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Grand follies and the art of thinking big
February 22, 2019 |Financial Times| by Janan Ganesh.

Who would rather that Airbus had never made the bet at all? Who would live in a world that never risks over-reach?

A defender of grand follies is spoilt for examples that turned out well........Today’s vainglorious travesty is tomorrow’s untouchable fixture of the landscape. We are lousy judges of future tastes, including our own....Even if an audacious project fails, and fails lastingly, it can still trigger success stories of other kinds. Some of this happens through the sheer technical example set: the A380, like Concorde before it, forced engineers to innovate in ways that will cascade down the decades in unpredictable ways. Some of the most banal givens of daily life — dust busters, wireless headsets — can be traced back to that messianic project we know as the space programme.

Then there is the inspiring spectacle of just trying to do something big. Progress through tinkering counts no less than progress through great leaps, but only the second kind is likely to electrify people into venturing their own efforts. Without the grand gesture — and the risk of humiliation — any field of endeavour is liable to stagnate.....Perhaps an exhausted west now prefers to tinker all the same. Big ideas are often paid for out of idle wealth (think of Elon Musk’s fortune, or Alphabet’s cash pile) and the existence of this can seem almost distasteful in a culture that is newly sensitive to inequality. As for largeness of vision, there was plenty of the stuff in the forever wars and pre-crash banking. It would be strange if people who lived through those events did not now flinch at the sight of excitable visionaries brandishing schemes.
Airbus  audacity  big_bets  breakthroughs  Elon_Musk  fallacies_follies  game_changers  humiliation  incrementalism  inspiration  Janan_Ganesh  Jeff_Bezos  marginal_improvements  moonshots  overreach  risks  thinking_big  tinkerers  visionaries 
february 2019 by jerryking
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