Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton ****

Do you wonder if you are doomed to a meaningless, forgettable life because you are NOT a genius? At some point, maybe middle school, or college graduation, or perhaps middle age, were you convinced to just give up on the excitement and challenge? Well cheer up! How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton declares there is no such thing as genius. There is only one path to creativity and discovery: hard work. There are no brilliant breakthroughs of sudden inspiration --- only work, something everyone can do.

Ashton starts with puzzles like what happened here?
On the floor he sees Charlie lying dead. There is water on the floor, as well as pieces of broken glass. Tom is also room. [answer below]
These puzzles are introduced along with the research that used these puzzles to explore problem solving. What does research show?
  1. The subconsciousness does not solve problems, or even assist.
  2. Groups do not solve  problems, but only get in the way.
  3. Creative people do not want to talk about it; they are too busy creating.
  4. IQ does not predict creativity.
On that final point the research shows over  and over that even though ...
the highly creative children were star performers who were exceeding expectations, the teachers did not like them. They preferred the less creative children who were performing as expected.
The book is written as a series of essays that can often stand-alone. While most were inspiring, the essay on women, how little credit they receive for their contributions and how often men received Nobel prizes for the work of ignored women, was truly depressing.

Beyond putting forth the thesis that all people are capable of genius, Ashton goes one step farther. Creativity is the single trait that separates homo sapiens sapiens from all other species. It is the innate drive to create novelty that explains why we have invented (fill-in this yourself) ... not chimps, nor great apes, nor whales, nor cats.

In a closing essay, eugenics is addressed. Of course, by this point the argument against eugenic is obvious. If we are all geniuses, than no particular racial characteristics can separate the geniuses from the non-geniuses. Francis Galton was one of the foundational writers supporting white supremacy. Ashton sums him up very nicely:
The best case against Galton's argument that white men are smarter than everyone else may be Galton's own stupidity.
In summary, this is a very interesting book for anyone who feels some deep urge to create something unique. Ashton declares that this drive and capability is in all of us.

Oh yes ... Charlie is a fish and Tom is a cat.

No comments: