A new book explains how places of genius are products of geography and history, demography and community.
If Kathleen Wynne wants to make Ontario smarter, The Geography of Genius should be on her post-holiday reading list.
Fresh from her trips to China and Silicon Valley late last year, and poised to visit India later this month, the premier is on a journey of economic discovery. With our industrial base in historic decline and rival economies on the ascendant, she joins other peripatetic politicians in trying to incubate an innovation future at home.
Wynne is not alone in her ambitions. Every elected official on the planet dreams of relocating and replicating foreign success stories, especially the genius of Silicon Valley.
But as the latest book by bestselling author Eric Weiner explains, the formula is not so easily reproduced, no matter how often the story is told. Places of genius — like personal genius — are products of geography and history, demography and community.
The Geography of Genius — A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley also disabuses us of the conceit that one can be born a genius, or that it is about some combination of nurture and nature. Regardless of individual intelligence, personal genius rarely arises in isolation, just as places of genius don’t happen by accident.
Weiner’s journey takes the reader across three continents — from classical Greece, and on to the golden ages of Florence, Edinburgh, Vienna in centuries past. The book explores the wonders of Hangzhou in the Song Dynasty, and colonial-era Calcutta. And it culminates in Silicon Valley, whose claim to genius remains controversial but whose global impact is undeniable.
It takes a village — or a Silicon Valley — to create the conditions, inculcate the culture, and generate the creative sparks that yield genius. Weiner argues that a prerequisite is the “genius clusters” that can produce a “bumper crop of brilliant minds and good ideas.”
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