What spreads, rarely sticks

What spreads, rarely sticks

All problems and their subsequent solutions are social.

The good thing about solutions is that they’re typically social-proof and benefit from the network effect: What works for one person multiplies as commonality gets shared with the next, like a vaccine.

The simplest form of information exchange is language. Words are memes. And memes can be rebranded and copy-pasted, and in some cases, rendered outdated. It was Dunkin’ Donuts that made the word “doughnut” extinct.

Physical nature begs for optimization. The city, like an anthill, is one big shared experience, a marketplace for swapping ideas. Residencies, streets, bridges — all spawned from tiny cells into a collective pinnacle of innovation. Of course, the infrastructure is far from ideal. As Ellen Ullman wrote, “We build our computer (systems) the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.”

At the root of every solitary puzzle is a chance to do our best, graduate from the individual vision, and gravitate toward some collective high where the concept gets received and adopted.

The lone genius is a myth. Behind every wizard lies a team of influencers. There are no geniuses without gleaning from the wisdom of crowds. The innovator’s role is to observe trends, spot the blind spots and introduce new possibilities.

When the crazy ones propose anything novel, they beg for the neighborhood’s attention. It is the external reaction, the possibility of adoption, that excites the misunderstood maker.

Thinking, doing, and building all require a form of starting and maintenance to ensure longevity. ‘Build it, and they will come’ is, therefore, a canard. A product’s existence depends on the strength of usability, marketing, and overall spreadability.

The Lindy effect says if a book is around a decade, it’ll last for another 50 years. Ideas and products are at the mercy of banter and eyeballs. Whatever gets shared continues to stick around in the public narrative conscience.

Propaganda is the nastiest version of exposure. It creates a mind virus that becomes blind to the facets of good worth keeping. Fascism is how the kindest people can quickly become immune to evil.

Thankfully, plurality wins. In open societies, it means the best ideas usually pan out without canceling out the advantages of alternative solutions.

There will always be outliers who stand on the edge, trying to make a difference.