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Ideas are New Combinations

Bacon Bar

I was recently introduced to Vosges Chocolate by my mate Jenna.

They have a little shop in Soho a block from where I work. I have walked past it innumerable times and yet I have never seen it. I had seen the Molton Brown store, which is right next door.

I wondered about that.

I have had Molton Brown stuff before and I like it. It makes the bathroom feel fancy. I had never heard of Vosges. So perhaps there's some form of confirmation bias in operation here.

"It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives." --Francis Bacon

We went inside and the people in the shop knew a lot about chocolate and were very nice. I had no intention of buying anything. It's very posh chocolate and I don't really eat chocolate much at all.

Then they gave us free samples. A bunch of them. They asked if there were any I wanted to try. I was fascinated by the bacon chocolate you see above. It sounded disgusting. My brain revolted.

[I have never understood how American cuisine blends sweet and savoury foods - bacon with syrup just seems wrong to me.]

I tried some. It was amazing. To steal from Joey from Friends [something which drags me back to an idealised verion of 90s NYC]:

What's not to like? Chocolate - good. Bacon - gooooood.

So I bought a bar. And gave it to a friend. And showed some other people the store.

[They had already been there. I assumed since it was invisible to me, it was invisible to everyone. This is also probably a form of confirmation bias.

Actually this might be related to another cognitive bias people exhibit - what I call the I'm Special bias.

Basically, I think asking people why they do things is pointless - they don't know and, worse, everyone in the world believes they are special.

[Some study I saw showed that 90% of people think they are above average intelligence.]

That said, people are very, very good at modeling other people's behaviour. So one way to trick the I'm Special bias is projective research - what do you think your best friend would do in this situation? Why did she buy X?]

So - the shop was nice to me and I now like them and actively advocate them. 

The ethic of reciprocity is a powerful human imperative.

But that isn't really what I wanted to talk about.

Their bacon bar is a new combination, which is one way of describing all ideas.

When genius steals, it builds on and from the elements. The more polarised the elements, the more interesting the combination.

Perhaps another good way of thinking about this way of thinking is what Matt Webb calls Idea Scaffolding - ideas supported by, built out of other ideas.

Like using movement as a generative metaphor for the web, which he does in that presentation.

Or the shift from web pages to a web of data, much of which we will be creating, passively in the physical world - personal infomatics.

And, as Tom and Matt point out in that presentation, everytime you combine one set of data with another, new kinds of services emerge.

And somewhere at the intersection, or combination, of SPIME [SPaceTIME] data and social data, lies the web/world equivalent of a bacon bar.