Original thought

I've often wondered how new innovations come about in society. It seems as though it should not be possible for original thought to occur, at least when you consider society as a whole. Yet as has been shown countless times in the past, innovation does indeed exist, contrary to societal expectations.

Consider as an example, the arch.

In Ancient Greece, temples were built using columns. This technique, while effective to a point, could never be used to create the massive structures of the Romans. While Roman architecture copied Greek heavily, the innovation of the arch led to a new way of thinking about architecture. It allowed the Romans to build grander and more ornate buildings than the Greeks ever imagined.

So what was it that caused the first arch to appear? How could someone have possibly thought that leaning stones against each other would create a stronger structure than stacking them?

Society teaches us to think in linear patterns. 1+1=2 and so forth. We are taught to think in forms of this leads to that which is why this is how things are. But as scientists are finding out, linear thinking does not explain the universe.

As another example, let's take the process of photosynthesis. Plants use solar energy to create food for themselves (they also use water and carbon dioxide, but for now let's just focus on the light). Plants have an extremely effective method of transferring the energy from sunlight to other parts of their cells. So effective in fact, that it's estimated only 5% of the potential energy is lost in the conversion process. By contrast, the most effective solar panel in existence still has more than a 40% loss rate with the conversion.

When a plant receives sunlight, it needs to find the most efficient way to send the sunlight to other parts of it's cells, so the energy is sent out in wave form, along every single path possible, until it reaches the destination, then the path is chosen and all other paths become void. This is a difficult concept to grasp, especially considering that it seems mere plants are bending the very laws of time and space. So consider this: The law of general relativity states (in a very general sense) that anything traveling faster than the speed of light becomes energy; quantum physics tells us that energy exists in wave form until acted upon by another source, filling all possible points of existence. Therefore, it's not so inconceivable that a plant could receive sunlight, and transfer that energy in an instant along all possible paths to the destination in it's cells, and once the most efficient path is found, choose that path for the actual particle of energy.

So how does a plant differ from human ingenuity? In the same way the human brain differs from a computer.

Human society is based on precision. But nature is based on approximations. And that's precisely how we break free of the mold. Original thought happens by accidents, and seeing the good which arises from such accidents. It happens when somehow, a few of our neurons win the shouting match allowing us to ignore linear thinking, and use our lateral thinking instead.

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