Have just finished a fantastic article in the New York Times, on “Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas“, by Allison Arieff. It covered, in wonderful detail & with generous illustrations, the uncategorizable work of Steven M. Johnson, a kind of hybrid planner, architect, designer, futurologist, inventor. He comes up with crackpot ideas such as this, the “Nod Office”. Brilliant; reminds me of Douglas Coupland’s sketches of ‘veal fattening pens‘ in Generation X.


I found it inspiring, exciting and instructive all at the same time (I fully recommend you go and read the whole thing, I won’t even attempt to do it justice here; Arieff puts it together superbly well and ensures Johnson is the hero of the piece).

And it got me thinking . . . about the value of mavericks. In a world of frenetic recycling, mash-ups, re-tweeting and outright imitation I wonder how we can find more left-field thinkers and, as importantly, allow them to flourish when we find them? Does the sharing of everything, all the time, with everyone, combined with the sheer volume of stimulus that assaults us, result in the lobotomizing of the renegades, the free spirits, the natural geniuses? The natural evolution of average. Not survival of the fittest so much as survival of the most popular.

Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion House Prototype (c.1945)
Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion House Prototype (c.1945)

Buckminster Fuller, referred to throughout Arieff’s piece, and without question a misfit and visionary some decades ahead of his time, once memorably proposed, “everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them” (even his use of the word ‘de-genius’ is a maverick move). Wonderfully phrased but also, surely, terribly sad?


(Thanks to Tim Geoghegan for the heads up on the NYT article to start with, and the awesome addition of the Supertramp video).