"Curiosity is like a hunger."
While looking earlier this week for material to post on our Twitter and Facebook accounts - you DO follow us there, right? - that line stopped me dead in my digital tracks. Tweeted by "On Being," Krista Tippett's fantastic radio show, and subsequently posted to the blog of the same name, I've thought quite a lot about it because in a couple respects it goes to the heart of the IdeaFestival.
To be curious is to be open to surprise, to confounded expectation and its subsequent magic. Like the timing behind a favorite joke, or the respiring quiet of Daniel Tammet's voice in 2010, or the sight of floating golden spheres being manipulated by Teller at the 2008 IdeaFestival, the surprise is only the set up. The fact that Teller carefully explaining to a rapt festival audience his variation on a historic trick, his meticulous and hidden execution of an illusion - that was the magic. This magician parted with his secrets.
Surprise, of course, has always had an important connection to survival. We've been wired over time to pick out the anamoly. Is that rustling in the bushes a friend, or is it a lion padding along behind cover, just waiting to jump his next meal?
Today, outliers are critical because given access to so much information, it's the curious whose sensitivity to difference, once developed into an idea and well executed, will bring profit.
The festival is important because your expectations will be overturned, because your subsequent surprise will be contagious, because more and more, your business or organization or church or your plain self-interest depends on an ability to make magic again.
Kodak bet far too long on the future of film. And the change that will sweep your industry is right now just a whisper, a breeze, that disturbing trend line buried in the data, as astrophysicist Mario Livio points in the video above. Miss it because some answers have worked well in past, and it's the future that is jeopardized. "Success," as Jason Pontin, memorably pointed out at last September, "is a terrible mentor."
If "curiosity is like a hunger" still strikes you as a bit dramatic, think about this. The figurative rustling in that suddenly suspicious brush may be neither friend nor foe.
It might be food.