Twice this week I've heard the claim that ignorance is strength—that not knowing what's been done before in an area is actually an advantage, because then you're not hamstrung by preconceptions. When challenged, the people making the claim offer hypotheticals: "Would Louis Armstrong have invented jazz if he'd studied classical music?" (He actually did know a lot of the kind of classical music the Boston Pops plays today, and didn't really invent jazz.) As I've said elsewhere, I think the real reason people want to believe in "unschooled genius" is that it gives them an excuse to not shovel a mountain of prior art looking for a handful of diamonds. What I'm looking for now, though, is something I remember reading several years and several computers ago: a medium-sized essay that shredded the "ignorance is strength" argument both logically and evidentially. If you were smarter than me, and not only bookmarked it, but copied that bookmark forward onto whatever machine you're using now, I'd be grateful if you'd share it.
Later: I appreciate the anecdotes people have added as comments, but anecdotes (in any direction) aren't proof. What I really need is the detailed, evidence-backed argument...comments powered by Disqus