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Crossing Wires

Via Imgur

   There’s a connection between your hearing and your sight, and it’s the human brain. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. That’s why you need to turn the radio down when you’re lost. This type of sensory interaction is often ignored, unless it forces itself on us, as in the neurological disorder of synesthesia.

   Synesthesia gives people an involuntary experience in one cognitive pathway when they’re stimulated in another one. For instance, if a synesthete saw a number, he might experience a color in association with it, even though the number isn’t colored. Or he could hear physical motion. Or taste colors. Over sixty different types of synesthesia have been reported, so basically any combination is possible. It’s defined, according to neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran, as an “abnormal cross wiring” in the brain (cite).

   Author Steve Johnson has taken a self-described “quest” to discover where good ideas come from. It has resulted in a book aptly titled Where Good Ideas Come FromAnd, interestingly, the creativity that Steve has unpacked results from the same crossing of wires  that Ramachandran describes as occurring in the brain: Steve’s word “exaptation” is defined as the ability to take an innovation from one field and slap it onto another.

Examples of different fields clashing to produce innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From are legion. The introduction alone mentions “negative quarter power scaling,” discovered when a mathematical concept of a logorhythmic grid was applied to the messy and seemingly unconnected field of animal biology. It shows a constant ratio between an animal’s mass and its life span and heartbeat rate. It was later applied to and worked in a third, even less related field; urban planning. This example supports the idea that more connections between fields will lead to more innovation and creativity.

If this post seems to mesh with a few I’ve made in the past, don’t worry. That’s just those creative connections at work.


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