The Plenitude is an interesting book about creating stuff. Rich Gold worked at places like Sega, Mattel, and PARC. He created a lot of interesting stuff during his career “making stuff for the Plenitude”. But more importantly, he thought clearly about how you create stuff, and what it means to create stuff.
When he talks about creating stuff, he’s not talking about making stuff. Today most stuff is made by some sort of machine. But it’s still people who create stuff.
The people who create stuff generally wear one of four hats.
It probably takes a certain type of person to divide types of people into a 2×2 matrix. And, as he says:
… nobody likes to be put in a square in a box, particularly creative people. Particularly a cartoon box.
But it does serve as a useful framework for discussing the different styles of creating.
He also talks about 7 different patterns which you often encounter when creating stuff.
- Necessity Is the Mother of Invention – Find a problem and solve it.
- It’s a Thing of Genius – I had a vision and just had to do it.
- The Big Kahuna – Scientific deduction from 1st principles.
- The Future Exists – We just have to intersect it at the perfect moment.
- Colonization of the Unowned – Find the unowned, package it, and sell it back.
- Stuff Creates New Objects of Desire – Stuff desires to be better stuff.
- Change the Definition – Language and metaphor create/are the world.
Once you read his description of these patterns, you’ll start recognizing them all around you.
In practice, these 7 patterns are interrelated, and they interact as shown this simple diagram:
He also appeared to have some regrets about creating stuff. The world certainly has plenty of stuff, and a lot of the new stuff that gets created doesn’t really seem to make the world a better place. He points out that this is because of one of the interesting differences between the plenitude of created stuff and the wild variety of organic life. For the stuff people create, it is actually illegal to create something that’s just like something that already exists. Every newly created thing has to be different, even if it isn’t better.
If you’re at all interested in the stuff which makes up modern life and how it gets created, then you would probably find Rich’s book interesting. He has a number of insights which will make you go hmmm, and he presents them in a humorous, self-deprecating way.