THE BANK OF NEW IDEAS: PRINCIPLES AND CRITERIA
One could justly point out that the evaluation of original ideas already takes place within the public forum of the dissertation defense, but these activities can go on for years, while the idea accrues often unnecessary, officially "accountable" supporting material, in which its essence, its original mental impulse, is likely to drown. In addition, experience shows that the most innovative ideas are to be found on the points of cusp between various fields, so that they have difficulty "passing muster" with specialized scientific committees and are subsequently lost to that larger science, for which they were intended.
Intelnet could be of substantial help in correcting this situation, by offering new life to those good ideas which are currently foundering and by giving initial impulse to the creation of further innovations through the Bank of New Ideas. A truly new idea seldom fits into ready-made spheres of knowledge, rather it wrenches itself away from the well-known nomenclature of dissertation topics and scientific specialization to create its own sphere. It requires a kind of "savings bank" for preservation which will be sensitive to intellectual values, not blocked in by compartmentalization. Regardless of the form in which an idea presents itself--be it a conclusion based on empirical data, the formulation of a question, a hypothetical proposition, a theory, fantasy, paradox, pronouncement or project--it possesses the independent value of a new shift in established systems of concepts. The Bank of New Ideas would take on the task of registering the totality of such shifts, making it a subsdtantial information system for interdisciplinary or "no-disciplinary" kind of knowledge.
The humanities, as compared with natural and social sciences, remain in a difficult situation which demands prompt resolution, since the very criteria for identifying and evaluating ideas are far from clear, yet are virtually never discussed. For these reasons I wish to share the experience of the Bank of New Ideas which was founded under the auspices of "Image and Thought," an intedisciplinary association focussing on philosophy, theology, literature, art, and the methodology of humanistic scholarship, that originated in Moscow in 1986.
The goal of this pre-electronic Bank was to foster the development of new methods of thinking in interdisciplinary areas of contemporary culture, to provide the conditions for formulating, shaping and disseminating original ideas, moving at the junctures of different disciplines and types of social consciousness. This Bank accepted for preservation ideas that showed a significant degree of innovation, uniqueness and potential for productive impact on the cultural and intellectual development of society. Discussion and registration of ideas was conducted by experts within the Interdisciplinary Council, representing several different professions. A system of parameters has been worked out for the evaluation of ideas, including the following:
The rating of an idea is an inspiring procedure and involves the necessity of a method of rating these ideas. All members of our Moscow "Image and Thought" interdisciplinary council (usually 7 or 9) were invited to rate an idea on the scale of 10 points. If the idea averaged less than 5, it was not accepted as a deposit. If more than 7, it was given the status of an "outstanding" idea, if more than 9 (no such ideas so far), it would be celebrated as an "idea of genius." Accordingly, a person whose three or more ideas deserved acception to the Bank received an honorable title of "mastermind."
I would suggest resumption of this procedure as soon as the authors of new ideas will volunteer to form an Interdisciplinary Council of the Intelnet. Your ideas on rating are as cordially invited as ideas to be rated. I imagine that if the flow of ideas is sufficient, the titles like "the idea of the season," or "the idea of the year," or even (who knows) "the idea of the century" could be awarded.
Intelnet is designed to become a vitally important link in the interconnection of ideas and society. An electronic rubric of this kind could take on the responsibility and honor of playing a role that neither a scholarly press nor an academic institution is able to fulfill. Intelnet should provide a channel for connecting society with the work of its most powerful intellects, and any obstacles or delays in this channel lead to both the intellectual impoverishment of society itself and the deterioration of the social function of intellect. Ultimately, this can bring about a broadly anti-intellectual attitude in the social sector, as well as an anti-societal attitude in the intellectual sector. Ideally, however, Intelnet can hold up a mirror to intellect, or a screen for the projection of its on-going work, open for public view and commentary, and for the consistent stimulation and intensification of social consciousness.
Nothing unites one mind with another in so perceptive and valuable a way as does the flash of a new idea. The effectiveness of Intelnet should rightfully consist in its rapid dissemination of new ideas throughout the arena of public consciousness, without any introductions, conclusions, equivocations or emendations--just the concentrated essence of innovation. Some of the new concepts may well prove fallacious, but the same rule should apply in the sphere of cognition that applies in jurisprudence: it is better to voice ten fallacious ideas than to silence a single valid one. Actually, it is likely that there are no fallacious ideas, just more and less productive ones. In the realm of ideas nothing is impossible. As Goethe said, to live in an idea means to treat the impossible as if it were possible.