a general sense of curiously to learn and find new things is necessary for serendipity, no matter where it comes from.
In this Ted Talk, Laura Green talks about how important it is for people in all different disciplines to talk to each other and “tell a better story” so that ideas can spread. She emphasizes how important it is in science for people outside the field to ask questions and encourage the search for new answers.
After reading Chapter 6 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to discuss the way in which ideas arise through a term often used in evolutionary biology. Johnson describes an exaptation as when
“an organism develops a trait optimized for a specific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completely different function” (p154).
Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that ideas come from the a change to a trait that was originally exhibited. I think a controversial word here is “hijacked.” I believe that traits are shared and understood but new ones rise based on what is favored or how it is seen that a new idea or trait can be used – the trait is not necessarily stolen, but rather used as a basis for a which in which a new trait can have a new function. This relates a lot to my Evolution course I took. We often discussed how ancestors have shared traits however on a phylogenetic tree, it is seen that new traits arise from those older ones and evolution or change over time among populations is seen. Thus, relating back to the real world, I think sharing ideas give way for new ideas to be proposed and used in a different way. Overall, I thought relating this chapter to the ideas of evolution was a great way to describe how new altered ideas arise from ones previously seen. Like Johnson states,
“exaptations help us explore the new possibilities that lurk behind those doors” (p156).
Therefore, new ideas arise from ones that previously exist, but these new ideas are used in a different way than the original.
“Innovative environments are better at helping their inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wide and diverse sample of spare parts”
The concept of building ideas with one another in the adjacent possible really stuck out to me. It reminded me of an experience I had last summer when I toured Google’s New York office. Google’s office structure is not like an ordinary office. The office has wide open spaces with big tables for a collaborative feel. Employees are allowed to dress casual and have daily group meeting with people in the office and use Google hangout to video chat with employees in different countries. All of the employees at Google are from different backgrounds and come together everyday to learn from each other. Free food is available at all times for each employee. There is also a fitness center and a video game area in the offices. Google takes an innovative environment to a whole new level. I hope that many companies can form innovative offices like Google.
Here is an article that I found very interesting about Google:
In Chapter three of “Where do good ideas come from” by Steven Johnson the concept of the “slow hunch” is introduced. The slow hunch discusses setbacks that occur while forming ideas and how it takes a long time to achieve goals but eventually they will come to happen.I think that setbacks get you prepared for what is coming in the future. I wanted to encourage everyone especially my fellow college students to continue working hard. It may seem like a draining process, you can’t seem to find the right major that fits you, you are unsure of what study abroad program you want to attend, those are the many factors that effect us college students. The slow hunch will occur but there is greatness at the end. I am hear to say you can’t fail until you quit.
The trouble with error is that we have a natural tendency to dismiss it- pg. 138
We as humans make mistakes all the time. To be honest, it is in our nature. If we did everything perfectly right that would not be normal. However, when mistakes are made we should not dismiss them. Mistakes happen for a reason so we can learn from them. If something wrong happens let us not urge to dismiss the mistake but embrace it. A perfect example of a big error would be Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner for Miss Universe 2015. Instead of announcing Miss Philippines as the winner for the pageant he said Miss Columbia. From the moment Steve Harvey knew he had made a mistake he acknowledged it and apologized.Steve Harvey made it clear to the audience who the real winner was, Miss Philippines. He was honest and corrected what happened as soon as he knew he was at fault.
In Chapter Six, “Exaptation”, exptation is described as a trait that was developed for one purpose, but is eventually used for another unrelated purpose. When I first read this, I thought of how this has affected humans. The appendix was used as an asset to the digestive system, but is not considered obsolete; one does not need it to survive. However the appendix, to me, was not a solid example because while it was designed for a purpose that it not longer performs, it did not adopt another purpose.
Because I am not well versed in biology, I could not think of another scientific example. But when I started to read about how the vacuum tube was created “to make signals louder”, and was eventually used in the Fender guitar amp in the fifties, I started to consider how music could be exaptation. (Johnson, 157)
If exaptation is the development of a trait from one purpose to another, then isn’t a shared chord between songs simply exaptated? Are Sweet Home Alabama, Werewolves of London, and All Summer Long just exaptations of each other? Or, to take it a step further, isn’t every song an exaptation because it is just a rearrangement of notes that another song has used?
“De Forest had stumbled across a classic slow hunch… In 1903, he began a series of failed experiments with placing two electrodes in gas-filled glass bulbs. He continued tinkering with the model…”-Johnson p132-133″
Reading Johnson’s Error’s reminded of other experiments and inventions performed by scientists. One of these scientists that created a breakthrough invention was Thomas Edison. Edison invented the light bulb based on idea he had concerning electricity, currents, etc. Although Edison created the light based on science concerning electricity, he did not have an immediate answer to his question. Edison required long periods of experimental testing on a trial and error basis. With time Edison finally reached a solution to a problem he posed onto himself. When asked about his failed experiments concerning the invention of the light bulb, Edison states that he did not encounter failure but found critical data for his discovery. This statement I believe is something that the entire science community abides by because although an experiment did not follow through as planned the data is critical for knowing what went wrong. By keeping these data point in lab notebooks, databases, etc., scientists can formulate a new experiment to try answer their question in manner different than before.
This chapter reminds me of a book I once read titled, Accidents May Happen. This book was about many of the greatest discoveries/inventions that were discovered by error or mistake. For example, the author of the book describes how chocolate chips cookies were created because a baker used chocolate chips instead of regular baker’s chocolate to make a dessert, but the chips did not melt, thus turning the dessert into a what would be called a cookie. This just goes to show how often times, some of the greatest (and tastiest) inventions are created as a result of an error, and that mistakes can be meaningful.
“Could you take all that knowledge and apply it to the human heart? Greatbatch stored the idea in the back of his head for the next five years…Greatbatch happened to grab the wrong resistor. When he plugged it into the oscillator it began to pulse in a familiar rhythm” (Johnson 136).
Greatbatch’s hunch that remained in his head for over five years ended up being a solution to a problem that they were not trying to solve. This discovery could produce the beat of a human heart not just monitor it. By accidentally finding this technology Greatbatch’s contribution was even larger then he could imagine when he started trying to pursue the original hunch. How often are discoveries in science accidental? Are some discoveries missed in experiments when the researcher is close-minded?
“Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.” -Johnson, pg 137
This quote gives an excellent explanation for why making mistakes or getting something wrong shouldn’t discourage you. If you know exactly what you’re doing from the start and things turn out exactly like you planned, you won’t get to learn anything new. You won’t get to take advantage of serendipity, stumbling across something you had no intention of discovering but helps you along anyway.
I think being wrong also forces you to keep an open mindset. Johnson also mentions an experiment in which groups of students were making word associations based on colors, and their answers often became more original when actors in their groups purposefully introduced doubt to the situation. When the students weren’t a hundred percent positive that the picture they were shown was primarily blue, they were forced to stop and think, considering more possibilities.
After reading Chapter 5 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought it was very interesting to talk about the topic of error. Specifically, I liked how the chapter discussed error in a positive way. Often times, the word error or mistake has a negative connotation. In the chapter; however, error was described as the path to innovation. Essentially, error and mistakes, while can be discouraging, force people to look for the right answer. In looking for that right answer and exploring other choices or options, innovations come about. Johnson states a very powerful quote when he says,
“Being wrong forces you to explore” (p137).
In essence, being wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can drive the possibility for new explorations. Being wrong means looking for the right answer – it paves the path for new things to be discovered. This is very relatable in science and in research laboratories. Researchers go into an experiment with a hypothesis and prediction; however, the outcome could be totally wrong. This forces the researchers to research further eventually allowing them to be successful in finding a new cure or new treatment. Personally, I can also relate to this because I am in the process of conducting breast cancer research. My professor and I have predictions however we do not know if they will be right and we may fail. In the midst of that failure, we will find something new in a new type of experiment. Thus, this chapter was very insightful in the fact that it turned the negative connotation of error into a positive idea.
Chapter 5 of Where Good Ideas Come From concentrates on the idea that error leads to new innovation. After reading the story about De Forest and his accidental innovation, I began to ponder how important mistakes are to innovation. I did some research about mistakes and innovation and I found this short but very insightful powerpoint online. If you get a chance check it out the link is below. It talks about the ways that mistakes lead to innovation. Perhaps our parents and teachers have been right this whole time. We do learn from our mistakes.
“I didn’t know why it worked,… it just did” (pg. 134).
When reading this chapter, the quote above really stuck out to me and made me think of the past summer when I shadowed physicians at an Orthopaedic center. One physician that I shadowed in the OR was an anesthesiologist. She was absolutely brilliant and an excellent teacher. Among the many questions I asked her, I asked her how anesthesia actually works, the mechanism of it. She had the most appalling answer. She said she didn’t know. I was very confused and stunned but she said to me that the mechanism of why anesthesia works is still not understood, all they know is that it works. The drug that every person undergoing surgery relies on to keep them asleep and not in pain from the surgical procedure isn’t fully understood! How amazing is that to think about? And also how scary.
There are many theories proposed to how it works based on its compounds and what receptors it reacts with. However, it still stands as an abstract proposal since it can’t be fully proved yet.
“Without noise, evolution would stagnate, an endless series of perfect copies, incapable of change. But because DNA is susceptible to error– whether mutations in the code itself or transcription mistakes during replication– natural selection has a constant source of new possibilities to test…Error is what made humans possible in the first place” -Johnson 142
Darwin’s theory about where these variations that produced the innovations of life came forms that when a particular organ or limb was heavily used in the lifetime of an animal, it released more “gemmules” that shaped the next generation of its species (Johnson 143). As was later proved by genetics, this theory was wrong.So, as Johnson also says, Darwin erred in trying to understand error (and its successes).
This leads to the idea of wondering why Darwin might have failed at understanding completely his discoveries. He seemed to have made the discovery of natural selection in the first place from the combination of his own observations and the adjacent possible. Did he need to “tap into” the adjacent possible once again to understand the whys behind evolution? Was he trying too hard to independently force another “eureka” moment upon himself? Or maybe he simply needed more time to contemplate any slow hunches about the reason behind his observation, constantly keeping them in the back of his mind while focusing on some other problem. Maybe, if he had “slept on the problem” like other scientists who studied single topics for years at a time, he might have come up with a solution.
But looking at Darwin’s hypothesis about the reason behind the selective traits, and comparing it to the quote above, one can say that the only possible way for Darwin to come up with an idea would have been to constantly try different ideas, revising them when they were in error. Darwin actually was acting like DNA when he subjected himself to an unanswered problem (stressed environment) and attempted to answer it.
The idea of pangenesis relates back to the chapter on slow hunches. Darwin’s original theory was groundbreaking in the scientific world but was not as perfect as one may think. Darwin continued to develop his theory, resulting in this new theory of pangenesis. Even the greatest minds have to think their ideas through again and again, developing them into more and more accurate theories just as Darwin did.
“You don’t reach Serendip by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings serendipitously.” – John Barth quoted in Johnson (p108)
This quote is a very simple description of how serendipity works. John Barth confirms that sometimes it is better not to seek answers to your problems and instead let the answers come to you. Come of the world’s best ideas have been accidentally stumbled upon after years of searching for an answer that happened to in plain sight the whole time.
“Error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. De Forest was wrong about the utility of gas as a detector, but he kept probing at the edges of that error, until he hit upon something that was genuinely useful. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.”
Without error, and determination, many successful people would have accomplished what they did after meeting adversity. Not only does it force you to deal with defeat, it forces one to change the way they think. It makes me wonder about where we would be in this world if people dealt with failure differently. Basically everything in this world has errors, and those errors lead to so many opportunities. For example with technology, there will always be errors that people try to improve, imagine if Apple didn’t fix errors with their first iPhone, something most of us use everyday.
“It’s not that mistakes are the goal— they’re still mistakes, after all, which is why you want to get through them quickly. But those mistakes are an inevitable step on the path to true innovation” -Johnson, p148
I thought this quote did a good job of summarizing the message of this chapter. In this excerpt, Johnson emphasizes that mistakes are important in the process of creating a successful innovation, and that they are pieces of the puzzle that we cannot avoid. I also thought it was important that Johnson made sure to explain to his audience that he was not saying to make mistakes on purpose, but he was instead assuring his readers that when mistakes do happen they can be helpful instead of hurtful. For me personally, I always thought of mistakes as bad things, things that set me back in whatever I was doing, but after reading this chapter I feel more confident in the fact that mistakes can be beneficial and act as stepping stones that lead to great innovations.
“but that noise makes the rest of us smarter, more innovative, precisely because we are forced to rethink our bias, to contemplate,….”(Johnson, 148)
So putting us all in a place surrounded by errors can make us more innovative. If you would have told me that error can be good, and that it can help me with ideas, I would have said that you were crazy. I never knew that error could help so much, such as with De Forest eventually ending up with the vacuums tube after assuming that it was a surge of voltage, or the fact that error lead to the realization that plants create oxygen instead of CO2 and creates our atmosphere. So many things have been invented from error, so it now baffles me how we can be scorned for making a mistake, or that fact that we throw these things away. But what also is interesting is putting people in a room and having them intentionally say inaccurate things, because sometimes that could lead to error, but also innovation.
” The work of dreams turns out to be a particular chaotic, yet productive, way of exploring the adjacent possible”(Johnson, 102).
I would never have thought that dreams could be a possible let alone effective way of experimenting the adjacent possible. Johnson talks about how dreams were able to help people figure out hidden problems, or missing connections. Such as configurations for atoms. I previously assumed that since dreams can be forgotten in a flash, that it could not be possible. maybe i just have not dreamt hard enough
“The error is needed to set off the truth, much as a dark background is required for exhibiting the brightness of a picture.”-William James
I found this quote by William James very convincing, if one has the drive to never quit. Growing up, I was raised to never give up at things I truly wanted and it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the many inventions discovered through trial and error. As Johnson talks about, errors open new doors to the adjacent possible and I too feel they are necessary to find truths.
I found the description of this crustacean very interesting. I did not previously know that an organism can choose between producing asexually and sexually. The way this creature produces effectively asexually during the warmer months was fascinating and so is how it chooses to reproduce sexually during the winter months. Learning about this organism also made me ponder about why don’t all organisms have a choice to reproduce asexually or sexually? What are the benefits of only reproducing one way when both can seem useful.
In a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight (Johnson 102).
I had never given much thought to what spurs a dream, and what the contents of the dream mean. This point from chapter 4 was very interesting to me, I never thought that my dreams had meaning to them. I knew that all the faces you see in a dream are one’s you have previously seen; your mind recreates from your experiences while you sleep. However, this is the first time I have thought of a dream to have serendipitous results.
And so, most great ideas first take shape in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something powerful (Johnson 75).
I found this point from chapter 3 very intriguing. I never thought of myself as having multiple half-ideas or hunches stored away in my consciousness just waiting for the “key element” to set off the lightbulb and create that moment of revelation. A hunch is the foundation of a great idea or innovation. Without them, the magnitude of innovation our world has seen would be greatly diminished.
“An organism that constantly rescrambled the genetic code passed down to its descendants would be more innovative in its offspring, but only in the sense that those offspring would find many novel ways to perish before or shortly after birth. – Johnson, p 144
This part of the the text really caught my attention since it had to do with mutation and how we develop to become what we are. In this way we are able to survive with no dramatic change. If it would be done so drastically than it would be harder for organisms to survive. So it was interesting to understand more of the why.
“The errors of the great mind exceed in numbers those of the less vigorous ones.” Johnson 137
Here, Johnson is stating that quantity takes precedence over quality. Those who attempt time and time again in several different ways to create something stand a better chance at actually succeeding than those who put all their eggs in one basket. I found this interesting because I have always heard “quality over quantity” rather than what Johnson is suggesting. Is there proof to his statement or is that an over-generalization?
In the lecture portion of the Synthetic Biology course I took, you learn about different genome sizes, techniques for sequencing, how to build a genome from scratch etc. One of the cool things about this class is that the lab portion of this course offers you very real research experience that international. The yeast genome has recently been fully sequenced to where every nucleic acid has been identified within it. Knowing the sequences of all sections of the genome, the yeast genome project has now become the challenge of building it from raw materials, dNTPS. Every week in lab you build upon your synthetic DNA sequence making it longer and longer to eventually have a successful synthetic sequence of the genome. As awesome as this sounds, doing this is actually very difficult. When I took this course none of the material worked and I always had blank bands on my electrophoresis gel. There were also a ton of steps involved with making synthetic DNA that many errors could occur with simple techniques. Science is always tricky and takes effort to accomplish something.
“Individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network” (pg. 60).
Being that this is an international program, multiple minds are working on this same experiment of building a synthetic genome. People can learn from other’s failures in building the genome. Learn what techniques work and which ones didn’t.
“Competition between rival firms leads to innovation in their products and services” (pg. 21)
At the end of the chapter, Johnson brings up this idea of competition fueling good ideas and new innovations. It made me immediately think of Apple verses Window products. Both company’s have evolved to be both sufficient products but for some reason more people prefer one over the other. Apple products seem to be more costly and maybe their marketing strategies are better than windows. However, both companies produce updates often to keep their products running better and also adding more features to the programs for consumers, adds business. So why is one always considered better than the other? Is it always a personal preference or statistically is one more efficient than the other, or is it just marketing skills? These types of questions came to mind when I was thinking about the competition between these two companies.
I found an article online displaying reason why Mac computers are better than a PC. 1. Superior hardware, 2. Better Battery life, 3. The interface, 4. Free updates, 5. Anti-Virus protection, 6. Updating is not a nightmare, 7. Third-party services, 8. Track pad.
Some of these features a PC also has, but may be not as high in quality according to this article. I think overall Apple has become more innovative than windows and it could be due to this distinct competition between companies that thrive Apple technicians to come up with greater ideas.
We began discussing the structure of Benzene in class. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon which a fundamental part of drawing structures, includes a classic 6 membered benzene ring. However, what is benzene used for? I was curious as to how we use it and why it was so important so I looked up the historical uses of Benzene. Apparently in the 19th century, it was considered to have a nice smell to it, so men used it for after shave. Later in the 20th century it was used in decaffeinated coffees. Upon further research, benzene is actually a carcinogen and is not used for those purposes any longer. Since the danger of benzene was discovered, it is used now for manufacturing purposes: plastics, lubricants, rubbers, etc. Another great point about benzene is that is the base of many other derived chemicals.
The chapter “Error” focuses on all the inventions and discoveries that were made erroneously. The scientists that invented/discovered some of the most important things in our world (penicillin, pacemakers, and the technology that would eventually lead to the development of the computer) did not intend to do so.
Some of them intended their inventions to be for something else. For instance, Wilson Greatbatch was trying to develop an oscillator to record human heartbeats. By chance he grabbed the wrong resistor and created a device that simulates a heartbeat instead of recording them. (Johnson, 135-6)
Johnson considers this an error. Since it was an active decision that did not produce the desired result, that is true. However, as baseball defines an error, it is “a statistic charged against a fielder whose action has assisted the team on offense.” (MLB, Official Info) If Greatbatch’s actions did not cause another to succeed, was it an error? Should “error” be reserved for more grave actions?
What is the difference here between an “error” and an “accident”? Johnson also labels the creation of penicillin, when Alexander Fleming left a window open and mold invaded a culture in his lab, an “error”. Was leaving the window open an active decision, though? Did it assist someone who would not have succeeded if the action had not been made?
Where is the overlap between “error” and “accident”, and why does it matter?
“patents, digital rights management, intellectual property, trade secrets, proprietary technology… share a founding assumption: that in the long run, innovation will increase if you put restrictions on the spread of new ideas, because those restrictions will allow the creators to collect large financial rewards from their inventions”-Johnson p123-124″
This is Martin Shkreli. He was the CEO of a biotech company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. He is notoriously known from approving the raise price of very important drugs up to 4,000% from the original price. This overnight spike in the these drugs to treat infectious disease caused many people to suffer because they could not afford their medication. Some patients that could only be treated by Turing Pharmaceuticals drug would have no choice but to pay the obscenely high prices. This reminded me of when Johnson begins to talk about exclusive rights such as drug patents.Turing Pharmaceuticals raising the prices of lifesaving drugs overnight shows how easily these patents can hurt society more than benefit society. It shed light on how our government has to regulate patent laws in order to make any product affordable to the common man as well as the company.
It was a fun fact to learn that the FBI partakes in retreats in order for the whole division to get together and discuss and brainstorm together. Knowing that there is much competition to get into the FBI, and move up in the ranks, it is good that they work together to better the whole corporation. The ideas flow better, and similar hunches can be discussed.
Serendipity is built out of happy accidents, to be sure, but what makes them happy is the fact that the discovery you’ve made is meaningful to you. It completes a hunch, or opens up a door in the adjacent possible that you had overlooked. (Johnson 108)
After reading chapter four of Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, this was the quote that seemed to resonate with me the most. It made me question, have there been times when discoveries were made that were unmeaningful to the researcher and were simply tossed aside? Could this discovery have brought serendipity to someone else? The idea that each discovery and hunch is personalized can be a scary one. It limits the influence these discoveries and hunches have simply because they are biased based on the discoverer.
Thatcher’s study suggests a counterintuitive notion: the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are. (Johnson 105)
This is very interesting to me because organization is so often considered a characteristic of intelligence. People say “you cant work at a dirty desk” and things such as that. But the idea that chaos indeed sparks more ideas is very convincing to me. The more chaotic your brain is the more ideas you consider and the more data you absorb. If you are more observant and take in more of the world around you it may become chaotic but it is also an environment where one can be more creative. I truly believe that a more chaotic brain creates more hunches.
“In part, his epiphany was made possible by the random connections of REM sleep. Yet it was also made possible by a slow hunch that had been lingering in the back of his mind for almost two decade” (Johnson, 103).
This section made me think back to Monday’s in-class discussion about slow hunches vs. quick hunches. A lot of us agreed that great ideas, even epiphanies, take a lot of time to fully develop. Most of the time, a brilliant idea does not just pop up out of nowhere. Background knowledge and experiences are required (majority of the time) before even the greatest epiphanies are created. This quote just proves these points and relates back to our ideas discussed on Monday.
This chapter made me think back to an article I recently read titled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Author Nicholas Carr discusses the effect of technology on our brain. He proposes that technology is hindering us in the sense that the internet, and Google, have everything we could ever need at the click of a button. Our brains have adapted to the swiftness of the internet. No longer do we read through the entirety of texts to expand our knowledge on certain topics — our brains have adapted to skimming in order to find the bare necessities of information that we need. This article makes me wonder: Is the accessibility of information because of the internet limiting our creativity? Have our skimming habits resulted in less production of ideas?
“In a sense, dreams are the mind’s primordial soup: the medium that facilitates the serendipitous collisions of creative insight. And hunches are like those early carbon atoms, seeking out new connections to help them build new chains and rings of innovation.” -Johnson, pg 102
I thought this passage was really cool, because it connects a lot of previous ideas discussed in the book: the liquid network and hunches and carbon atoms. And I think what’s interesting about dreams is that they can sort of provide a spark for all these eureka moments we’ve talked about. We’ve talked about how these eureka moments don’t just come out of nowhere; there has to be a background, a collection of unconnected ideas that maybe you’ve been thinking about for a while, and the eureka moment is when you figure out which pieces fit together. And dreams sort of play around with our memories (the pieces we have on the table), putting them together in ways our conscious minds just wouldn’t think to do. The pieces have to be there to begin with, and sometimes it takes serendipity and the random connections of dreams to figure out new ways to put the pieces together.
Chapter 5 talks a lot about how error and mistakes can be positive. While I am all for learning from my mistakes it made me think of one of the most famous mistakes of all time. In the above picture Harry S Truman is holding up a Newspaper which wrongly printed the outcome of the presidential election the night before. This always reminds to me to not jump the gun and carefully review things which might not benefit from a mistake. I also just really like this picture because it shows that not all mistakes can lead to progress and everyone should be careful of making mistakes regardless of if there are benefits.
In this chapter it is mentioned several times that de Forest had failed many times while implementing one of his most critical innovations, I was wondering if it would had been more effective in a timeliness sense if other hunches and ideas were connected to his, or was it most effective for him to “fail forward.” This also ties back into the idea that every hunch takes a while to be fully implemented and even with that said not every hunch ends up being fully introduced.I get the feeling that “failing forward” and having a team behind you is what is best for implementation.
“The secret to organizational inspiration is to build information networks that allow hunches to persist and disperse and recombine” (Johnson, p.127)
In order to give our hunches and innovations a chance to grow and develop, organization is key. We must create an environment, such as an open database of hunches, where our hunches can mix in an organized fashion with other people’s hunches, and lead to new innovation. This connects with the idea of a Commonplace book. If Darwin didn’t write down his discoveries, his hunches never would have developed into the knowledge we have about evolution today. This commonplace book forum that we are posting in right now is an example of one of these organized environments.
This is a link to devonthink which is a website that allows users to share ideas that connect. You can archive all your thoughts and access old material. This program is able to make connections between things that you did not initially search for. This allows for more serendipity to occur than just using google. I believe that google is good when you are looking for a specific answer to one thing but devonthink allows you to access so much more information.
Johnson talked about the idea of slow hunches and how this was the rule. No one really has light bulb ideas like Sherlock Holmes who quickly puts together clues in less than a day. It takes time to process ideas and come to a realization about what makes the most sense. Even Darwin took almost a year to realize what all his research about evolution meant. This made me realize the importance of slowing down and really taking time to look over ideas instead of just posting or sharing your idea right away, which is what happens a lot now because of social media.
“If the commonplace book tradition tells us that the best way to nurture hunches is to write everything down, the serendipity engine of the Web suggests a parallel directive: looks everything up”– Johnson 123
I feel that this quote has truthfulness in that websites like wikipedia and online references help expand our knowledge and allow us to explore instant hunches. And even though I think that looking everything up that pikes our curiosity is good, this idea counteracts the more random route of exploration that Johnson also endorses, methods like “sleeping on the problem” or Poincare’s pedestrian method of walking where ideas “rose from crowds”. I feel like if Poincare had the web, when he got stuck or encountered a problem, he would immediately go to the web for a solution or for some random browsing. And while this random browsing could possibly stimulate the answer to form in his head, it would be much more natural and easy for him to do what randomly stimulated and gave his mind a break at the same time: take a walk or vacation.
This is not to say that all people are like this, but the more the Web becomes an influence in people’s time, I think we are going to see more solutions and more ideas be born, just different types of ideas.
“But the strange fact is that a great deal of the past two centuries of legal and folk wisdom about innovation has pursued the exact opposite argument, building walls between ideas, keeping them from the kind of random, serendipitous connections that exist in dreams and in the organic compounds of life. Ironically, those walls have been erected with the explicit aim of encouraging innovation.” – Johnson, p123
While reading this chapter this passage really made me question why we build barriers around our ideas if sharing them, and connecting with other people is really the best way to establish great ideas. Why has the world created patents and copyrights that protect ideas from the ideas of others? How can people develop a slow hunch that they have, or explore the adjacent possible if everyones ideas are guarded by legal documents? How can we break down these walls and introduce a more connective environment?
“Sustaining the slow hunch is less a matter of perspiration than of cultivation. You give the hunch enough nourishment to keep it growing, and plant it in fertile soil, where its roots can make new connections. And then you give it time to bloom.” – Johnson, p78
This quote stuck out to me because I liked the visual it provided of the slow hunch. Johnson talked a lot about the slow hunch and how great ideas usually take time to develop, but after reading this particular passage I was really able to visualize exactly what Johnson was talking about. I especially like the statement, “where its roots can make new connections,” since Johnson really tries to emphasize throughout this chapter that hunches will stay hunches if they do not connect with other peoples ideas. By picturing the slow hunch as a plant, I can see how the plant must be given time in order for its roots to grow and connect with other plants.
“The errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one” -Johnson (137)
The idea that failure can ultimately lead to knowledge and understanding. It amazes me how such a simple idea is so overlooked. In society if you’re wrong about something, you get told to your face and there is no way to justify your thoughts. However, people are imperfect, and sometimes need more experience to learn from their failures and use it to their advantage. Our failures actually positively impact us in the future, so why are we so scared of it? Why don’t we just take that leap if we know its going to benefit us? These are just my thoughts throughout the reading.
Reading the end of chapter 3 was very informative, as it described the environment in which Google operates. Google has its employees pursue personal personal projects that involved their passions. This type of environment fostered a workplace that enabled ideas to experience immense growth, ultimately resulting in major breakthroughs, like Google News. The end of the chapter also highlights the evolution of workplaces and networks, as Google has seen tremendous growth, while the FBI still uses the same system that halted the movement of the Phoenix memo.
When it is mentioned that organizational inspiration is built off information networks that allow hunches to disperse and recombine, I feel like this idea can be easily contradicted, for some hunches in the past and in the future may be better off forming side by side. When hunches disperse it is likely that they will not rejoin again. Examples include the hunches that were on the way into being fully implemented in order to prevent 911. These hunches dispersed and never rejoined, the rejoining of these hunches could have resulted in a lesser consequence on that day. With every theme in this book i have come to a realization that every idea and theory can exert contradictory ideas.
Google famously instutiuted a ’20 percent time’ program for all Google engineers: for every four hours they spend working on official company projects, the engineers are required to spend one hour on their own pet project, guided entirely by their own passions and instincts.
Google’s attempt to keep it’s engineers’ minds keen is very innovative. Typically, big companies attempt to keep their engineer or their workers’ minds completely on the company projects because this seems to be the most productive and efficient use of time. However, I admire Google for trying to inspire and push their workers to explore their hunches and to expand their own knowledge.
The whole section about hunches is very interesting. How it applies to the idea of a web, and adjacent possible. For a hunch to become reality, it needs a web of many ideas thinking or coming up with the same idea. It is very interesting to look into the past and records of people comin up with similar ideas and what could have happend if they came together, such as the phoenix project and the flight school maybe stopping 9/11. in a similar time for it to come out to light and be legitimized. and as johnson puts it, ” Hunches that don’t connect are too to stay hunches.”(76)
“… when the world gets challenging – scarce resources, predators, parasites – you need to innovate. And the quickest path to innovation lies in making novel connections. This strategy of switching back and forth between asexual and sexual reproduction goes by the name “heterogamy” and while it is unusual, many different organisms have adopted it.” -Johnson, page 108
This part of the the reading caught my attention because it shows how organisms have learned to survive through out the years. They have adapted ways so that they will not go extinct. They have learned to combat each threat that has presented to them. Even though it is unusual, it has helped them survive and those organisms that can adopted have started using them. This is something new to me since I though that it was one or the other, but now I know that there can be various ways that these organisms can reproduce and defend themselves. It is an interesting strategy to defend themselves and gain new ways of living and mixing themselves. If not, most of these organisms would probably not exist.
The web came into being as an archetypal slow hunch: from a child’s exploration of a hundred-year-old-ecyclopedia, to a freelancer’s idle side project designed to help him keep track of his colleagues, to a deliberate attempt to build new information platform that could connect computers across the planet.
The world wide web is something we use everyday, multiple times. A hunch that started from a kid reading a book lead to one of the great tools ever invented. This is a humbling story because it shows the strength of ambition and curiosity. If Berners-Lee hadn’t read about the “portal to the world of information”, he may have never created the internet. It puts into perspective how strong a hunch and truly be.
I did a quick Google search of “slow hunch” and found that someone actually created a web app called SlowHunch inspired by the chapter Slow Hunch in Johnson’s book.
“The goal is simple: Provide an open environment where ideas can connect and grow…Users can now log in, create hunches, add tags and post comments. This allows us to develop the site further. In other words, the site will unfold from itself.”
Basically, anyone can create an account on this website and write a ‘hunch’ that will be added to the growing pool of other hunches, and people can add to or comment on other’s hunches. The idea is that the site will just keep growing as more people’s ideas are connected together.
On Page 117 Johnson says that if you visit the Wikipedia page for serendipity you can find access to a plethora of human inventions. In fact the page really interested me because serendipity is often linked with many accidental scientific advancements. I had no idea that penicillin, post it notes, and the microwave were accidental discoveries. Overall I just think its really neat that humanity as a species finds so much advancement through failure or just coincidence. I also had no idea so many scientific discoveries were made by accident which is really interesting that humanity even in failure is very productive.
Neurons share information by passing chemicals across the synaptic gap that connects them, but they also communicate via a more indirect channel: they synchronize their firing rates. For reasons that are not entirely understood large clusters of neurons will regularly fire at the exact same frequency […] phase-locking.
The idea of phase-locking is extremely interesting. While our brain share information directly through synaptic gaps, neurons can also spontaneously connect. The counter side to this is that the brain needs to have periods of chaos. There needs to be a balance between chaos among neurons and the direct transferring of information.
“Early on in its history, Google famously instituted a “20 percent time” program for all Google engineers: for every four hours they spend working on official company projects they are required to spend one hour on their own pet project, guided entirely by their own interests and passions “(Johnson 93).
I just thought it was really neat that Google is encouraging the adjacent possible by allowing their engineers to work on random projects in an effort to spur creativity. I also liked that Johnson provided an example of the person who created Google News in his downtime which showed that it was positive benefits for society to let people be creative.
I thought it was interesting how the lack of connection between certain hunches proved to be a disastrous problem, if hunches about the 9/11 attack had be intertwined, maybe the attack could have been prevented. There are also many ideas contradicting to this. When certain hunches are connected and eventually work to get together to get to one implementation it could cause problems like who gets the credit for the one hunch. This result can bring us to other conclusions and ideas that hunches could be better off forming individually in order to avoid future problems between the innovators of these hunches.
I thought it was interesting how the theory of the ‘edge of chaos’ can be applied to almost everything, what I thought of off the bat is packing for college, too much can prove to be a nuisance, too little can prove to be a dilemma. It is rather a redundant occurrence that people tend to go overboard with certain things. For example when people spend to much time exercising they expose themselves to injury or even physical exhaustion. On the contrary, when people get too little exercise they begin to live an unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle. This concept of ‘edge of chaos’ is not only a formidable theory it is also a way of life.
“… no attempt to collapse the evolution of his marvellous idea into a single epiphany. The Web came into being as an archetypal slow hunch” (Johnson 89)
I like how Tim Berners-Lee was able to have so many epiphanies that eventually led up to the creation of the Internet. He had the ultimate goal of the World Wide Web, but he followed the adjacent possible and was able to discover the steps leading up to the Internet (thus, several epiphanies known as the slow hunch.)
“So part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down.” (Johnson, p83)
Often times we lose track of our hunches and even forget them. Hunches are like a seed, they need to be planted, tended to, and harvested. We need to write our hunches down so that we do not lose them and kill them before they even had a chance to grow. This reminds me of keeping a journal. If you want to remember special occasions for instance, you could keep a journal of all the special occasions of which you have celebrated. Once written down, years could go by and you would still be able to remember those occasions. We make the biggest connection of writing down hunches when we think of Darwin. He kept a log of all of his evolutionary discoveries. We know what we do about evolution today because of his hunches.
“In the months before the Malthus reading, we could probably say that Darwin had the idea of natural selection in his head, but at the same time was incapable of fulling thinking it. This is how slow hunches often mature: by stealth, in small steps. They fade into view. “-Johnson, p81
Found this cool quote from Albert Einstein. Einstein explains how he got to the theory of relativity. This provides another example of how great ideas come from hunches growing over time. Einstein says ” Actually, I was led to it by steps arising from the individual laws derived from experience.” Einstein’s discovery can be comparable to Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution. It shows the some great ideas come with time in a series of steps.
After reading Chapter 4 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought the discussion on serendipities was very interesting. I liked how everything connected back to innovation and even just “happy accidents” coupled with other ideas can lead to progress. As this novel progresses, each chapter seems to build on one another. Ideas came from predictions, those predictions were connected, and those connections lead to “happy accidents” in which connections and networks thrive and lead to innovation. The last line of the chapter was very powerful when relating the idea of serendipities back to a database. Johnson states,
“By making the ideas public, and by ensuring that they remain stored in the database, these systems create an architecture for ogranizational serendipity. They give good ideas new ways to connect” (p128).
Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that good ideas come from the connections that happen to cross and recombine – they are “happy accidents.” I think this idea is very interesting because going through a lot of science classes we are alway taught that things have a definite answer and came about from a definite and specific process. With these ideas, Johnson proposes that not all mechanisms come about from a definite process but rather that process created an innovative mechanism from “happy accidents” or ideas combining by change to create a good idea. Overall, I think this idea is very interesting when relating it back to the scientific world – a world where definite answers are always desired. Essentially, things don’t need to be definite but rather can be spontaneous or accidental.
In addition, it was also interesting to see these ideas related to sexual reproduction. Essentially, we want to understand the mechanisms and answers behind it, but, in reality, it just happened from a happy accident. This is similar to where good ideas come from – happy accidents.
“Most slow hunches never last long enough to turn into something useful, because they pass in and out of our memory too quickly, precisely because they possess a certain murkiness. You get a feeling that there’s an interesting avenue to explore, a problem that might someday lead you to a solution, but then you get distracted by more pressing matters and the hunch disappears. So part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down.” -Johnson, page 83
This quote stood out to me because it reminded me of a previous post I made regarding Where Good Ideas Come From, when Johnson was talking about how the key to having good ideas is to get more parts on the table. And I connected that to how I usually go about solving writer’s block, by simply writing as much as I can. Because the more material I get onto the page, the more I have to work with and the more likely it is I’ll stumble across something or a few things that I can put together and use for a story. I definitely agree that writing everything down is incredibly important; it’s hard for a fragment of an idea to become anything more if it stays inside your head. Regarding writing, maybe a line or phrase will pop into my head, and I don’t know where it might fit into what I’m writing, if at all. But if I write it down, I can look back at it later. Maybe I’ll have written something else by that point that can work with the fragment I wrote down before. And it’s not very smart to assume that you’ll remember all the pieces of good ideas you’ve had; it’s better to write something down and have it go unused than forget it.
“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of a gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore.” (33)
Earlier in the chapter Johnson mentions that evolution could be looked at as the constant struggle to explore the adjacent possible, the idea that certain adaptations can only happen after mutation has occurred, a mutation that makes that adaptation possible, before this mutation has happened, the adaptation may never actually happen. Using this thought process, the adjacent possible can be used for human technology and innovation; although a technology may be thought to be impossible, it could simply be that the technology required to transition to this even more preposterous technology, needs to be discovered first.
“Liquid networks create an environment where those partial ideas can connect; they provide a kind of dating service for promising hunches. They make it easier to disseminate good ideas, of course, but they also do something more sublime: they help complete ideas” (Johnson, 75).
I found this quote very insightful. I never really thought of liquid networks in this sense, but I understand where Johnson is coming from. Not all good ideas are created in one swift motion. Often, they require outside knowledge to be complete. I think we can all relate to this on the educational level. We have all been apart of group work before whether we enjoyed it or not. I would consider group work to be a type of liquid network. When working with a group of students, coming up with good ideas is more efficient since there are more minds working together. Ideas and “hunches” are able to be bounced off of one another. By the end of the work/project, such idea and “hunches” finally come to together.
We recently discussed different types of learning environments in my Media Ethics class. My professor proposed the idea that the act of working alone allows the mind to wander. She explained how research indicates that our spontaneously technological lives are dampening our creativity. My professor would most likely argue against the quote above. She believes that working alone allows for the greatest ideas to truly develop, and that other people, and even technology, are nothing but distractions.
In his chapter on “Serendipity”, Johnson reports how detailed dreams have inspired several scientists. First he cites Otto Loewi, who subconsciously developed the idea for his experiment with frogs hearts. Next, he explains that several very influential scientists, who had been working in their fields for years, realized a missing piece of their puzzles through deep REM dreams.
The most interesting thing about this is that, according to Johnson, many of the dreams, or “neuronal connections”, we experience “are meaningless”. (Johnson, 101) So when these scientists found inspirations, ideas, and answers hidden in their dreams, it was essentially coincidence.
Johnson also points out that “We conventionally associate dream inspiration with the creative arts…” (Johnson, 101) This leads me to wonder how much creativity is necessary in scientific experimentation. Why do we only associate creativity with right-brain activities, such as writing or painting, when it is so obviously needed in designing experiments? Why do we believe that scientists cannot be “creative”? By that same notion, why do we assume that those who are interested in “creative” things cannot understand science or other “left-brain” activities?
When the 9/11 attack on the US happened, I was still young and I don’t remember much of that day other than our schools sending us all home. The analogy that Johnson uses in chapter 3 is the fact that one man, Williams, had a hunch that the terrorist group sent people to join the academy to learn how to fly plains. It was disappointing to read that a man apart of our government had an hunch that this was happening and his memo to check on it got pushed aside. Its also disappointing to read that the government still uses the same system as they did in 2001. It is also frustrating to see how many people this information has to be passed through in order to be put into action as well. This chapter was pretty enlightening because I truly didn’t know much about it or how the hijackers actually became successful in the destruction they caused. However, it seems as though it could of been prevented if our government had a better way of passing on important information.
“The Web arose as the answer to an open challenge, through the swirling together of influences, ideas, and realizations from many sides, until, by the wondrous offices of the human mind, a new concept jelled. It was a process of accretion, not the linear solving of one problem after another” – Berners-Lee (Johnson 90)
The formal definition of accretion is: “The process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.” I think this quote from Tim Berners-Lee- the creator of the World Wide Web- outlines Johnson’s liquid network idea perfectly, as well as gives a concrete example. The web as a creation of Berners-Lee did not form from some ingenious spark or eureka moment in his mind. Rather, his idea started from the time he was a child and developed throughout his life, finally culminating from his environment and influences. Johnson argues for something similar in his liquid network. He says that great ideas, even though we tend to think they are some spark of intuition, come from different layers adding up, or different doors opening. Many doors must be opened, as different doors lead to even more different doors. There is never “one” door that leads to innovation. In Berners-Lee’s case, it was a process of opening many doors, while still remembering, connecting, and building upon what was seen through other doors..
“No doubt some ingenious hunter-gatherer stumbled across the cleansing properties of ashes mixed with animal fat, or dreamed of building aqueducts in those long eons before the rise of cities, and we simply have no record of his epiphany”- Johnson 54
This way this quote is worded makes me wonder about the nature of innovation. Is it fair to assume that a hunter-gatherer simply “stumbled” upon the discovery of mixing ashes and animal fat? Is it possible that he was actually looking for something or experimenting? It also relates to Johnson’s other point of the connection between the concentration of people and the rise of ideas. Was the hunter-gatherer who came across revolutionary ideas simply ingenious or ahead of his time, seeing that he had not city environment to foster his creativity and he came up with the ideas on his own? If this is true, I think that it also applies to many great minds of the modern era, such as Einstein, who seemed to be in a world of his own intuition when it came to new or revolutionary ideas. Yet, I’m sure there are those who would argue that he was equally a product of his environment, upbringing, etc.
“The Meulaboh incubators were a representative sample: some studies suggest that as much as 95 percent of medical technology donated to developing countries breaks within the first five years of use”- Johnson 27
This is simply stunning to me as I had no idea that this was the case. When I hear about medical donations to developing countries I have nothing but praise and appreciation for the companies, but now I see them with a new perspective. The developing countries need a way or assistance to develop technology, especially a kind that caters to their environment, not just to be given other’s technology. The human baby incubator made from car parts was truly amazing and a revolutionary idea itself. This makes me wonder what other innovations people can come up with the cater to specific needs in developing countries that can also be renewed, developed, and improved upon easily by the people themselves using their own resources. I can imagine what a difference some kind of water purifier would be to locals and their children if they could build it themselves for minimal costs!
“Kleiber’s law proved that as life gets bigger, it slows down. But West’s model demonstrated one crucial way in which human-built cities broke from the patterns of biological life: as cities get bigger, they generate ideas at a faster clip”.- Johnson 10
Through intensive research on city’s innovation and creativity, West proved that cities grown more creative as they grow bigger and more connections are made between people. But at what point does this potential for creativity reach its max and at what point does it become counter-productive to bring more people and ideas together? Is there a point where ideas become recycled and refuse to produce more new ideas? I think this is a difficult question to answer because very heavily populated areas can many times be very poor, and so the main focus is survival and staying alive. But this can also foster innovation, when people have little to work with. Then again, many of the most famous or richest innovative cities are the most populated. So maybe an answer is that from different kinds of population concentrations comes different types of new ideas. In turn, the kind of idea being produced leads to a certain attraction for certain people, and they in turn go to that city. Still, I can imagine a city that exponentially grows so much that it becomes entirely too crowded and all connections are put on hold and come second to finding a way to live with mass amounts of people. At this point, people may simply migrate out of the city and the process will start all over again.
After reading Chapter 3, “The Slow Hunch” in Where Good Ideas Came From I found many of the ideas presented by Johnson very insightful. I thought it was really interesting how everything discussed related back to using others’ ideas, networks, connections, and the adjacent possible. Essentially, everything builds on one another and while individuals can have hunches, those hunches aren’t relevant until they are combined with the thoughts of others. Johnson states,
“Most great ideas first take shape in the in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something truly powerful” (p75).
Johnson is suggesting that hunches while they can be good need to be nurtured by connections and thoughts of other people. The missing piece becomes complete when it is combined with a similar hunch that another individual has. In essence, complete ideas come about through the connections and networks made from a slow hunch instead of one lone idea trying to be proven. In the example of predicting the 9/11, that slow hunch was not complete because it was not built upon by other hunches or other individuals. Thus, this chapter is very important because it emphasizes the role of networks, connections, and the adjacent possible in making a hunch into a complete idea – everything is related and relevant to one another.
I also thought these ideas were really interesting because they related to the reason why we believe in evolution and natural selection. Darwin observed and made hunches, but until those ideas were coupled with other observations and predictions, they were not complete. In understanding evolution and even the scientific method, it is important to understand the role of hunches and ideas that were made to make theories and ideas real. As I learned in my Evolution course, Darwin kept a journal of everything he saw and observed while on his trip to the Galapagos. These ideas and hunches contributed to his theories once he made connections and networks between them.
In “Where Good Ideas come from” Johnson mentions a concept titled the “10/10 rule”, where it takes,
“A decade to build the new platform and a decade for it to find a mass audience” (pg.21).
Johnson explains how this rule has worked for most technology except for Youtube. When Youtube was created it became an automatic sensation. Youtube allows the world to share ideas through a platform of videos. These videos give way for people to become aware of social issues, political ideas, and to post personal opinions and more.
Youtube is also a large advertising and marketing platform. Many of the videos on youtube contain advertisements from different companies. Advertising and marketing professional look at the video activity online and monitor a target audience. These professionals then link their advertisements to targeted videos and earn money from the amount of viewers to the advertisement.
Youtube has definitely changed our generation to be innovative in sharing ideas. Whether you are like me and enjoy watching makeup tutorials or watching inspirational videos, there is something on Youtube just for you!
Here is a link featuring the Top 20 Youtube videos of 2015 : Video
In “The Slow Hunch,” Johnson explains how ideas at every step of development are important. While most of the chapter focuses on the beginning of an idea, the “hunch”, Johnson mentions that it is also important to revisit ideas that could not get out of the development stage. He writes, “But those intrinsic causes can easily overshadow the environmental role in the creation and spread of those ideas. This is why it is just as useful to look at the sparks that failed, the ideas that found their way to a promising region of the adjacent possible but somehow collapsed there.” (Johnson, 72)
Immediately this reminded me of the television series Cold Case. In this show, the main character is a Philadelphia detective that reopens unsolved homicide cases in an attempt to finally solve them. As she revisited these cases, she was able to find new evidence and clues that led her to solving the murder.
With new technology, a fresh eye, and her own hunches, she was able to reignite “the sparks” of past detectives “that failed”.
This proves why ideas at every stage of development are valuable. While hunches may need more encouragement, the “failed sparks” also need maintenance.
In the “Liquid Network” chapter, Johnson analyzes how we can push ourselves to think more creatively. He writes, “The answer, as it happens, is delightfully fractal: to make your mind more innovative, you have to place it inside environments that share that same network signature: networks of ideas or people that mimic neural networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible.” (Johnson, 47)
I reread this statement a few times and realized that I was a prime example of this: While at school, I work so much more efficiently. I manage myself, my time, and my work more effectively than I ever did while living at home. And when I work, whether it is in writing or designing, I can generate better ideas.
Much of that has to do with the campus environment. The people I’ve met here think the same way that I do, so when I explain ideas to them, they understand and help me develop them further than I could have on my own. I also have the opportunity to connect with people in my major. So when I need help with design layouts or revising an essay, I can talk to someone who is equally interested in that subject and at my level of study.
Therefore, this quote is accurate. People who think alike can develop more together.
“Without the generative links of carbon, the earth would have likely remained a lifeless soup of elements, a planet of dead chemistry” (Johnson 49)
From previous knowledge of biology, I knew of the importance of carbon and how sustainable it was. And in chemistry, we learned of its outer shell, which contains 4 valence electrons, and made it the most stable element. This quote put an image in my head: A planet of nothing, no life. A terribly lifeless and colourless world that would exist without carbon. It makes me wonder, can we create carbon artificially? If nothing else can replace carbon, will it need to created by man with the threat of climate change and carbon footprints?
*Also very interesting how something that sustains life can create deadly substances:(Carbon Dioxide, Methane)
“Water is also a fiendishly talented dissolver of things. (Even the famously inert gold is soluble in seawater if you give it enough time.)” -Johnson, pg 51
I thought this entire chapter was really interesting, especially with all the talk of chemistry and the structure of the brain at the beginning. But this is what I found most surprising. I had no idea that gold was even remotely soluble. Hearing the words ‘gold’ and ‘seawater’ together makes me think of divers finding gold from hundreds of years ago on sunken ships, completely withstanding the tests of time.
I already knew a little about what makes water such a good solvent without having to do any research. The polarity of water molecules makes it good at pulling apart molecules (which is to say, separating molecules from each other, not breaking the bonds of individual molecules, which would be creating a chemical change rather than dissolving a material). In addition, Johnson makes it clear that it’s sea water that’s capable of dissolving gold, and seawater has all sorts of ions in it that can help break intramolecular bonds.
I tried to do some research to figure out exactly what it is about seawater that makes it able to dissolve gold, or how long the process could take, but most articles I found were talking about gold that has already been dissolved in the ocean, wondering how to reclaim it. The presence of gold molecules in seawater does provide compelling evidence, but I still can’t help but wonder where those gold molecules came from and if it was because of seawater alone that they were able to dissolve.
“It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network” – Johnson, p58
The network environment helps to bring ideas into the light and propel them into a state of success. This quote stuck out to me because it is significant in showing that the network is not the smart component in the equation, but instead the people that are connected to the network are the smart ones. By being surrounded by people who share your intellect and creativeness, innovation prospers. Johnson does a good job of exemplifying that by bouncing ideas off one another, and sharing thoughts with one another, people gain knowledge.
“Our thought shapes the spaces we inhibit, and our spaces return the favor” (Johnson, 17)
We are all a product of our environment, and to a degree, what we can do or create is defined by the boundaries of our environment. Conversely, what we do and create cultivates our environment moving forward.
“Not assigned to any one school, department, or center, it seems to always have had space for beginning project, the graduate student’s experiment, the interdisciplinary research center.” (MIT 63)
I think the concept of a research center is really good way to come up with original ideas. Students and professors from different departments can collaborate and think about concepts in a much broader spectrum than just focusing on an idea from their own perspective.
Double-entry accounting made it far easier to keep track of what you owned, but no one owned double-entry accounting itself. The idea was too powerful not to spill over into other nearby minds (Johnson 57).
I found this point from chapter 2 to be the most interesting, mostly because I have never thought of an idea spilling over. I usually think of an idea as something one person thinks of and is able to patent. This is also the first time of thinking of how powerful an idea is, and what this means for the magnitude of people that it will “spill over” into and effect.
From chapter 2 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I enjoyed the descriptions of the different macromolecules, like lipids, proteins, sugars, and DNA and how they each connect within the cell, exemplifying the view that an idea is a network.
So instead, Prestero and his team decided to build an incubator out of parts that were already abundant in the developing world (Johnson 28).
This decision documented in chapter 1 is one that I think we as humans should look to as inspiration to improve the state of our world. With the ever growing mountains of trash and scrapyards, we should be making strides to use recycled materials along with new innovative ideas and inventions. There are a lot of products that are recycled right now, but most of them are small items such as forks, plates, cups etc. Why aren’t there strides to create bigger things such as cars and planes out of scraps. Granted, it may seem like these old materials will not last long if re-used, but that just leads to another issue that could be solved with innovation.
“For the first time, humans began forming groups that numbered in the thousands, or tens of thousands. After millennia of living in an intimate cluster of extended family, they began sharing a space crowded with strangers. With that increase in population came a crucial increase in the number of possible connections that could be formed within the group” (Johnson, 53).
This quote relates back to the earlier chapter about cities and reefs. Previously, I wondered if cities produced greater ideas than smaller towns did because of their access to resources, but now I better understand that it really is just because of the population. Cities have more people, thus they generate more ideas. People easily bounce ideas off of each other. The people in cities are just like the neurons in the brain — both make connections with the other people/neurons in their environments. Some of the greatest ideas come out of cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Boston — all places where many big businesses and people are located.
The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms (Johnson 21).
I found this point from the introduction to be interesting because it contradicts one of the prime economic principles that suggests that a competitive market will thrive better than a non-competitive one. Although the main focus of the principle is for the firms to reach their profit-maximizing level, it also suggests that competition will increase the new ideas and innovation. I think that Johnson’s ideas of competition and innovation are more realistic than that of an economist. Innovation comes from clear thoughts and zero restraints, not the stress and pressure of having to outdo your competitor.
Near the end of Chapter 2 Johnson brings up Microsoft Building number 99 which is where their research division is and is supposed to be a building which causes creation and innovation to flourish. This made me very curious as to what a building designed with this purpose in mind. Maybe because I am not in the building but aside from looking open and flowing which was the point as said in the book I do not think I would be more creative working there. Regardless I think its cool that Microsoft has certain buildings for certain things and I included a picture of the building below.
Source of Picture found on google images http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2011/05/03/a-tour-of-my-microsoft-workspace-steve-clayton/
I thought Chapter 2 was very interesting because it discussed the ability to thrive and create new ideas by networks and connections in relation to the adjacent possible. I liked how the chapter related these ideas back to liquids as networks, for example, freezing liquid to create solids. In relating to General Chemistry courses, we also learned that solids and liquids exist, not just because, but rather as a result of hot or cold that allow things to melt or freeze. In this case those external forces of hot and cold were the “networks” or connections. In relating to the entire chapter, I thought it was interesting to relate these ideas back to the adjacent possible. Essentially, the adjacent possible is understood through connections, networks, and interactions between things. The last line of the chapter stating,
Exploring the adjacent possible can be as simple as opening a door. But sometimes you need to move a wall” -Johnson, p65
was a very powerful statement. Essentially, there is no strict answer or reason that something exists, but one has to dig deeper to understand the connections and networks as to why things exist or came about. Moving a wall is much harder than opening a door. You have to break it down into pieces to see the connections.
Chapter one of good ideas uses an example which really made what the Adjacent Possible an easy concept for me to grasp by talking about the above scene in Apollo 13. As such I thought I’d share the scene because it just perfectly for me summed up what the Adjacent Possible is as an obscure concept. I also just love this movie because it shows how adaptable humans are and how we have really done some amazing things as a species. This movie is also a classic which spawned some really great lines and is scientifically accurate which is really cool. All credit goes to the movie Apollo 13 linked above.
A connection I found from reading chapter 1 of “Where Do Good Ideas Come From” was the statement “we take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into one new shape” to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. For the most part, people only know Watson and Crick as the people accountable for discovering the helical structure of DNA. However, after learning about so many scientist whom provided Watson and Crick the tools to piece together the puzzle, they were truly the very last piece that took the ideas of all the previous scientist. Without scientist such as Chargraff, Rosalind Franklin, Levene, etc. Watson and Crick wouldn’t of known that A and T match together, or that DNA was a helical structure without Rosalind’s x-ray diffraction picture of DNA, or the simple fact that there is a sugar attached to the nucleic acid. Before I learned about these previous scientist and their experiments in depth, I only gave Watson and Crick credit for the discovery of the structure, but I quickly learned there was so much more put into discovering the structure than I had previously known.
“Sunspots were simultaneously discovered in 1611 by four scientists living in four different countries” (Johnson 34)
I’ve never given much thought to what would happen if multiple people discovered the same thing, at the same time. Many questions arose from this piece of trivia. Who receives the credit? Why is it that they all happened to discover it around the same time? Did some event happen to influence their research? Did they gather their information from the same sources? It was interesting to learn that 4 unrelated scientists were researching something so far from Earth, in 1611.
“Part of coming up with a good idea is discovering what those spare parts are, and ensuring that you’re not just recycling the same old ingredients… The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.” -Johnson, pg 42
I was really struck by this passage at the end of chapter one. I really love how inclusive Johnson always is with his discussion of innovation and good ideas; although this is a biotechnology course, so much of what we can learn from this book is applicable to other fields. This part in particular reminds me of how I’ve learned to get over writer’s block. When I get stuck writing a story, it’s tempting to sit and stare off into space, hoping a good idea will come to me, some sort of magical revelation of how to continue the story. But like Johnson says, “[sitting] in glorious isolation and [trying] to think big thoughts” usually won’t get you anywhere. After all that thinking and thinking and thinking, I’m often left with what I started with: a blank page. I’ve found, and Johnson seems to agree, that the solution to writer’s block is simply to write. Maybe I won’t solve my plot problem right away, but I’m giving myself more material to work with. I’m getting “more parts on the table.” Some of those parts may end up going unused, but if I give myself enough parts to work with, eventually I’ll find enough bits that I can piece together, maybe in a way I didn’t expect.
This passage offers wonderful advice for problem-solving, whether you’re a scientist, a writer, or something else entirely.
“François Jacob captured this in his evolution as a “tinkerer”, not an engineer; our bodies are also works of bricolage, old parts strung together to form something radically new.” (Johnson, p29)
I found this particularly interesting because it is intriguing to think of our bodies as a bunch of parts strung together for a purpose. Each piece of our body is essential, and works towards the productivity of the human body as a whole. Right away I thought of the body systems. Our body is made up of a group of different systems and they all work together to keep us functioning properly and healthily. Below I attached a very cheesy body systems rap video. I haven’t seen it since my freshman year bio class in high school. Although childish, it talks about all the body systems and what they are for. Watch it you may get a laugh out of it.
The Meulaboh incubators were a representative sample: some studies suggest that as much as 95 percent of medical technology donated to developing countries breaks within the first five years.
Seeing the clear issue with donating complex equipment, breakdowns, parts, and labor, Design that Matters created an amazing machine. The incubator that runs off car parts is not only incredible for the creativity that went into making it but because of the possibilities it creates. Instead of having to bring in a technical expert to fix an incubator, people who know how to change a headlight can fix these incubators.
In Chapter 1, “Reef, City, and Web”, Johnson writes, “Science long ago realized that we can understand something better by studying its behavior in different contexts.” Following this statement Johnson explained that it is sometimes easier to grasp a concept when we stop focusing and researching so much on the concept, and instead relate it to something we know. For instance, non-scientists understand cities and how urban life functions much more than the complex ecosystem of the coral reef. By showing the similarities between the two, as Johnson does further down in his text, a non-scientist is able to comprehend how the coral reef functions through her knowledge of cities and urban life.
What Johnson means is that we understand the scientific world through metaphors. Comparing and contrasting our current understandings of the world with our new experiences or information is how we learn.
Just as Maya Angelou explains her depression as a caged bird, something more tangible for her readers, Robert Hooke named the small organisms that make-up all living things after the tiny rooms of monks called “cells” so that fellow scientists will understand his discovery.
Johnson continues, “…It turns out that we can answer the question more comprehensively if we draw analogies to patterns of innovation…” This essentially confirms that in their discoveries (and attempts to break that “adjacent possible”) scientists try to hold on to what they know at the same time. While they travel from room to room through the doors that Johnson describes, they leave a bread crumb trail for others (scientists or not) to follow them. They recognize that not everyone will see the discovery in the same way, nor does everyone think like a scientist. Therefore by explaining scientific theories, processes, or discoveries in tangible and non-science terms, scientists can reach a broader audience and be more widely accepted.
The use of metaphors and imagery by scientists to explain science makes them poets.
A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative, it was seventeen times more innovative […] Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of a smaller town. But what was it?
The innovation in city can steam from many different things. Is it because of the competition people have between one another, the want to be better than the next person. Could it be the “buzz” of a city that stimulates productivity and innovation. Whatever the reason, or reasons, this is such an interesting finding.
A brilliant idea occurs to a scientist or an inventor somewhere in the world, and he goes public with his remarkable finding, only to discover that three multiple minds had independently come up with the same idea in the past four years. – Johnson pg. 34
Often times, if an idea is so great that it is often thought of multiple times over by different people, then why does it take so long for them to go mainstream? According to the 10/10 rule, it takes 10 years for an inventor to perfect their idea and 10 years for the idea to be accepted into the population. I believe that if an idea, such as the electrical battery (mention in Johnson, 34), is invented time and time again, then there is a need for it. If there’s such a need for a product, typically it should spark a fad for it and it shouldn’t take 10 years to be recognized.
“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore those boundaries” – Johnson, p31
I think this quote is important because we were reading about how the adjacent possible is “a shadow figure hovering over the edges of the present state of things,” but this quote shows us that in order to take advantage of the adjacent possible, and explore new rooms in the mansion, we must take that first step ourselves. In order for the adjacent possible’s limits to grow, we must push those limits and see where we can take them.
This is a good invention that is not only more reasonable to make but also easier to fix. The scientists and inventors at work on this project are helping to lower infant mortality rates and improve the quality of life in third world countries. The pros outweigh any cons. Although there is the worry about prices of this invention and if it will be made available to those who really need it who might not be able to afford it.
“When we look at the history of innovation from the vantage point of the long zoom, what we find is that unusually generative environments display similar patterns of creativity at multiple scales simultaneously.” p.20
This quote is showing that you can’t look at a big picture of an environment; you have to look much deeper and look at each singular organism and its part in helping the environment function.
“The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms” – Johnson, p21
This quote really jumped out at me because I think it is extremely important to have an open mind about things. Johnson continued to explain that to fuel creativity you have to keep an open mind about the people that are around you and the environments that you are in. By doing so, you can think more creatively and collaborate with one another to make ideas even better. Constant competition limits ideas from flourishing because they stay in the mind of one person, or the minds of a small group of people. The key to successful innovation is having an open mind and connecting and sharing your ideas with other people.
“All other things being equal, a breakthrough that lets you execute two jobs that were impossible before is twice as innovative as a breakthrough that lets you do only one new thing.”(Johnson 16)
I don’t believe that innovation should be determined by the amount of tasks you are able to complete but rather by the amount of time and effort it takes to complete the task. If a new invention allows you to complete a difficult task significantly faster, it should be considered more innovative then an invention that allows you to complete multiple tasks at a slower pace.
“Good ideas are like the NeoNurture device. They are, inevitably, constrained by the parts and skills that surround them”(Johnson 28).
I think this is extremely interesting and furthermore relative to everyday life. In order to improve something, for example bad behavior, you must surround yourself with better people and things in order to succeed. This is relative to some of the ideas included in the adjacent possible, for example it is mentioned that for ideas to bloom, it is vital that the environment and people you are surrounded by must have a similar goal as you. If you are trying to find a cure for cancer, it is best for you to be surrounded by people that wish to do the same, not people with goals that oppose or differ from yours.
In chapter 1, I thought it was interesting how Johnson includes many factors of how Darwin’s Paradox came to be, from reading this I can see the how the love Darwin had for the workings of nature and its inhabitants lead up to his most societal influential theory of Darwinism. This can relate to the commonplace book mentioned in chapter 3 because if darwin had not written all this ideas and theories on paper, it would have been likely that his own spectrum of idea would have been too large for his mind to fathom. Every little thing adds to a bigger theme, accounting for each of those little things lies of great importance in constructing the bigger picture.
“‘The list of land animals,’ [Charles Darwin] writes, ‘is even poorer than that of the plants.’… Yet just a few feet away from this desolate habitat, in the coral reef waters, an epic diversity, rivaled only by that of the rain forest, thrives.” pg. 4
Here, in the introduction of Where Good Ideas Come From, Charles Darwin notes that in a place where there is little domestic animals or plant life, there thrives a coral reef habitat. This idea is then explained to be called Darwin’s Paradox: coral reefs make up .001% of the earth and yet they contain almost 25 of marine species. Though I already knew that coral reefs were thriving, I was very intrigued and surprised to discover the statistics surrounding them. It led me to wonder, what is it about the coral reefs that make them able to sustain such a variety of life?
“This is a book about the space of innovation. Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly.” Johnson 15
I thought this quote was interesting because it reminded me of our discussion about Chapter 7 of Unzipped where we discussed patents. Patents can cause ideas not to flourish but seem to be a necessary factor in our economy. The quote also made me think of what other places can facilitate ideas and colleges and universities often facilitate ideas. I couldn’t think of an environment that doesn’t allow for the facilitation of ideas. I just found an NBC article which says the US is currently in a backlog for patents which is where the image is from. Source http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4788834/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/us-patent-office-swamped-backlog/
In the introduction, Johnson discusses how creativity in the coral reef relates to innovation we experience everyday. His description and image of the “long zoom” caught my eye. I didn’t know there was a way to connect the new technology we see everyday with something as old, and natural, as the coral reef.
“You can’t just explain the biodiversity of the coral reef by simply studying the genetics of the coral reef itself” (Johnson 20)
There are comparisons between nature and culture that may not seem obvious, so learning to examine things through the long zoom (bigger picture) lets us observe similar patterns between multiple scales. It was interesting to see that looking at life this way could give us new facts about creations of the future.
“We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. We like to think of our ideas as $40,000 incubators, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they’ve been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage” (Johnson, 29).
This passage really stood out to me. It is so true — the best ideas do not always have to be the ones that are unprecedented. Sometimes, the best ideas come from prior knowledge and experience; from taking what you know and using it to your advantage. For example, Facebook, one of the most successful websites, started as a small idea that eventually blossomed into what it is today. (The movie, The Social Network, portrays Mark Zuckerberg’s transition from small idea to success very nicely). There are so many expectations in the world today, and this quote is just a nice reminder that you do not always have to be the best of the best to succeed.
“Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of smaller towns” (11).”
West brings up a very interesting study here. His research suggests that those residents who live in big cities as compared to smaller towns are able to generate ideas quicker and overall, are more creative. Reading this made sense to me. Large cities always seem to be the first places where ideas/inventions generate from. Perhaps it is because they are more wealthy, so they are able to afford more resources. Or perhaps there more people working together to come up with these ideas/inventions. Either way, I found this interesting to consider as I never have done so before.
“The academic literature on innovation and creativity is rich with subtle distinctions between innovations and inventions, between different modes of creativity: artistic, scientific, technological… The good ideas in this survey range from software platforms to musical genres to scientific paradigms to new models for government. my premise is that there is as much value to be fond in seeking the common properties across all these varied forms of innovation and creativity as there is value to be found in documenting the differences between them.” -Johnson, pg 22
I really liked this section here, where the author is acknowledging that the development of good ideas isn’t unique to one discipline. I think this is an especially important idea given that this is a biotechnology class, all about combining science and technology. But Johnson also acknowledges the arts, giving credit to the innovations of musicians and writers. Scientists can learn something from artists, looking at how their ideas are developed. I think it’s important for everyone to know that something can be learned by looking at the work of someone in a different field than yourself. Good ideas and innovation don’t need to be strictly categorized into art or science or technology. Sharing ideas and collaborating with others will bring success much faster than keeping ideas to yourself.
After reading this section of the novel, I thought it was very interesting to start off with Darwin. I found this portion very relatable as I have taken an Evolution course and learned about Darwin’s ideas and theories of natural selection and competition. I think it is very interesting to understand advancements in an ecosystem through the new innovations that arise from competition and natural selection among species. This quote really stood out to me. The author states,
“Darwin’s coral reefs create and environment where biological innovations can flourish” -Johnson, p17.
Essentially, Darwin suggests that changes in the environment and things affecting ecosystems cause changes that are innovative. These changes or advancements allow things to flourish, survive in a new way, and become more complex. These all relate to the ideas of evolution and biotechnology in that new innovations create a more complex world.
After reading Chapter 1 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it very interesting when they discussed the ideas of new advancements or innovations as adjacent possible’s. Essentially, everything we do in a society builds on one another, an adjacent possible, the next invention. I think this idea is interesting because, while science often is described as the exploration of new things or new developments, I never thought machinery or technology as the gathering of many ideas to increase complexity. Everything is based off of the previous and builds in it complexity. While this is believed to be true, I thought the example of Babbage’s Analytical Engine was noteworthy. In this example, it was proposed that the
“machine was so complicated it never got passed the blueprint stage” -Johnson, p37.
I think this idea is extremely important, because while technology leads to the future, one consequence deals with complexity. Are we ever going to get to a point in which the world is too complex to keep moving forward? Will things come to a halt? I think these ideas are very important to think about especially living in a world today in which technology is so advanced and new things are created every day.
Excited to use these books this SP2016 semester. The Biotechnology Unzipped book will serve as a reference book for you to learn background biology/ technology. Click on each book to see what people think about them!