The Runaway Species Book Summary - The Runaway Species Book explained in key points
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The Runaway Species summary

Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman

How Human Creativity Remakes the World

4.4 (57 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

The Runaway Species by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman explores creativity, innovation and how they are influenced by biological and environmental factors. It provides insight into how humans can discover new ideas and stay ahead in a rapidly changing world.

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    The Runaway Species
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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Even revolutionary creators depend on inherited ideas.

    Sometimes new ideas and inventions seem to come from nowhere. The more daring and groundbreaking an innovation, the more likely we are to think of it as a bolt from the blue. Sure, it’s a wonderful step forward, but ultimately we see it as the improbable result of chance and genius.

    This attitude is understandable. After all, advances in technology and the arts often stagger us with their novelty.

    But if we really want to understand creativity, we need to take a more critical look at innovation. In short, we need to look at the debt that novel ideas always owe to older ones.

    The key message here is: Even revolutionary creators depend on inherited ideas.

    When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone to the world in January 2007, many called it the “Jesus phone.” It’s no wonder they were so enthusiastic. The iPhone revolutionized the world of consumer technology. It compressed a music player, a communication tool, and a personal computer into one sleek and stylish device you could slip into your pocket.

    As with all great inventions, the iPhone seemed unprecedented. Nothing quite like it had ever existed before – or so consumers thought.

    The thing is, although the iPhone was revolutionary, it owed a lot to other, less successful predecessors. Take the Simon, the world’s first smartphone, which IBM launched in 1994. It boasted a stylus and a host of basic applications. So why don’t we remember it today?

    Well, for one, the battery life was far too short, lasting about an hour. And making calls from a mobile phone was punishingly expensive in the mid-1990s. And the dawn of today’s world of inventive and enjoyable apps was still years off.

    So when the iPhone burst on the scene in 2007, it wasn’t an unheralded arrival. In years gone by, other innovative but unsuccessful devices had laid the groundwork.

    This principle of creative reinvention operates in the world of art, too. Take the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous English Romantic poet. After Coleridge died, a scholar was studying the poet’s library. It turned out that many of Coleridge’s most striking images and phrases had their roots in the books lining his walls.

    Just as Steve Jobs and his employees drew inspiration from older devices, Coleridge reworked and reinvented the raw material he found on his bookshelves. It showed once more that even the most creative acts depend on a long line of inventive predecessors.

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    What is The Runaway Species about?

    The Runaway Species (2017) is a gripping account of human creativity. Examining the principles that underlie our inventiveness, as well as real-world examples of creative breakthroughs, it offers a novel account of the abilities that make our species unique.

    The Runaway Species Review

    The Runaway Species (2017) by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman is a thought-provoking exploration of human creativity and innovation. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • It presents fascinating insights into the origins and mechanisms of creativity, shedding light on how we can enhance our own creative abilities.
    • Through a combination of scientific research, historical examples, and real-world applications, the book provides a well-rounded perspective on the subject.
    • With its accessible language and engaging anecdotes, it manages to make complex ideas about creativity both comprehensible and relatable.

    Best quote from The Runaway Species

    By enabling different lines of thought to breed in novel ways, blending is a powerful engine of innovation.

    —Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman
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    Who should read The Runaway Species?

    • Artistic types wondering how creativity works
    • Entrepreneurs trying to develop the next big thing
    • Anyone who wants to become a bit more inventive

    About the Author

    Anthony Brandt is an acclaimed composer and a professor of music at Rice University. His musical compositions include an oratorio and two chamber operas. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Stanford University and the internationally best-selling author of The Brain, Incognito, and other works.

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    The Runaway Species FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Runaway Species?

    The main message of The Runaway Species is that creativity is an essential and innate aspect of human nature.

    How long does it take to read The Runaway Species?

    The reading time for The Runaway Species varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Runaway Species a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Runaway Species is worth reading because it provides insights into the creative process that can enhance how we think and problem solve.

    Who is the author of The Runaway Species?

    The authors of The Runaway Species are Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman.

    What to read after The Runaway Species?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Runaway Species, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Determined by Robert M. Sapolsky
    • Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
    • Getting COMFY by Jordan Gross
    • Why We Remember by Charan Ranganath
    • Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood