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.


Good stuff, Ian.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home