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The Crazy Ones

Entry 1395, on 2012-05-30 at 20:37:47 (Rating 2, Comments)

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

That is the text of an Apple advertising campaign from a few years back. And if you own a Mac have a look at the icon for the TextEdit application. Expand it as much as you can and you will see the entire paragraph on the icon. High resolution icons are great, as is the attention to detail Apple puts into their products!

But what about the truth of the statement itself? Are "the crazy ones" the people who really move the world forward or are they just a nuisance (or even a danger to society) that we just have to put up with?

The answer is both. There are two types of crazy ones: those who are misunderstood geniuses, and those who really are just crazy! Unfortunately it can be hard to tell the different and to a certain extent it depends on your perspective anyway.

Apple produced a set of posters for the campaign which included these "crazy ones": Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Francis Ford Coppola, Orson Welles, Frank Capra, John Huston, Albert Einstein, Miles Davis, Jim Henson, Maria Callas, Martha Graham, Joan Baez, Ted Turner, the Dalai Lama, Ansel Adams, and Bob Dylan.

I have no doubt that a lot of worthwhile things can be achieved by people following the rules and working within the system. But I also think that the most fundamental new discoveries and creations are made by people who are working outside of the system that most others occupy.

No one who is "fond of rules" and "respects the status quo" is likely to achieve anything genuinely original. On the other hand it is possible to take the "craziness" too far. Because of my interest in skepticism I often find myself reading material by people who see themselves as a "crazy one" in the good sense but in fact are crazy in the bad sense!

This would include people who think they have designed a perpetual motion machine, or believe in crazy theories like the electric universe or hollow Earth, or think that advanced aliens or God has revealed some deep secret to them that no one else knows. They fulfil all the criteria in the statement until you get to the "They push the human race forward" part.

In many cases the distinction is obvious. Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman both seem a bit eccentric but no one could have any real doubt that they were geniuses who pushed human progress forward more than a million people who sit around in committees following the rules and respecting the status quo.

But that shouldn't be an excuse to act crazy and still expect to be treated like a genius. Odd as it may seem, being crazy isn't enough! Often when people are challenged over their controversial or unproven ideas they might say: they laughed at (insert genius of choice: Einstein, Galileo, etc) too! My answer is: yes, they also laughed at Bozo the Clown, was he a scientific genius?

So there is a risk that if we follow my idea and give "the crazy ones" more freedom and influence we will end up with some real crazies where we don't want them, but the potential advantages to giving true geniuses more influence is worth it. So yes, here's to the crazy ones!

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