Where are great ideas born?

Steven Johnson attributes a great surge in human creativity to the rise of coffee and tea (until then, most Europeans drank alcohol all day because water wasn’t safe), and argues coffeehouses are where “great ideas have sex.”

In truth, Johnson says great ideas are not beautiful gems in-and-of themselves, but are cobbled together from what’s available nearby. It’s the pooling of different perspectives, not study in isolation, that leads to great breakthroughs. In his talk he takes us from Charles Darwin to Sputnik and G.P.S. to prove that “chance favors the connected mind.”

Steven Johnson is the author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience, His most recent book “Where Good Ideas Come From: The History of Innovation” is due out next month.