Iconoclasm Fail

Interesting statement from an article by Emily Yoffe on Slate (the rest of the piece is a mini-memoir on the Facebook experience and  doesn’t add much meat):

Brenda Bradley, a Cambridge University zoologist doing research on primate evolution […] explained a theory about what drove the evolution of human intelligence: It was the need to monitor and maintain complex social networks—the most successful primates were the ones who understood the dynamic social relationships around them. Developing these skills was the precursor to, for example, being able to hunt cooperatively, not vice versa.

Compare to the anecdotal argument from Richard Hamming in his essay on doing great work:

I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance. He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, “The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.” I don’t know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing – not much, but enough that they miss fame.

(This guy was coming from Bell Labs and when he’s talking about “fame” he’s talking Nobel Prizes.)

Interesting to compare this to articles on the importance of enabling “flow” states in a work environment. I guess this means it’s important to have lunch with your peers?