Ever wondered where good ideas come from? This thought clearly has been keeping Steven Johnson awake, which resulted in a very interesting TED talk. People often think of an idea as something that emerges instantly at a specific moment: a brilliant archaeologist gazing at some old stones and all of a sudden, EUREKA, he brings the past to life! Well it turns out that it doesn’t work this way at all. Steven Johnson likes to see ideas as a network, like a small event that is born in the brain and triggers other parts of the brain through electric signals. The initial idea can be lingering in the brain for quite a while until it matures and cascades to dominate one’s mind, at which point golden words of wisdom are often put on paper by a new genius.

Steven Johnson argues that the networks we see in the outside world actually mimic those network patterns in the brain. He is interested in finding out what characterises these spaces in the outside world in which new ideas emerge. He calls this “The liquid network”, an environment where ideas and problems get together and that breeds innovation. It would be great if we could identify such spaces and promote hunches to limit their incubation periods.

For all of you out there who want to come up with the next big thing, here is what you need to do: give ideas that might be lingering in you brain time to develop and constantly try to get different peoples’ ideas together. Apparently we should spend more time trying to connect ideas rather than protect them. “Chance favours the connected mind”.

PS: thanks to Irad Malkin for bringing this video to my attention.

Awesome art by Aaron Koblin

Just saw this TED talk by Aaron Koblin, a digital artist who’s work has inspired me for a while now. His art shows stunning examples of the fact that we have so much data available everywhere that relates in unsuspecting ways. If we bother to add things up, like he does for hand-drawn sheep, Johnny Cash still images, flight patterns, $100 bills and even voice samples, we see surprising things emerge that you would not expect by just looking at a single image or sample. His work on flight patterns is stunning and has been exhibited in the New York MOMA recently.

Check out his work online. And check out his talk below. Believe me, you’ll be surprised!

Complexity in the Big History

I just saw this TED talk by David Christian that might be of interest to readers of this blog. It’s about the emergence of complexity, and events in long-term history that bring about complexity. It gives an intriguing large-scale picture of the evolution of the universe backed up by beautiful animations. David Christian says collective learning is what makes humans different, and it’s cool to see that this talk itself is a direct result of collective scientific efforts, popular agreement and collective learning.

Check out the talk here, and visit the Big History project here.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑