Stating the Obvious

Here’s a thing that’s happened to me a few times in life: someone will say something novel, in a talk, a book, or in everyday conversation and I’ll say to myself “Well, of course!” The thing being said feels obvious now that I’ve heard it, but in reality, I probably wouldn’t have made the right connections on my own.

The first example that popped into my head is from a Bret Victor talk, where he says:

It’s kind of obviously debilitating to sit at a desk all day, right?

I heard this and thought, well yes, of course. It made complete sense once I’d heard it, but I don’t think I’d ever explicitly thought about it previously.

That’s the sort of stuff I often write about, too. I’m not writing groundbreaking stuff, but I am trying to make some connections I (and you) might not have otherwise made. It might sound obvious when you read it, but my hope is by writing it down, by giving it a name, whatever obvious thing I write about becomes just a little bit more tangible.

I haven’t read enough on the topic, but my guess is by giving something a name and making it more tangible, it’s easier to do things with that something. It’s easier to incorporate that named idea into what you know, what you think about. It’s easier to talk about that idea. It’s easier to apply, compare, and contrast that idea with other ideas. And not to mention, on the web, you can literally link ideas together (until all the links rot and you’re cursing the underlying architecture of the web again…).

So maybe you’ll read this and think “well duh” and I’m fine with that. But it wasn’t obvious to me.

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