Ideas Are Constellations

Ideas are not self-contained, discrete objects. Rather, they emerge as connections between different thoughts and concepts.

Walter Benjamin wrote that "ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars." That is, ideas emerge out of seemingly random proximity between one thought or another until we begin to perceive a pattern.

Brain science has found something similar. As Steven Johnson reports, ideas are instantiated when disparate neurons in our brains begin firing together in novel ways, adapting and reconfiguring themselves as new adjacent possibilities reveal themselves.

It's useful to facilitate this process by following the principle of atomocity and decontextualizing thoughts to look at them anew.