Scale

Wednesday, 23 January 2013   |   Creative Thinking

MemoryThe other day I had a friend whose website had been hacked.  We fixed it up but it caused me to reflect on the nature of our society.  It obviously, was not a nice experience but no physical harm was done.  Why is it that, more and more, things which are in essence virtual, hold more and more importance to us?  I believe it has to do with scale and how virtual things change their influence as they get bigger.

There are many things in our lives that have value but which are not physical.  Money and knowledge/ information are two common ones.  Money is just a virtual representation of benefit.  One might suggest that surely it is physical as we have coins and notes etc but these are just a means for us to record a given amount of money,  we can use anything we like to keep track of it (for instance, your bank account is nothing more than a number stored in a database on a computer). 

Knowledge is another good one.  An idea exists only in our minds.  We can use the idea to create something that is physical but the idea itself remains virtual.  If I have an idea, and I share it with you, I don't lose the idea.

These virtual representations are typically used as bridges.  They allow us to join two or more physical things (which would not normally be related) in interesting new ways.  Virtual representations take a certain degree of creativity to come up with but they also enable even more creativity. 

As they scale however, they usually change in what exactly it is that they allow. 

Take money for example.  In it's most basic sense we are transferring benefit.  If I would like the benefit of food I can buy some bread.  The baker uses some of that money to buy the benefit of ingredients and some of it to buy the benefit of advertising. etc. 

Now let's increase the money we're talking about into the millions.  I'm still using that money to buy benefit, but now because of the scale it has influence.  I could buy my bread (in large quantities) from a select few bakers and make them quite wealthy.  In order to maintain that wealth however, they need to stay on my good side.

Let's increase it again to the billions.  Still buying benefit, got lots of influence, but now I also have control.  I'm no longer affecting what happens, I can easily ensure things happen.  I can heavily fund politicians to have laws passed in my favor (not really ethicaly right but feasible).  I can easily buy companies to change the market etc.  

How about ideas.  On a small scale, they have the power to improve our lives.  I have a useful idea, I share it with you, we are both happier for it.  But let's say there are several ideas and they are perceived to be quite entertaining and are shared with many many people, not by the person who originally had the idea.  Absurd as it sounds, some people believe that those ideas could be worth more than $75 trillion (thats's multiple times the GDP of America).

There is creative opportunity in creating these virtual representations.  By creating a means for unrelated items to be brought together in easier to manage ways.  There is also great opportunity to see existing representations (even those that may be there and we don't realise it) and seeing that as they scale they start to bring different things together.  It's normally in ways we don't predict but it is always a result of someone's creative thinking.

 

You're on your way to becoming a Highly Creative Person.