Why You Need a Thinking Partner (like this Genius)

You may not have heard of him, but James Clerk Maxwell wrote down what we now think of as four equations that define ALL of electromagnetics. You can get a T-Shirt with them emblazoned on it. If you want to know how radio waves propagate, or how a radio functions, or how anything running on electricity works, these equations tell you exactly how, in as much detail as you’re willing to crunch the numbers for.

But Maxwell didn’t just write them down one day. He worked them out piece by piece, and did so gradually. It took years and started out in a complicated way that almost nobody at the time could make sense of. This is not to denigrate Maxwell. Just a prime example of how discovery works. The very first time someone writes down a fragment of an idea, it’s seldom the best way to explain it. Over time and across many minds, ideas get smoothed over in more intuitive and useful ways.

Enter Oliver Heaviside, high-school-dropout and telegraph operator. He had the unique ability to, with a ton of work, grasp Maxwell’s ideas, and reformulate them from 20 complex equations down to just four intuitive ones. T-Shirt material. To do so, he nearly needed to invent a new kind of mathematics…but he made it work. From that point onward, even now today, people refer to Heaviside’s equations and explanations rather than the originals–though we still call them Maxwell’s.

The modern information explosion–recently including the field of generative AI–has produced a million Maxwells. We live inside a torrent of flickering wonders, and few are able to keep up with the deluge. New ideas, often incomplete, arrive on a daily basis, and the way they are talked about seldom makes any sense in our daily lives. What the world needs is people who can translate from arcane geek-speak to common-sense, actionable ideas, tasks, and opportunities.

If having a Thinking Partner sounds intriguing, let’s talk.

Originally posted on LinkedIn. 100% free-range human written.