Steven Johnson’s ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’

Summary and Reaction to Chapter 3 (The Slow Hunch) of Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’

The main argument in the chapter is that great innovations are due to accumulative processes rather than spontaneous ‘eureka’ moments.  Almost in any major technological or scientific innovation of modern times, the break-through was made possible by the robust base built by accrued prior knowledge.

A key idea put forward by Steven Johnson is that of ‘convergence’.  This is the process of the gradual accumulation of information, concepts and their interrelationships that are precursors to the occurrence of ‘insight’. Although the decision to synthesize and analyze them is that of an individual, the fundamental facts and concepts can be fetched from a disparate range of sources. To this extent, though great innovations are not one-off events of brilliance, they are the result of ‘collective intelligence’. Collective . . . Read More

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What is the source of law’s legitimacy for Antigone and Creon?

The confrontation between Antigone and her uncle Creon (the ruler of Thebes) begins with the demise of her two brothers Eteocles and Polyneices. Since Creon was on the side of Eteocles during the combat between the two brothers, he decrees to honor him in death.  In sharp contrast he decrees that Polyneices be left rotting in the battle field sans a proper burial.  This is the highest form of punishment in ancient Greek and its evocation is a measure of Creon’s hostility toward Polyneices.  In Creon’s own view, what legitimizes his decree is his authority as the supreme ruler of Thebes.  He performs very little moral deliberation before setting his order to execution.

But Polyneices’ beloved sister Antigone is a balanced, intellectual and humane person (as evidenced from allusions in the play). Her love for her brother impels her to bury him properly. Though this action would invoke the wrath of Creon and jeopardize her life, her humanity and love supersedes all . . . Read More

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What are effective discipline strategies to use with a child who is going through the “”terrible 2’s?”

There is truth to the popular belief that toddlers of 2-3 years old are the most difficult to deal with. This is so because during this phase, toddlers are exercising and consolidating their newly acquired motor and language skills.  They tend to speak or babble a lot and also run about the space at home.  Such behavior helps them discover the three-dimensionality of space and learn to master maneuvering through it.  The incessant verbal output prepares them for social interaction that awaits them in subsequent stages of development.  But the most dreaded part of ‘terrible 2s’ for parents is the tantrums thrown by toddlers.  This is due to the beginnings of the process of decentralization whereby the ego-centric perception is slowly lost.  The tantrums are partly a reaction to this ‘loss’. To compensate for this feeling of insecurity, toddlers resort to tantrums which bring them parental attention and . . . Read More

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The dramatic differences found by Piaget in the development of preschoolers and elementary-age children

A child undergoes rapid physiological and cognitive developments in the first few years.  Preschoolers or toddlers slowly shed their ‘ego-centric’ view.  This means that a newborn baby does not have the capacity to think of and for others.  This ability to understand that there are others in the world is slowly gained during the years 0-3.  After a year and half the toddler begins to verbally express its likes and dislikes.  This is an important cognitive milestone, for the language ability has significant ramifications for psychosocial and later academic performance.  The preschool stage is when most of the gross and fine motor ability is acquired and exercised.  So the graduation from moving limbs to crawling to walking signify the baby’s growing capacity for self-expression in physical space.  During the elementary school age, the child understands that the world is comprised of people like itself with similar motivations and needs.  During this stage crucial . . . Read More

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The African Child by Camara Laye

The novel was originally written in French and later translated to numerous other languages including English.  Mostly autobiographical, the novel paints a colourful picture of life in Africa.  There are the typical ingredients of African wildlife, traditional tribal culture, belief in hoodoo or black magic, etc.  But each of these facets to the novel presented through the personal experience of one individual, abstractly referred in the title as the ‘African Child’. Since the story starts from Laye’s childhood and continues into his maturation and adulthood, the work can be classified as a bildungsroman – the story of growing up. But the focus is not solely on one individual, as Laye fleshes out in detail the dynamics of several key relationships through his life. One of the recurrent themes is Laye’s search for intimacy, which starts in his teenage years and continues to adulthood.  Though these relationships are not always successful, they do help mould Laye’s . . . Read More

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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The book in question is insightful, thought-provoking and controversial.  One of the positive aspects of the book is its elaborateness.  Having taken up a challenging thesis, the author goes about proving it with a rigorous scholarly approach. But as with all theses there are problems of omission and commission.

The book presents an interesting view on the European dominance of global politics in modern history.  Questioning any inherent genetic superiority or innate industriousness of the European race, Diamond states that it was conditions of favorable geography and climate that accounts for this dominance.  The vast East-West orientation of the Eurasian landmass offered a degree of uniformity of climate along the same latitudes.  This allowed exchange of applicable agricultural technology across various parts of the continent.  Eurasia also had the good fortune of tameable animals which they could employ in agricultural production and also for animal farming.  . . . Read More

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Shooting an Elephant: A critical appreciation

George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant is one of the best short stories to have appeared during the last days of British colonialism. Partly autobiographical in its content, the short story narrates the difficulties encountered by a colonial officer in Burma, as is sent on a mission to shoot down a rampaging Elephant which has already killed an Indian coolie. The story is portraiture on the effects of imperialism on those who perpetrate the system. This essay will argue how the story shows this role reversal, that the oppressor becomes the oppressed in the functioning of imperialism.

As Orwell notes very poignantly in the story, when the imperialists use force and authority to suppress the locals, it is the imperialists who suffer more. This is so due to two reasons. First, the imperial officer is forced to carry out acts which were to merely prove his bravado and power. Second, the unrelenting hatred directed against him by the locals takes away mental peace and . . . Read More

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Theological Inquiry: Night by Elie Wiesel

The Holocaust is without doubt the greatest human tragedy of the twentieth century.  The literature surrounding Holocaust speak of the profound alienation of personality and loss of divine faith experienced by those affected.  Those who survived to record these experiences are both lucky and unlucky.  They are unlucky in that they had to continue to live the rest of their lives with tormenting memories and unanswered questions about human nature and God.  Elie Wiesel is one such survivor, whose post-liberation life would be filled with mental anguish. In his seminal book Night, first published in Yiddish in 1955 and later appeared in English in 1960 we evidence how his faith in God as well as faith in humanity is challenged by the grave circumstances faced in German ethnic cleansing operations.  The following passages will analyze how Wiesel’s faith in God and humanity is shaken to the core in the face of compelling circumstances and consequences.

In a poignant passage . . . Read More

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Can we really trust our senses and the interpretation of sensory data to give us an accurate view of the world?

The human sensory faculties, in addition to the processing power of the brain, play a vital and definitive role in how knowledge is acquired.  The five major sensory faculties are sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.  Cognition is the higher faculty that integrates and interprets inputs from these five senses.  But what is also interesting is that the brain, rather than being a passive recipient of inputs also directs and conditions the other sense organs.  This makes the brain the most powerful sense organ, for it can potentially control the flow and the meaning of information that is gathered through the five basis sensory inputs.

There are several factors that determine the accuracy of sensory information.  The quality of the information source is one and the health of the receiving sensory organ is another.  The conduciveness of the medium of transmission is also a key factor.  The way these three factors interact and compound is best illustrated through the . . . Read More

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Why it is important for police officers to understand cultural differences?

What can police agencies do to better prepare police officers to understand diverse backgrounds and improve communications with people who are not native speakers of English? 

As societies increasingly become more urban and cosmopolitan, it becomes imperative for police officers to understand cultural idiosyncrasies and sensibilities. It is an acknowledged fact that the history of American social life is littered with instances of racial and ethnic discrimination. Minorities had borne the brunt of undue discrimination from the law enforcement apparatus. With victories won by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, some of this injustice has abated. Yet, there is no occasion for joy today, as the traditional targets are added to newly conjured threats to law and order and security. In other words, in contemporary civil affairs, police officers tend to target two particular groups – poor ethnic minorities allegedly linked to the drug trade and Muslims with perceived . . . Read More

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