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I am struck in particular by the 'expert --> idea' simulation. It suggests that an effective strategy for beating the competition to the punch in making a breakthrough discovery is to concentrate a diverse collection of expertise (it also explains why it pays to be very social in your career as a researcher).

As mentioned in the article, putting specialists together in the same room is one way to accomplish this, but I can imagine the same happening in the mind of a single polymath, who, though perhaps being mediocre in several subjects, connects enough dots to beat the competition to combining them in a novel way. It might also make sense to recruit a few such polymaths/generalists to be put in your room of distinct experts, since they might serve well as a sort of 'interconnect bus' between them.






> I am struck in particular by the 'expert --> idea' simulation. It suggests that an effective strategy for beating the competition to the punch in making a breakthrough discovery is to concentrate a diverse collection of expertise (it also explains why it pays to be very social in your career as a researcher).

That's what Think Tanks and Research Divisions used to be, You'd put a bunch of smart people from different disciplines together, give them some money and a vague direction and stand back.

Building 20 at MIT is another example I can think off, or the Collosus project during WWII (Tommy Flowers and Alan Turing where from radically different backgrounds - Turing was pure theoretical genius, Flowers was an apprentice mechanical engineer who put himself through night school to learn electrical engineer and then worked for the post office - together they (and others) built the Collosus Mk1).


I vaguely remember a short story (I think by either Asimov or Clark) where there were specialists who's entire job was to read and write in a couple of different fields, like, say, particle physicist and farmer. They didn't perform any experiments, but instead kept up with current research in their fields and searched for general patterns that united them. I've never been able to find the story again though...

I think the conventional term for that strategy is "the creative process."

Fair point! :-) What can I say, my training is in math, where we take great pleasure in squinting at obvious things until we feel insightful.

Positively pleonasmic! :)



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