Powerful Ideas

Ideas are the most basic of tools with which we understand and influence our world. And like tools, not all ideas are created equal—some ideas are more powerful than others. What makes an idea powerful?

  • A powerful idea conforms to absolute truth—the way the world actually is, not necessarily the way we think it is or want it to be.
  • A powerful idea has a broad scope—it can be appropriately applied across a variety of disciplines, explaining diverse phenomena or solving diverse problems (or, if you prefer to put it this way, solving the same problem across diverse domains).
  • A powerful idea is elegant, accomplishing its explanatory or functional purpose with a minimum of moving parts.”
  • A powerful idea is fundamental—it is a solid foundation on which to build other ideas.

This post is the first in a series called Powerful Ideas, which will explore several of these ideas, from a variety of perspectives. I have broad interests—technology, photography, religion, science, philosophy, mathematics, music, language, and psychology—and I have been thinking a lot lately about the common threads that run through some or all of these. I hope that means I’ll have something interesting to say.

Up next Generalization, Patterns, and Abstraction εν αρχη ην ο λογος — John 1:1 Our world behaves in consistent, predictable ways. If it were not so, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, Where Good Ideas Come From This is a great video from Steven Johnson about where good ideas come from
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