Matt Ridley has an interesting idea. Matt thinks that we have radically underestimated the idea of evolution. You can hear him talk about this below
His thesis is simple. Ideas evolve from the bottom up, not the top down.They do that via exchanges that combine and re-combine technologies. We are fortunate to live in a time when we benefit more and more from those exchanges. And so we see an acceleration of the evolution of ideas.
This can be translated into a vocabulary of activities. The first activity is conversation about challenges or problems. When we nurture these conversations, we create the opportunity to build focus, which can lead to exchanges of the sort we desire. Where we inhibit these conversations, we see have less opportunities.
As an aside, this is why the current spat over “fake news” and “conspiracy theories” is important. They channel attention into dead ends instead of productive uses. And when we get consumed over fake issues, we stop talking about real ones.
The second activity is tinkering with technologies. Once we see a need, we can start thinking about what types of technologies address the need, both the strengths and weaknesses. We can start talking about how to combine technologies that solve our problem.
Here is an example of how this works. Elon Musk has managed to nurture a conversation about electric vehicles by creating the Tesla. There is now lots of talk about why EV’s are nice and not so nice. And a main focus is on battery technology. EV’s are less attractive because they take time to charge and cannot go far enough between charges. Also, the car batteries are way to big and heavy.
Some have been distracted by data that shows that the public does not yet consider the EV to be a substitute for gas powered cars. That may be true, but the conversation now is about batteries, not carburetors.
The talk about batteries leads us to consider two technologies. Supercapacitors charge very quickly. But they do not retain the charge. Batteries charge slowly and do. Can these technologies be combined? Lo and behold, we see talk of “hybrid capacitors”.
My basic point is that we would not likely see the idea for hybriud supercapacitors emerge so quickly if it were not for Tesla and the conversation about batteries.
Takeaway – if we can understand how to mange the flow of conversation so that it is issue based, we can acceleratethe speed of innovation.