Unlike popular belief, innovation is far from a miracle, a moment of brilliance, or a unique event in the life of the innovator. It’s the result of a long, immersive process and a deep interest in the matter. But more importantly, it’s a consequence of belonging in the environment that enables innovation. Eagerness and intellectual curiosity are needed, but not as critical as sufficient material conditions. The absence of a safety net discourages the natural human urge to play, experiment and take risks.
Zakariya al-Qazwini, “Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing”, 13th-century, Public domain
A safety net is about having somewhere to fall back to if you fail. People are more likely to experiment and to take risks if they have savings or family support. They are more enthusiastic about opportunities when they own a place to live and not stress about the monthly payment to a bank or their landlord. Having a diploma from a reputable university gives them more courage, given that they can still land a decent job in case the experiment doesn’t go as planned. And so on, and so forth…
All these are material conditions. They are strongly associated with the family you were born into and the location of your birth. A lot of people in this world aren’t fortunate to come from a well-off family, but they could still be born in a country with favorable social policies that allowed them to study for free and mitigate some of the social inequality acquired by birth.
The modern PR industry paints a romantic story around successful entrepreneurs, portraying them as people of unmatched individual brilliance. Part of it is right. Some of them are great leaders and visionaries indeed. But stories will never mention their starting point in a calculated effort to make their success look entirely self-made. While in reality, it’s always a result of preexisting conditions, family, place of birth, exposure and connections, and often pure luck. They’ll call it a pedigree or an entrepreneurial gene as if it’s a thing they carry in their blood and not something the favorable life circumstances made possible. They’re usually entirely unaware their courage comes as a result of the material support that empowers them to take more chances, fail more, and eventually succeed. As if you had two people, side by side, shooting free-throws, playing first-to-three. And one of them has two attempts, and the other can take unlimited shots, and has two other guys to encourage him and return the balls. But look, I get it, self-made sounds more compelling.
…man’s ideas, views and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life.
— From The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels
Unlike dominant narrative (that only serves to perpetuate the status quo), a more equal society brings more innovation, not less. When people worry less about their job, healthcare, rent, and repaying student debt, they can let their creativity flourish and engage in activities that improve society for the benefit of everybody.