I’ve had a hard time writing these posts lately. It’s not that I haven’t been able to write at all, in fact I have several finished pieces in my drafts folder (on AI, network states, SF), I just don’t feel satisfied with the matter and form. They don’t feel natural – my thoughts aren’t coming together in the ways I expect and the ideas flow slower and forced.
It hit me yesterday, when I was listening to an especially good podcast (this one to be exact) and my mind started running in a way that it hasn’t in several weeks. I hadn’t myself truly noticed this underperformance until the feeling of quick idea flow was so intensely palpable. In introducing a new information input, my capacity to connect concepts, and thus create new ones, expanded noticeably. I think I’ve lacked a diversity / variety of new inputs recently which has restricted my ability to freely generate new ideas.
Not all inputs are the same. It is easy to think that sheer volume of content is enough – and we tend to structure our habits accordingly. I read the same newsletters each day / week, check the same news sites, listen to mostly the same podcasts / songs, and look to a small group of IG accounts for inspiration. In a world of chaos, this routine is dependable, comfortable, sufficient. It also satisfies a certain level of quality that I’d deem worthy of my attention on a consistent basis, a curation which is important amongst the availability of infinite content. Concurrently, at the current pace of technological advancements in areas like AI and cryptography, even spending time only on one concept never feels like it’s enough – deep learning is achieved with deep focus, though this often means a narrower lens through which one might be thinking at any given moment (i.e. everything is about AI). There is an opportunity cost to singular focus.
Ideas come from connections. “An idea is simply a new connection between two things that were already floating around in your head" (Ideaflow). So how do you generate more of them? Naturally, one would optimize for more things to float around, increasing the probability that two (or more) disparate elements align in an unexpected way. A solid pace of idea flow requires a vast (and diverse) surface of new material. Things to experiment with might be content modalities (image, video, word), different written formats (i.e. fiction vs. nonfiction), unfamiliar industries (maybe architecture or art), or conversations with people outside of your default realm.
This is precisely the reason why entrepreneurs who are not highly experienced in certain industries are sometimes the ones who offer the most innovative perspectives – they are not limited by a deep knowledge of existing constraints, and usually make connections to external concepts that prove to be immediately valuable when applied to the problem at hand. Dropbox, Airbnb, Netflix and Uber are all good examples of this.
In the spirit of attempting to expand my inputs myself (open to recommendations), here are some things I think are worth exploring: