They say that everything breaks down to the 80/20 rule—that in any endeavor 80 percent of the load is carried by 20 percent of the structure. For example, 80 percent of the regular readers of this blog are 20 percent of the total number of people who visit. I've been noticing that the 80/20 Rule of Imagination has reversed itself since I was a kid.
In the olden days when I was short, the world was a really big place. We didn’t have so much information, but we had plenty of imagination. You could say that everything we did was based on 80% imagination and 20% information.
We imagined cell phones. The cell phones we imagined had features that today’s cell phones can’t touch: They were free; everybody had one; you didn’t need to remember numbers—simply saying “ring, ring, ring” would get the party you wanted every time. They were independent of telephone companies. We didn’t have to interrupt anything to answer a call. There was no voice mail. Returning calls was out of the question. In fact, phones just disappeared when we hung up, and they appeared again when we needed them. We were in charge of them.
We imagined cars that could take us anywhere. According to our rules if we wanted they could, and often did, fly us to other planets. Or suddenly with a trick of the light, we were aliens on our own planet, and cars were machines that ate people—you could actually see the eaten people inside the cars. It was amazing. We would steal our way on the trail of the master garage, looking for the car in charge, waiting for the moment we could bravely say the immortal words, “Take me to your leader.” On other days, cars became fodder for the latest game show. We’d pick colors and take our places in front of someone’s house to see who could by force of will get ten cars of their color to drive past first. No organization, no prizes, just our imaginations and the information from kid conversations.
Now I’ve got a world of information inside this little laptop. Try as I might to have it otherwise, my life is easily 80% information and 20% imagination. That 20% imagination is taken up with practical uses: wondering why a site isn’t loading; imagining the person who put together this blog; or trying to solve a structure problem in my writing. Occasionally I’ll indulge myself by wondering what percent of their time the people at Technorati spend not talking about the web, but even that wondering is about information.
The 80/20 rule has become 80% information, 20% imagination for me.
I hardly ever take my imagination out on the creativity autobahn to see what it can do, at least not in public. Probably just as well to keep it private, more often than not, it confuses people when I get imaginative. Still my goal is to switch that 80/20 rule back to the way it used to be.
Play will be the work of my life again. Imagine that.