Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

18 JANUARY, 2012

Woz on Creativity: Work Alone

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Groupthink, the origin of originality, and why most inventors are like artists.

Last week, we took a look at what a 1962 Candid Camera elevator experiment reveals about the psychology of groupthink. More than vintage comic relief, however, groupthink can be the archnemesis of creativity, because creativity by committee is no creativity at all — just ask Stephen King, who famously advised aspiring authors to “write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” In his modestly titled memoir, iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It, computer legend Steve Wozniak, better-known as Woz, makes a bold case for the importance of intellectual independence in the creative process:

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me — they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone — best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee… I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

This, of course, should be ingested with caution — when taken out of context, it could easily become a distorted extreme. As Steven Johnson argues in Where Good Ideas Come From, innovation happens when ideas collide with one another, which can’t happen in isolation — an environment conducive to such collisions is essential for combinatorial creativity. But at the heart of Woz’s insight seems to be a prompt to silence groupthink and bake just enough quiet time into the creative process for the ideas that we’ve acquired through our interactions with the world and other people to collide and fuse together into something new, something “really revolutionary.” At least that’s how I’d like to interpret it.

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17 JANUARY, 2012

The Solar System Set to Music: A Near-Perpetual Homage to Bach

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532.25 septendecillion years of fugue, or what Pluto has to do with the longest palindrome in existence.

I have a soft spot for music made with unusual means or from unusual raw materials, and have long been fascinated by unusual notation. Naturally, I’m head-over-heels with Daniel Starr-Tambor’s Mandala — a remarkably dimensional musical composition created by assigning each planet in the Solar System a particular note along the natural harmonic series, starting with Mercury’s B and going all the way up by two octaves and a ninth to Pluto’s C#. The composition is a palindrome, which means it can be played the same way in either direction, and, with more than 62 vigintillion individual notes, it’s the longest palindrome in existence — by far. At the accelerated tempos of the Solar System, it would continue without repetition for over 532.25 septendecillion years — a sort of soundtrack for near-infinity.

An homage to Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, embedded in the piece is the iconic composer’s “musical signature” — the arrangement of the stereo imaging reflects the precise position of the Solar System at the moment of Bach’s birth, viewed from the perspective of the Sun as it faces the constellation Libra, “so that each note chronicles his birthday on every planet.”

If Bach is calling to us from the outer planets, I hope he would accept this music as a fitting response.” ~ Daniel Starr-Tambor

It hardly gets more faceted and cross-disciplinarily creative than this — bravo.

via It’s Okay To Be Smart

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11 JANUARY, 2012

The Future Belongs to the Curious: A Manifesto for Curiosity

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From my friends at Skillshare, who are out to revolutionize the paradigms of learning, comes this beautiful manifesto for the transformative power of curiosity — something very much at the heart of Brain Pickings.

We are all lifelong learners, from day one to twenty-thousand-and-one, and that’s why we keep exploring, wondering and discovering, yearning and learning, reaching with more than just our hands… The future belongs to the curious.”

I bet legendary physicist Richard Feynman would approve. (See also these 5 manifestos for the creative life.)

Ready to have your curiosity tickled? Explore Skillshare’s countless courses on everything from color theory to 3D printing to living rent-free in NYC.

For more on the future of curiosity and learning, see these 7 essential books on education.

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