Contrive a collision of ideas

Technology’s impact on all areas of life has been cause for growing concern and academic debate. Will tomorrow’s students be able to read and write? Will skills around face-to-face interaction and negotiating friendships wither as more people take their relationships online? What, ultimately, will be the impact of new technologies on creativity, that well-spring of human civilisation? Amid the doomsayers, science writer and author, Steven Johnson, sounds a note of hope. In Where Good Ideas Come From: The natural history of innovation, he argues that innovation has always occurred when the right space is created, “where ideas can collide and mingle”. That might be the coffee houses of the Enlightenment, the Parisian salons of Modernism, or the cyberworld of today.  “Yes, it’s true we’re more distracted,” Johnson says, “but what’s happened that’s really miraculous and marvellous over the past 15 years is that we have so many new ways to connect, and so many new ways to find other people who have that missing piece that will complete the idea.” The ability to reach out and connect with others has been the primary driver of creativity and innovation for centuries, he says – and that’s not about to change. A case in point: The Future We Deserve, a fascinating example of extensive online collaboration on Kickstarter, which bills itself as the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.  Fully funded, the book is licensed and boasts at least 70 authors who’ve shared their dreams and experiences in “a sourcebook for creating the future”.

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