In the first few days of 2015, the CEO of Samsung promised that the Internet of Things – where everything is connected to the internet – was coming. That there really will be a day where a fridge can detect what we’re running low on and order it for us online. A great idea… except Kevin Ashton was proposing the internet of things in 1999, which meant the British tech pioneer swiftly became something of a superhero for the TED set. He still is: as he admits in his preface, his talks end up overrunning by hours as excitable wannabe tech startups bombard him with questions attempting to find out the secret of creative success.
How to Fly a Horse answers them pretty succinctly. For Ashton, there is no secret, only hard work – like the men who built the first US fighter jet in 143 days. There is no such thing as a genius – in fact Ashton believes they do not exist. And for him, there is no eureka moment either – most, if not all, inventions and discoveries have come from a process of refinement or inheritance. Ashton notes that James Dyson built 5,126 prototypes over five years before creating a cyclone-based vacuum cleaner that actually worked.
In a world where we love to celebrate individual moments of seemingly unobtainable brilliance, this is a democratic idea – a scientific version of the American dream where anyone can succeed given the right environment and passion. And Ashton is persuasive – he pulls out examples of the creative process from across the spectrum, from the travails of the Wright brothers to Apple’s Steve Jobs, taking in Woody Allen and South Park along the way.
His well chosen examples reinforce the idea that there is no magic or myth to creation or discovery, making this an approachable, thought-provoking book that encourages everyone to be the best they can be.