Reading a book is a lot like tossing a bouncy ball inside a racketball court. Except this court acts more like a vacuum. And once in motion, a ball will remain in motion, changing course only upon impact.
Introducing new ideas is like adding more bouncy balls to the cage. Each new book increases the count of hurtling projectiles by one. And so on.
Eventually, with all those balls a-bouncing, collision becomes inevitable. Two different ideas collide, each exerting an impact upon the other. And this event fundamentally alters the original course of both projectiles.
When Ideas Collide
When you only have a few balls bouncing, collisions happen less frequently. If you don’t increase the number of bouncy balls, the ideas you introduce first will remain constant longer.
It’s only once you begin to introduce new ideas rapidly that the rate of collision begins to accelerate. When this happens – for better or worse – your original ideas become vulnerable to impact. It is no longer a matter of if your original ideas will face a collision, but when.
When ideas collide, it’s the idea that packs a greater force that carries more influence. By virtue of traveling at a greater velocity or bearing greater mass, some ideas delivers a more violent blows upon others. In some cases, those blows cause the deterioration of lesser ideas altogether. In other cases, the impact simply causes a slight alteration in course – for both ideas.
Collision As The Goal
I’ve heard it said before there are ‘no new ideas under the sun – only new combinations of old ideas.’ I believe this to be true.
And if it is true, the best way to increase the likelihood of two old ideas colliding to create a new, interesting combination is through consistent addition to the total number of different ideas bouncing around.
One sure way to increase the probability of unique collisions is to increase the total number of balls in play. But what if you not only want to ensure it eventually happens – you also want to reduce the amount of time it takes to happen? In that case, you could also introduce more balls more frequently.
With more balls colliding more frequently, the rate at which new, unique combinations of old ideas happen will increase. Not all collisions will be unique. And not all unique collisions will be useful. But that’s not really the point, is it?
You can’t often predict which unique combination of old ideas will fundamentally alter the course of the game. And you especially can’t appreciate new, unique combinations if you don’t also observe the impact of new ideas as they act upon others.
But if you’re deliberate about the balls you add and observant enough (and maybe a little lucky), you might just witness the collision of two ideas the world has been waiting for.
Or you could just sit back and enjoy the site of a bunch of bouncy balls flying through the sky, violently smashing into one another. (As far as consolation prizes go, that also sounds pretty cool. But what do I know, I’m just a guy talking about bouncy balls on the internet.)