Where Imagination Outshines Memorization

Why science is like play

By Beau Lotto, Special to CNN
updated 10:00 AM EST, Sun November 11, 2012

Editor’s note: Beau Lotto is founder of Lottolab, a hybrid art studio and science lab based in London. He spoke at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, U.K., in June. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” which it makes available on its web site.

(CNN) – Anything creative begins with a question.

The problem is that questions take us into uncertainty, which is a very dangerous place to be. If there were a predator next to you and your brain wasn’t absolutely sure what to do, then it’d probably be too late.

The need to translate ambiguous sensory information into meaningful behavior has been the fundamental drive of brain evolution, without which survival in a complex world would not have been possible. And yet a deep irony is that the best questions — i.e., the ones that challenge our deepest sense of what is true — create the most uncertainty.

So how is it possible to be creative? Fortunately nature gave us a solution, which in the context of human culture we call science. Not science reduced to the Methods section of a paper, but science as a “way of being,” where not only is uncertainty celebrated, but so too are possibility, diversity and openness. In other words … play.

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