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James Burke and others have noted that many human
advances have occurred when previously unrelated
insights have been put together, e.g. printing
introduced the notion of moveable type, but when
the idea of replaceable elements was put into
manufacturing, you got something like modern
production. Other examples of
cross-disciplinary fertilization include
the theory of relativity and post-modern literature;
biological systems and network computing; teflon and
So what if you had a database of "insights" or even
mundane facts, but you could randomly put them
together? You might get a lot of junk, but I'm
willing to bet that it would generate a lot of
new ways of thinking about things and even products.
An even simpler version of this would match random web
Calls to mind Brian Eno's oblique strategies, or the more recent popular book with the title something like "whack upside your head". [syost, May 14 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]
Whack on the Side of the Head
von Oech's book mentioned above. [syost, May 14 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]
From Gulliver, following cosma's reference
It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superficies was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered on every square with paper pasted on them, and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions, but without any order. The professor then desired me to observe, for he was going to set his engine at work. The pupils at his command took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame, and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded thirty-six of the lads to read the several lines softly as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn the engine was so contrived that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down. Six hours a day the young students were employed in this labor, and the professor showed me several volumes in large folio already collected, of broken sentences, which he intended to piece together, and out of those rich materials to give the world a complete body of all arts and sciences; which however might be still improved, and much expedited, if the public would raise a fund for making and employing five hundred such frames in Lagado, and oblige the managers to contribute in common their several collections. [syost, May 14 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]
Linguistics + phylogenetics
Biologists are an example of mandatory multidisciplinary science [mayihave, Aug 05 2007]
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||isn't that what halfbakery is doing?
||Not exactly. The aim is to pair ideas that people hadn't thought of
pairing before. halfbakery seems to be an idea
sandbox. I'm talking about taking known ideas from
areas that have no obvious connnection
and pairing them in unpredictable ways to see what
one has to learn from the other.
||Obviously, it requires some work on the part of the
person viewing the matched ideas, but the underlying
idea for me is that there are ideas in other
academic disciplines that I will never be exposed to
otherwise. It's a way to get out of a narrow mindset.
||Jonathan Swift has been here before us: read the chapter
on the "projectors" of the Academy of Laputa in
||I appreciate the links and other suggestions. You're right
that others have suggested this kind of strategy before.
My thought is that there might be advantages to a
software product based on a back-end database,
particularly that you would be exposed to ideas that
you weren't previously aware of.
||...and I think it's a great idea. Lots of great ideas have similar predecessors. Yours might help generate great ones easier from 'unrelated' predecessors.
||How would you evaluate the "fitness" of the resulting combinations? You're talking about generating a lot of combinations. The problem is sorting the wheat from the chaff, and a big part of that may be getting that germ of an idea into the right mind where it will germinate. It may take a Picasso to see the worth of some ideas.
||Y'all have seen the refrigerator magnet poetry? I have written single words on little pieces of paper, put them in a jar, then pull 3 to 5 out and combine them in the most sensible way, then write them down (in hopes they could be titles of art works I produced...)
||And where might one be so fortunate as to see these works of art?
||this was my idea, until i noticed you got there before me
||I VOTED SHRIMP FOR YOU ANY WAY!!!
||See link about advance in linguistics via phylogenetics methods.
This is an obvious relationship for a biologist, since the structure of 'the tree of life' (e.g. each branch standing for a different body plan) is drammatically similar to 'the tree of languages'.
||One may look at closely related languages, apply 'in-depth' approach and, never see the far-reaching roots way below the surface.
||There is still a weird but true statement that reveals the essentials of evolutionary biology:
'Birds are dinosaurs.'
Yes: dinosaurs = saurisquia + ornithisquia (lizard-like hips / bird-like hips). The former evolved into modern reptiles; while the latter are the ancestors of modern birds.
||'Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Catalan and the like are Latin dialects.'
||So, Central and all of Southern America speaks Latin (1,500 years after the end of the Roman Empire).