The Runaway Species | David Eagleman

Summary of: The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World
By: David Eagleman


The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman delves into the world of innovation and the reliance of new ideas on their predecessors. Exploring the confluence of technology and art, this book reveals how creativity thrives through three prominent processes: bending, breaking, and blending. Eagleman takes readers on a journey through ideas, inventions, and artistic breakthroughs, to demonstrate how everything we create is an evolution based on past endeavors. The introduction to this book summary will guide you through the key highlights and explore the interaction between the past and the future in the world of innovation.

The Debt of Novelty

Revolutionary innovations owe a debt to older ideas. Inventions like the iPhone and the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge built upon and improved concepts from their predecessors. The key message is that creativity relies on the foundation of inherited ideas. The iPhone, for example, drew inspiration from the Simon, the world’s first smartphone. Coleridge reworked and reinvented ideas he found in his bookshelves. To truly understand creativity, it is critical to examine the debt that new ideas always owe to older ones.

The Power of Bending

Creativity is not just about coming up with completely new ideas but also about reshaping existing templates. Reshaping can involve improving an existing model or upgrading it to create something new. This concept of bending also applies to medical devices. William DeVries and doctors Billy Cohn and Bud Frazier were able to redesign and upgrade the human heart by refashioning its basic mechanism. Instead of imitating the natural heart, their artificial heart relied on a continuous flow of blood, bypassing many problems that plagued old-fashioned models. The same concept of bending applies to the arts, as seen in Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter’s play, Betrayal, where linear chronology is bent to create a unique narrative. The power of bending existing templates lies in the ability to take something that already exists and substantially improve it.

The Power of Breaking

Breaking down objects and ideas into smaller components is a fundamental process in creativity, as exemplified by Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and pioneering filmmakers in the evolution of cinema. Picasso’s technique of creating through fracture, although innovative, followed a time-honored tradition in art. This technique has also been applied to language, as seen in the widespread use of acronyms. By fracturing and compressing elements, creativity can unlock new and profound expressions of the human experience.

Blending – The Third Way of Creativity

Human creativity thrives on blending diverse elements into surprising new forms. From mythology to laboratory, blending is a staple of creative thought that has inspired artists, philosophers, and scientists alike. This book explores the enduring appeal of hybrid beings in human stories and delves into the realm of real-life lab experiments that have given birth to unusual new creatures. Randy Lewis, a genetics professor, went beyond the limitations of spider farming to create a silk-producing goat by splicing silk-producing DNA into its genome. With Freckles the spider-goat, Lewis demonstrated the power of blending different ideas and creating surprising combinations that lead to groundbreaking outcomes. Humanity is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible by defying traditional ideas and blending diverse elements to create something new.

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