Paul Graham Avatar

Paul Graham

Paul Graham paulgraham.com

Crazy new ideas

Paul Graham on preposterous sounding ideas and how easy they are to dismiss:

Most implausible-sounding ideas are in fact bad and could be safely dismissed. But not when they’re proposed by reasonable domain experts. If the person proposing the idea is reasonable, then they know how implausible it sounds. And yet they’re proposing it anyway. That suggests they know something you don’t. And if they have deep domain expertise, that’s probably the source of it.

Such ideas are not merely unsafe to dismiss, but disproportionately likely to be interesting. When the average person proposes an implausible-sounding idea, its implausibility is evidence of their incompetence. But when a reasonable domain expert does it, the situation is reversed. There’s something like an efficient market here: on average the ideas that seem craziest will, if correct, have the biggest effect.

I’m not a big ideas guy. Never have been. Adam is, though. And I freely admit that many of his ideas sound preposterous to me at first. But I’ve learned over the years to hear him out, because he’s usually on to something, even if it’s not fully-formed yet. And it turns out I’m pretty good at taking partially-formed ideas and helping firm them up. This is one of the reasons why we make a good team.

Having new ideas is a lonely business. Only those who’ve tried it know how lonely. These people need your help. And if you help them, you’ll probably learn something in the process.

Paul Graham paulgraham.com

What business can learn from open source

Sometimes you need to look back in order to go forward. In this 2005 Paul Graham essay derived from his talk at OSCON that same year, Paul contrasts open source and blogging to extract wisdom for companies to follow. What’s more interesting is just how right this essay was, with the luxury of hindsight and history on our side today.

…the biggest thing business has to learn from open source is not about Linux or Firefox, but about the forces that produced them. Ultimately these will affect a lot more than what software you use.

Like open source, blogging is something people do themselves, for free, because they enjoy it. … People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work.

In a world where the playing field is leveled and everyone has the same or similar access to share their ideas, ideas will “bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top.”

Well said Paul.

0:00 / 0:00