At the start, chance happenings – two good brains happening on each other, meeting by renown and word of mouth. Nothing else, no writing. Then, with writing, papyrus passing from palaces of the kings as edicts, the only minds that were known. Then writing widens, concepts are allowed and others than the kings have raw materials to communicate over long distances. Books are born, but not correspondence – that is solely by couriers, word of mouth and long-distance travellers. Ideas are communicated but not refined by the best, only by the local leisurely.
Then writing becomes commonplace and the brains start to gather at cities. Support networks spring up to bring the best and brightest to the palaces to work – and they take themselves. True meetings of minds begin – the bright spark of Athens, Rome and its poets, Constantinople, then the reflected glories of palaces and monasteries, running in parallel. Parchment becomes cheap, correspondence and letter-writing springs up, from Rome onwards, the mental community becomes wide and slow, with fast-moving hubs.
As the population grows, travel becomes no longer just for trade and war, but for exploration and self-improvement – by the 17th century, poets, thinkers, musicians and so on can move between the courts and gain fame in several places – Handel, Descartes, Leibniz and the rest dance between kingdoms, meet and share wealth. Slowly the speed and wideness of renown increases til it peaks, in the early 20th – a small number of wealthy talents hopping between Bloomsbury and the Algonquin – Pavlova, Chaplin, Gertrude Stein – but still separated by transatlantic difference.
After that the number of minds blossoms, the world becomes soaked with them and great ideas become hard to disseminate – the mixtures of medias, the cheapness of communication, gradually reduces fame. A century passes, greatness weakening. Now I see great minds online lost in the noise, spreading themselves thin for a grasp at glory, but connecting their with their compadres, albeit perfunctorily. Communities struggle into existence, ideas spread and die rapidly, alienation from the locale is easy but not complete. Where next?