"The web comes down to bumping into things we might disagree with. That’s my favorite part. It’s where the learning happens."
Yes, and…it’s more than just the "bumping into" that matters. It’s actively seeking out the edges where different ideas, approaches, industries or histories intersect.
Edges are where the interesting stuff occurs. Homogeneity is boring, predictable and unremarkable.
Bob Frankston (more) once told me "If we’re not disagreeing, we’re not making progress." (Note: The reason I couldn’t agree with Bob’s statement at the time is an exercise left for the reader. ) And his point was spot-on — mindless, or even mindful, agreement can’t create something new.
If you’re disagreeing (civilly, I trust), you’ve found an edge. Explore it.
One of the books that has most influenced me over the years is entitled Out of Control, by Kevin Kelly. It’s a collection of real-world examples where "biology" and "technology" intersect. Perhaps the most salient chapter is the one on the Biosphere 2 project in Arizona. To whit:
"Life keeps rising. It rose again and again inside Bio2. The bottle
was fecund, prolific. Of the many babies born in Bio2 during its first
two years, the most visible was a galago born in the early months of
closure. Two African pygmy goats birthed five kids, and an Ossabaw
Island pig bore seven piglets. A checkered garter snake gave birth to
three baby snakes in the ginger belt at the edge of the rain forest. And
lizards hid lots of baby lizards under the rocks in the desert.
Urbanization is the advent of edge species. The hallmark of the modern
world is its fragmentation, its division into patchworks. What
wilderness is left is divided into islands and the species that thrive
best thrive on the betweenness of patches. Bio2 is a compact package of
edges. It has more ecological edges per square foot than anywhere else
on Earth. But there is no heartland, no dark deepness, which is
increasingly true of most of Europe, much of Asia, and eastern North
The messy living thing knitting itself together inside Bio2 was pushing
back. It was a coevolutionary world. The biospherians would have to
coevolve along with it. Bio2 was specifically built to test how a closed
system coevolves. In a coevolutionary world, the atmosphere and material
environment in which beasties dwell become as adaptable and as lifelike
as the beasties themselves. Bio2 was a test bench to find out how an
environment governs the organisms immersed in it, and how the organisms
in turn govern the environment. The atmosphere is the paramount
environmental factor; it produces life, while life produces it. The
transparent bottle of Bio2 turned out to be the ideal seat from which to
observe an atmosphere in the act of conversing with life."
Find the edges.