Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Yin and Yang of Novelty

People may be frightened by change, but they also crave newness. At its worst, it can be a sickness, always bored with the old, driven to tear down the past. At its best, it can be healthy improvement, a source of joy and resilience.

I don't presume to have a bulletproof prescription for telling good novelty apart from bad, but it certainly seems like a worthwhile endeavor. At first blush it seems one indicator of good novelty is that it refines and embellishes upon existing structures, rather than seeking to destroy or replace them. I suppose the corollary would be that healthy structures are ones that are easily receptive to refinement (much as Stewart Brand said in How Buildings Learn).

There's been much talk of Steve Jobs lately, as he just passed away. People debate whether he was a visionary genius or just a huckster who repackaged other people's innovations. I suppose it won't get resolved anytime soon; that same debate has been going on for Thomas Edison for over a century. Anyway, I think Steve Jobs' genius was in the constant refinement… where others were happy to coast on the status quo, he always looked to make things better. In retrospect it looks like revolution, but along the way it was just steady evolution.

So maybe that's what I'm looking for as well… perhaps I'm not so much a revolutionary as an evolutionary.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Your Third Religion

Your 1st religion you can't see at all; it's like water to a fish. With nothing to compare it to, you don't even know it exists in any sort of meaningful way.

Your 2nd religion is the worst. You've suddenly seen the light — that everything you thought before was wrong — and you figure this time you've finally got it all figured out.

It's not until your 3rd religion that you start seeing the patterns between them. It's only then that you start to find the higher truths that transcend them. This is when your journey really begins.

Now, by religion, I'm not talking about God and church, per se, but any school of thought that large groups of people get passionate about. Furthermore, it's not enough for you to be simply exposed to it; you need to catch the passion as well. For example, a few of mine: JavaScript, new urbanism, Apple, Lego, programming on the right side of the brain, open source. I can talk to you with evangelical zeal about each of these (and many other) topics.

This devotion to an idea is one of the amazing things about being human, but you're not much good to the rest of us until you're on to your 3rd.