21 October 2010

Interesting is overrated

Scientists are usually cerebral people. We live in our heads. As Randy Olson has argued, that doesn’t help us. One of his main pieces of advice is, “Don’t be so cerebral.”

Bono helps make this point in this interview:

If you take musicians away from the stage too much, they become quite abstract in their heads. They start to use words like “interesting.” But people don’t want to see you do something interesting. They want something passionate or wild.

“Interesting” is the moment musicians scratch their chin. It ruins great and dramatic music. You listen to the Sex Pistols or Nirvana or the first MGMT album and you don't scratch your chin. You say, “Wow, that’s extraordinary.”

And I know that scientists are always saying something is interesting. I’m guilty of it myself, and I know because one of my research students told me flat out, “‘Interesting’ is overrated!”

2 comments:

Brad Walters said...

Interesting is not overrated. It is just that people's interests are misaligned. The sad truth is there is a disconnect between what we scientists find interesting and what the rest of the public finds interesting. I find neuronal communication, and evolution, and solving problems in regenerative medicine interesting, while the rest of the world seems to find the cast of Jersey Shore and Lindsay Lohan interesting.

Zen said...

Heh. Fair enough. I wasn't meaning to say that "interesting" doesn't have it place, though I can see how it came out that way.

But it's trickier to connect with people using things that are "interesting" versus things that are "astonishing."