Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Annals of Innovation: In the Air: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

Just finished reading this article: Annals of Innovation: In the Air: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker .

My two takeaways are:

1. Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer. This is the first piece of his that I've read, and I like many things about it. I particularly liked the subject, the distinction between invention in art and science/technology, that the former is a unique, one-time thing while the other is a natural progression of ideas and emperical facts proposed by a bunch of people.

This obsession with the prodigy in technical fields reminds me of the superstar culture (or the rock-star culture in Bay Area tech companies). But rockstars don't exist in isolation, and that the other band members (or even other entourage members) are short-changed in most cases. Its quite evident in academia too, where the early bloomer gets a lot of mileage but at least in that case, the star student possibly does complete most of the assignments and projects singly, though I'm not sure how professors view collaborators and whether they give any points for assists.

2. Nathan Myhrvold is a very interesting guy. I suppose there are many capable polymaths but not all of them have his means. This may probably mean that he was either lucky enough or smart enough to recognize a big commerical opportunity when he saw one. If it's the latter, then that's another skill he should get credit for, because many technically brilliant people are either clueless or don't have the stomach for the bump-and-grind of the pursuit of commercial success, though one could argue that the pursuit of publication counts, grants and awards is possibly more bumpy.

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