The End of the Lone Genius | Open Source with Christopher Lydon

September 12, 2014


Wilbur and Orville Wright test fly a 1901 glider.

Joshua Wolf Shenk’s new book, completely fascinating and a safe indoor sport for any number of parlor players, is called Powers of Two. The core idea is that the creative spark that rules our lives — in music, comedy, sports, even scientific discovery — is not a single flame, it’s almost always a pair of creators sparking off each other. Whether you’re talking about Watson and Crick, Gilbert and a Sullivan, Bird and Magic, or the Wright Brothers—it takes two.

Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two

These pairs fall into several archetypes, Shenk says, including “the dreamer and the doer.” Such a pair might be the ideal-driven tech entrepreneur Steve Jobs and the practical-minded engineer Steve Wozniak. Or there’s “the liquid and the container,” typified by John Lennon and Paul McCartney—a boundlessly energetic, Dionysian creator brought down to earth by a more ordered character.

Writers are no exception to the model. Even Emily Dickinson, famously secluded in her later life, found in her sister-in-law a creative influence second only to Shakespeare, she wrote, and named Thomas Wentworth Higginson as her preceptor. Creative pairs are everywhere.

…(read more).

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