General and Surprising
September 2017 The most valuable insights are both general and surprising. F = ma for example. But general and surprising is a hardcombination to achieve. That…
May 30, 2019 at 08:28AM
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The most valuable insights are both general and surprising. F = ma for example. But general and surprising is a hard combination to achieve.
Where things get interesting is the moderately valuable insights.
The more common case is a small addition of generality: a piece of gossip that's more than just gossip, because it teaches something interesting about the world.
But another less common approach is to focus on the most general ideas and see if you can find something new to say about them. Because these start out so general, you only need a small delta of novelty to produce a useful insight.
Sometimes you'll find you've merely rediscovered an idea that did already exist. But don't be discouraged.
I feel slightly bad when I find I've said something close to what I've said before, as if I were plagiarizing myself. But rationally one shouldn't.
And of course, ideas beget ideas. (That sounds familiar.) An idea with a small amount of novelty could lead to one with more. But only if you keep going.
But there's a big difference between nothing and almost nothing, when it's multiplied by the area under the sun.