Maybe ideas really do have sex. Or something…

by Yule Heibel on July 14, 2010

Strange, how ideas and notions sometimes multiply and touch each other in unexpected ways.

This morning, I got a Facebook message from my architect friend Elisa Yon – she sent me a pointer to Matt Ridley, who presented at TEDGlobal 2010:

The Rational Optimist Matt Ridley says prosperity is “the saving of time while satisfying your needs.” The discussion of individual IQ is irrelevant. The collective brain is what matters to social prosperity.

Definitely sounds yummy: I’m interested!

Next, Andrew Wilkinson (of Metalab) updates that TEDGlobal 2010 is “an incredible experience so far,” and I ask if he heard Matt Ridley. In answer, I get a link to Ridley’s TED talk, When ideas have sex. Great talk – I highly recommend clicking through to watch it now.

Ridley is about my age, and he starts his TED talk with a description of the prevailing post-sixties doom and gloom that I, too, recall only too well: when I was in high school, we were visited by a local Malthusian who warned that we would soon run out of water on Vancouver Island, and that therefore it was irresponsible for any of us to take daily showers. Well over three decades later, we still have water and people are still taking showers, but the scarcity model continues to dominate – and frighten. Now it’s all about security dressed up as self-sufficiency. Food security is very much the flavor of self-sufficiency that’s in favor right now, but as Ridley notes, self-sufficiency is what we used to call poverty. (And we’ll still call it poverty in the future.)

I was already pleased by the coincidence of pointers, but then I also took a look at Andrew‘s latest project, Kill the Spill, a site that raises money to help animals affected by BP’s Gulf Oil Spill. Beside Metalab, the Kill the Spill project is supported by three other tech-and-design companies, which will match donations (for up to $35,000 – they’ve gone over $19,000 at present): CampaignMonitor; WooThemes; and Squarespace.

Squarespace happened to be a blog topic on Dave Winer’s Scripting News, and Dave had earlier posted about a photo of a building he identified as Squarespace’s offices. The building is charming – it’s from an era that, referencing Gordon Price,  I’d call BM (“before motordom” – or at least, before motordom took over completely). I looked at it for a while, and admired how it interacted with the street (what’s left of it), commented.

…And what do we see in the right background, very nearly hidden by urban development junk (striped jersey barriers [why?], construction fencing, billboards)? A gas station, symbol of Motordom, in the heart of the (walkable) city. And not just any gas station: this one sports that green and sunny (and so green-washed) BP logo!

In terms of ideas, today felt almost promiscuous.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

melanieb July 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm

“self-sufficiency is what we used to call poverty”. I agree, but a big problem we have these days is that our prosperity so often comes at the expense of others. Our oil security, their death and destruction (to name but a recent obvious example). How do we include “them” in our “collective brain”?

Yule July 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Those are key questions, no doubt about it…

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