Eric Weiner on “genius” in Silicon Valley

WeinerIn The Geography of Genius, Eric Weiner shares what he learned during his search for the world’s most creative places, from ancient Athens to Silicon Valley. Other stops along the way: Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, nineteenth-century Calcutta, Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty, and Edinburgh.

Here are a few of his observations during his visit to Silicon Valley:

“Silicon Valley, I realize, is a lot like my iPhone. It does wondrous things. I can’t live without it. But I have no idea how it works or what’s inside.” Hence this last temporary residence during his sojourn.

“Silicon Valley is the ultimate manifestation of the American flavor of genius, “not just thinking new thoughts and creating new things, but finding a use for them, and then using them to make a buck,” writes historian Darrin McMahon” in Divine Fury: A History of Genius (2013)

Roger McNamee is known in some quarters as “The Man Who Can See Around Corners.” What exactly does he do? “I study history. I do real-time anthropology. Then I form hypotheses about what must come next in relative probability…I’m open to the notion that the future is different from the past but not wedded to it.” He is among the most highly respected sources for knowledge, wisdom, and feedback.

Weiner: ‘Roger, like that other Scottish invention Sherlock Holmes, takes a detective’s approach to his job, focusing on motive and opportunity — especially opportunity, for that part of the equation, he says, ‘is greatly underweighted’…The guiding principle for ’successful failure’ is the scientific method.”

McNamee: “Scientific method is about failing until something works, right. It’s about failing in a thoughtful and efficient manner. Failure can be a wonderful experience as long as it’s in the aid of some continuing process. [the important thing, he says, is to fail early. X “You kill the ones that aren’t working right away.”

Weiner: “This approach to failure dovetails nicely with the Power of Constraints. The best ideas, Roger ages, are the ones that enter the world perfect, broken. They require work, and through refinement, by failing foolishly over and over, eventually something better, something good, emerges. Silicon Valley’s access is built on the carcasses of its failures. In the Valley, failure is fertilizer. Like all fertilizer, though, it xxst be used wisely by a skilled farmer; otherwise it is useless and sells bad.”

Hopefully, these brief excerpts from one chapter will motivate you to read the entire chapter and all of the other chapters. Each as well as the Epilogue is worth far more than the total cost of the book in terms of both entertainment and enlightenment.

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Eric Weiner
is author of New York Times bestseller, The Geography of Bliss, which has been translated into eighteen languages, as well as the critically acclaimed Man Seeks God. His latest book, The Geography of Genius, was published by Simon & Schuster (January 2016). A former foreign correspondent for NPR, he has reported from more than three dozen countries. His work has appeared in the New Republic, Slate, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, The New York Times Magazine, and the anthology Best American Travel Writing. For more information about him and his work please click here.

To check out my review of The Geography of Genius, please click here.

Photo credit: Chuck Berman

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