Creating Things That Matter: The Art And Science Of Innovations That Last, by David Edwards
There are some books that try too hard and those which do not try hard enough, and this book is clearly in the first camp. Ultimately, what this book is trying to do is somewhat simple, but the issue is the way the author goes about it. The author wishes to bridge the gulf between the arts and the sciences and to legitimize a place for the aesthetic in terms of scientific creativity and innovation. All of that is well and good, and is something worth celebrating and appreciating. Unfortunately, the author’s ideas on creativity and aesthetics appear to be formed from a hipster idea of what is worthwhile and not something that would be appealing to the larger world. There are a lot of odes to odd medicine that doesn’t catch on because the logistical capabilities outside of a few drug companies aren’t available, weird food ideas, and a celebration of irony. All of this may play well in left-leaning areas where things that matter are things that are deliberate and strange and vaguely anti-capitalistic, but it doesn’t play well overall when mattering is something that requires more than posing as someone who wishes for the well-being of others.
This volume of a bit more than 250 pages is divided into three parts and eight chapters. The author begins with an introduction that defends the role of art and aesthetics in science and points to its pedigree. After that the author spends a couple of chapters talking about the aesthetics of creating (I), with chapters on creating in a world that no longer exists (1) and creating in the world that now exists (2). After that the author spends some time writing about the creator’s cycle (II), discussing ideation, the generation of ideas (3), experimentation (4), and exhibition (5). The final three chapters are whether the author spends most of his effort trying to appeal to a hipster heaven that is the sort of world that the author may want but that doesn’t necessarily appeal to all of the readers (III), with chapters on grassroots renaissance that seeks to bypass contemporary elites (6), the fire of renaissance (7) that may sweep away old ways of doing things, and the relationship between culture, change, and hope (8) that demonstrates the hipster ideal of change for its own sake and a hostility to existing ways of behavior.
Ultimately, there is both much to enjoy and much to dislike about a book like this. The book would have been so much better had the author done a better job describing the cycle of creation and the various motivations that lead people to create and the various ways in which ideation, experimentation, and exhibition can go differently based on the sort of creativity that one is engaged in. All of this is well and good and would have been inspiring to a wide audience. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the author wishes to write about creativity and examples of creativity that serve particular agendas that the author is deeply attached to. And it is those agendas, particularly the author’s strong bias for left-wing and meaningless hipster agendas, that is most irritating. The author talks about things that matter by spending a great deal of time writing about a failed Catalan-themed restaurant, and in praising comedy improv culture, two things that don’t particularly matter in the grand scheme of things unless ethnic origins and comedy matter a great deal. One of the author’s prime health examples of something that matters is an inhaler for insulin that never got off the ground because it got shut down by a large medical company, and that which does not have a practical effect ultimately does not matter, no matter how much a snowflake like the author might wish such things to matter because of their noble and good intentions.