by: John Caddell
"Smart World," a fascinating new book by Richard Ogle, paints a carefully-wrought, exhaustive picture of how creative breakthroughs happen. The persistent myth of the solo inventor, toiling alone in her workshop, is forcefully put to rest. In vibrant examples such as Crick's and Watson's discovery of the structure of DNA, to Gutenberg's invention of movable-type printing, to architect Frank Gehry's reinvention of modern architecture via the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Ogle makes the case that true breakthroughs come from immersing oneself in the ideas of the day, drawing inspiration from fields near and far, and synthesizing something new from these.
Cubism broke with a five-century-old tradition of figurative art by reaching out to a science [physics, where the theory of relativity was just gaining adherents] that was becoming radically more abstract and geometric, and in the process overturning our commonsense view of the world. This move created a weak tie that connected art with a whole domain of thought that was far removed from it…. Connecting to the hotspot of early-twentieth-century physics and the focus on abstract geometric form that it triggered released an avalanche of new ideas that spontaneously multiplied and are still playing themselves out. ("Smart World," p. 135)