Life: The joy of walks edition

The history of innovation is replete with stories of good ideas that occurred to people while they were out on a stroll. (A similar phenomenon occurs with long showers or soaks in a tub; in fact, the original ‘eureka’ moment—Archimedes hitting upon a way of measuring the volume of irregular shapes—occurred in a bathtub.) The shower or stroll removes you from the task-based focus of modern life—paying bills, answering e-mail, helping kids with homework—and deposits you in a more associative state. Given enough time, your mind will often stumble across some old connection that it had long overlooked, and you experience that delightful feeling of private serendipity: Why didn’t I think of that before.

—Steven Berlin Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From

One danger of  cell phones might be the way they keep you immersed in “the task-based focus of modern life,” at least if you let them; Johnson wrote Where Good Ideas Come From in 2010, and at the time smartphones weren’t ubiquitous.

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