Here is an excerpt from Sam Mcnerney on creativity and the power of random association followed by a little something on books mentioned in the post which include; How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It by Benedict Carey, Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson.

Tim Berners-Lee, growing up on the outskirts of London in the 1960s, grasped early on a fundamental characteristic of computers. They were good at following step-by-step instructions but bad at making random associations and connecting unrelated ideas to generate new ones. A computer followed programs. The human brain wrote them.

Berners-Lee’s parents were computer scientists. One evening, when Tim was young, his father drafted a speech about how to make computers more intuitive. Computing technology was steadily improving at the time—Moore developed his eponymous law in the mid-1960s—but computers were still bulky and impersonal. Early theorists, including Tim’s father, wondered if computers could ever mimic the free-associating human mind. “The idea stayed with me that computers could become much more powerful if they could be programmed to link otherwise unconnected information,” Berners-Lee wrote years later in his book Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web.

I was thinking about Berners-Lee’s story when I read How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It by New York Times science reporter Benedict Carey. The book explores one of Berners-Lee’s lifelong interests: the power of random association. Carey profiles Ronda Leathers Dively, who in the early 1990s was finishing an English degree at Illinois State University when she was tasked with teaching students how to write for academic journals. One semester, she had students write six essays of three to five pages. Each essay focused on a social or political controversy. Unfortunately, Dively found that her students were not improving. She was failing them.

It’s also a reason why the World Wide Web exists. I read about Berners-Lee’s story in Walter Isaacson’s latest book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Berners-Lee said that he “wanted to build a creative space… something like a sandpit where everyone could play together.” He was talking about the World Wide Web, but he could have been talking about individual creativity. The Web flourished by allowing ideas to diffuse across it. So, too, does the mind.

See full article by Sam Mcnerney

Random associations – How We Learn

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It by Benedict Carey

From an early age, it is drilled into our heads: Restlessness, distraction, and ignorance are the enemies of success. We’re told that learning is all self-discipline, that we must confine ourselves to designated study areas, turn off the music, and maintain a strict ritual if we want to ace that test, memorize that presentation, or nail that piano recital.

But what if almost everything we were told about learning is wrong? And what if there was a way to achieve more with less effort?

In How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It, award-winning science reporter Benedict Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly, efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part of our everyday lives—and less of a chore.

Random associations – Weaving the Web

Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee

Named one of the greatest minds of the 20th century by Time, Tim Berners-Lee is responsible for one of that century’s most important advancements: the world wide web.  Now, this low-profile genius-who never personally profitted from his invention -offers a compelling protrait of his invention.  He reveals the Web’s origins and the creation of the now ubiquitous http and www acronyms and shares his views on such critical issues as censorship, privacy, the increasing power of software companies , and the need to find the ideal balance between commercial and social forces.  He offers insights into the true nature of the Web, showing readers how to use it to its fullest advantage.  And he presents his own plan for the Web’s future, calling for the active support and participation of programmers, computer manufacturers, and social organizations to manage and maintain this valuable resource so that it can remain a powerful force for social change and an outlet for individual creativity.

Random associations – The Innovators

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson.

Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.

What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.

The Sandpit: Creativity and the Power of Random Association