Steven Johnson - Where Good Ideas Come From

If you're familiar with Steven Johnson's books, you've probably noticed his view that place and social networks have historically played an important role in our understanding of social and intellectual innovation. In his latest book (to be released soon), he finally tackles the question of the origin of good ideas head on, trying to understand the sorts of conditions that are common to periods of disproportionate innovation.

Despite our romantic view of the quirky mathematician who has a spontaneous eureka moment while taking a bath, or the apocryphal story of the lonely genius who figures out the law of gravity after being hit on the head by a falling apple, good ideas are seldom the result of solitary genius let loose. Instead of Archimedes or Newton, Johnson uses Darwin's "slow hunch" as a more realistic model of the emergence of great ideas.

But having a long hunch isn't always enough. It also helps if curious and thoughtful people get to meet and share their ideas with other curious and thoughtful minds, and then let those ideas have sex with each other. It's those intellectual orgies that, Johnson argues, have given rise to truly revolutionary ideas which are more powerful than the sum of their parts. Here is an animated trailer of the upcoming book:

And here is a slightly more detailed explanation of Johnson's main thesis:

Don't forget to check out other fascinating TEDTalks.
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