Like it or not, all successful innovators share at least one characteristic with Blanche Dubois. We rely on interactions with strangers to drive our best ideas. Thanks to Tim Kastelle, I found this recent work by Jared Diamond, who uses anthropology to demonstrate that people need interactions to create and sustain new technologies.
Diamond uses the example of Tasmania, which is an isolated island off the coast of an isolated continent. At one point in history, Tasmania and Australia were connected. At that point in time the people living in both locations had roughly the same technologies and advancement. As the sea levels rose, there were far fewer people on Tasmania who lost interaction with a relatively small population of Australians. When first “discovered” by Europeans, Tasmanians lacked many of the technology innovations that their distant relatives on Australia had created during the separation. Since neither the Australians nor the Tasmanians had boats that would cover the 130 mile distance between there, there was no interaction. In fact, the Tasmanians at some point lost or abandoned some of the tools that they had when they were in contact with the Australians.