For a successful nuclear reactor, it's not enough to have plutonium or U-235, isotopes that liberate energy and fast neutrons when they split. You need a moderator: material to slow down the neutrons, so they can trigger more fission events. A moderator (e.g., graphite or heavy water) isn't like a control rod that stops the chain reaction; rather, a moderator is carefully chosen not to absorb neutrons itself.

For a successful society, it's not enough to have brilliant geniuses, dynamic balls of fire who shoot off ideas in all directions. You need moderators: people to slow down the frenzied conversation, so that new concepts can be absorbed, mulled over, improved, and then used to trigger further good ideas. Moderators aren't nay-sayers who fight against novelty; rather, they must work carefully not to kill innovation, to see the feasible components in even the most flakey proposals.

Being a moderator isn't an easy job, particularly in times of creative ferment when new notions --- in science, technology, the arts, and commerce --- form an avalanche, jostling and prompting each other in an explosive chain reaction. But moderation is critical in all things, not least in turning wild ideas into reality.

Thursday, October 14, 1999 at 05:50:43 (EDT) = 1999-10-14


(correlates: PyramidPeaking, AnAcknowledgement, MyJob, ...)