Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creative Ideas as Galactic Black Holes

“Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo (loose translation)

When following the diffusion of a cool new idea in a social network, an interesting similarity with the structure of our universe and its stars and galaxies can be recognized. Readers of “Swarm Creativity – Competitive Advantage through Collaborative Innovation Networks” know that a cool idea runs through several stages before becoming widely influential and accepted. At first there is a creator who has a brilliant solution for something. Then, his idea attracts a small group of people who consequently work on spreading the word – until it eventually makes its way into a general known concept which is adapted by a larger crowd in the social net. The final stage is the interest network – this is when the idea has been widely recognized and most people in the social network already know about it or even use it.

How does this compare to the structure of stars and galaxies? A common theory of cosmologists nowadays is that every larger galaxy has a black hole in its center, holding together the stars of the galaxy with its ginormous gravity. So, if we consider the black hole center being a creator who attracts people (stars) with his gravity (idea), how would the whole process of an idea’s evolution be reflected in these terms? Of course it would compare to the creation of a new galaxy.

When a star with a certain minimum mass “dies”, meaning its thermonuclear fusion processes run out of hydrogen, it is the birth hour for a new black whole. Thus, the fusion processes can be considered to be the creator “brainstorming” his new idea. When emergence of the idea has reached a certain stage, the creator starts spreading it to other people – the birth of the black hole. A black hole’s nature is to never release anything which went past its event horizon, thus agglomerating mass and consequently increasing gravity. For our creator/black hole analogy this is the phase of where the creator elaborates and develops his idea further and thereby increasing its attraction potential (gravity in terms of black holes).

At a point, the mass of the black hole will become so great that it actually starts drawing other stars in its surrounding area, bringing them to orbit around it. This is, as for the analogy, when the creator assembles a group of believers who begin working on further developing and spreading his idea. Because the orbiting stars themselves also draw further stars with their own gravity (the believers spread the word), the few initial ones will be joined by more after a while. Over time, a local system of stars (the learning network) and eventually a whole galaxy (interest network) is formed that way, with a galactic black hole in its center.

This is not where it ends. We could now examine what reflects ideas which did not make it beyond the second stage (the black hole could not draw enough mass – the idea was not “cool” enough, or the creator was a bad communicator of making it plausible to other people) or how new black holes form inside the galaxy (new ideas emerge in the interest network). I invite you to give your own thoughts in the comments for now.

If you would like to know more about the evolution of galaxies I recommend the Wikipedia links below.




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