Steven Johnson and Kevin Kelly both have provocative new books out. Steven's is Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation while Kevin's is titled "What Technology Wants." Wired sat them both down for a conversation. The way these two think, talk, and riff, I'm glad I wasn't the one responsible for editing that chat down into a couple of pages of readable text. From Wired:
In Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Johnson draws on seven centuries of scientific and technological progress, from Gutenberg to GPS, to show what sorts of environments nurture ingenuity. He finds that great creative milieus, whether MIT or Los Alamos, New York City or the World Wide Web, are like coral reefs–teeming, diverse colonies of creators who interact with and influence one another.
Seven centuries are an eyeblink in the scope of Kelly's book, What Technology Wants, which looks back over some 50,000 years of history and peers nearly that far into the future. His argument is similarly sweeping: Technology, Kelly believes, can be seen as a sort of autonomous life-form, with intrinsic goals toward which it gropes over the course of its long development. Those goals, he says, are much like the tendencies of biological life, which over time diversifies, specializes, and (eventually) becomes more sentient…
Kelly: It's amazing that the myth of the lone genius has persisted for so long, since simultaneous invention has always been the norm, not the exception. Anthropologists have shown that the same inventions tended to crop up in prehistory at roughly similar times, in roughly the same order, among cultures on different continents that couldn't possibly have contacted one another.
Johnson: Also, there's a related myth–that innovation comes primarily from the profit motive, from the competitive pressures of a market society. If you look at history, innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.
Kelly: The musician Brian Eno invented a wonderful word to describe this phenomenon: scenius. We normally think of innovators as independent geniuses, but Eno's point is that innovation comes from social scenes,from passionate and connected groups of people.
"What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly (Amazon)