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Dark Hero

In Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener The Father of Cybernetics, authors Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman trace the life of Mr. Wiener from child prodigy to his creation of the interdisciplinary science of cybernetics. As a student of the weak (very weak) connection between academic and spiritual intelligence, I found the following book excerpt fascinating:

Since his youth, Wiener was mindful that his best ideas originated in a place  beneath his awareness, “at a level of consciousness so low that much of it happens in my sleep.” He described the process by which ideas would come to him in sudden flashes of insight and dreamlike, hypnoid states:

Very often these moments seem to arise on waking up; but probably this really  means that sometime during the night I have undergone the process of deconfusion which is necessary to establish my ideas…. It is probably more usual for it to take place in the so-called hypnoidal state in which one is awaiting sleep, and  it is closely associated with those hypnagogic images which have some of the sensory solidity of hallucinations. The subterranean process convinced him that “when I think, my ideas are my  masters rather than my servants.”

Barbara corroborated her father’s observation. “He frequently did not know  how he came by his answers. They would sneak up on him in the middle of the  night or descend out of a cloud,” she said. Yet, because Wiener’s mental processes  were elusive even to him, “he lived in fear that ideas would lose interest in him  and wander off to present themselves to somebody else.”

This description of how and when ideas instantaneously appear out of the void of nothingness aligns closely with those people who say their best ideas strike them: in the shower, on vacation, out in nature, during meditation, while driving to work, exercising, or doing something they love. In situations like these, the mind is relaxed, humming along at a low rpm rate, and naturally prepared for fresh ideas. Every person is capable of receiving great ideas because it’s an innate ability – a gift from god, so to speak. Most people just don’t realize it.

I haven’t heard many stories of a great idea being birthed in a drab, corpo-supplied, cubicular environment under the watchful eyes of a manager. Have you?

Note: The picture above is wrong. Exept for “what’s your status?“,  BMs don’t ask DICs for anything. Since they know everything, they just tell DICs what to do.

  1. Ray
    April 21, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I agree. Some of my Ahh Ahh moments come from time away from the work. That is why I will stand up and walk around. The cubical walls sometimes seem to prevent good ideas from entering. It is a shame that some people do not step away to “clear their heads” when faced with a problem. I have seen where the person instead of standing up will try to use the a hammer to solve he problem when they just really needed a different screw driver.

    That is why pair program works you will have a different view all the time.

    • April 21, 2010 at 7:32 am

      So you’re a fan of XP’s pair programming. Have you tried it?

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