Leveraging Ideas

To me there is one important difference between powerful ideas and ideas that are merely correct. Powerful ideas are transferrable. Powerful ideas are usually also correct to a certain degree, but the mindless pursuit of pedantic correctness can often be counterproductive.

Great ideas are great because of their influence on other ideas, and as such are necessarily powerful. In fact, I believe that many great ideas do not even have correct first incarnations. The fact that they are powerful allows the thinker to patch up superficial inconsistencies or realize that another important problem had in fact been solved. I believe great novelty and robustness often exists outside of details.

It is good to have a nose for powerful ideas. I have seen plenty of the opposite: correct solutions that require so much tedious, error-prone, slow, detailed work that they do not empower the reader at all. Worse still, there are those who are oblivious to this kind of failure, and who continue to pour effort into repetitive drudgerous tasks. These tasks are done only once, but are classified as repetitive in my mind because in doing them one does not learn how to do them any faster.

Of course, in completing the same task two people could learn really different lessons, what’s repetitive to one may not be repetitive to another.

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