But the beauty of Touboul’s model, which he sketches out in a meager four pages, lies in its succinctness. He doesn’t aim to explain everything. His goal is to express a single idea about how nonconformists might synchronize, and he does so in the most concise way possible. Touboul belongs to a breed of theoreticians who see themselves as storytellers working in numbers. They value tight pacing; a plot that’s boiled down to its essence.
Keeping with my theme of opposing complexity for complexity’s sake, I present to you an example of science done right.
This guy, Touboul, has provided us a template for getting at science’s true purpose: to increase the public’s understanding of the world.
It’s not there to enable new weapon technology. It’s not there to serve as the foundation of new patents. It’s not there to make someone rich.
It’s there to create models for us to understand things. And this requires two components:
- The model itself
- A concise and story-based communication of the model
That second piece is what Touboul hits so perfectly. Lots of people do good work on the first point. They create a model that they and a handful of other people in the field can consume, and perhaps lots of other smart people who are willing to slog through dozens of pages using pickaxes and explorer maps.
But that’s not what science should be. Science should not be a treasure hunt. Science should be a fireside story. It should be a place where, if the greater audience leaves without being delighted, the storyteller has not succeeded.
A storyteller cannot sit down at the fire and start using words that people don’t understand, only to end with:
If you all were storytellers like me you’d be able to understand what I just said. Only then would you see my genius.
Worst. Storyteller. Ever.
But that’s most scientific papers. Most academics protect their punchlines as if they’re secrets—secret peacock tails hidden under layers of expensive clothing.
Insight into the world should not be a secret that only fellow academics can decipher. Scientific insight is a gift for the masses, and academics are supposed to be Santa Claus—producing a steady stream of such gifts for the people.
Touboul is one such Santa, and I hope more people follow his example.
He did his work in four (4) pages. Four.
I like that as a rule. If you can’t say what you want to say, in five pages or less, and have the average person with any bachelors degree say, “Wow”, or, “Fascinating”, or “Interesting”, then you have failed.
That’s the bar for success. And any other bar (success in a journal, etc.) should be considered only after this one.
Science is for the people, not for scientists.