December 31, 2017

The origins of creativity by Edward O Wilson

The origins of creativity by Edward O Wilson

What is creativity? It is the innate quest for originality. The driving force is humanity’s instinctive love of novelty. We judge creativity by the magnitude of the emotional response it evokes.

A mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.

A team of psychologists from University of Virginia and Harvard University found that volunteers disliked sitting alone even a little as 6 min with nothing to do but think. They even preferred electric shock to themselves if nothing else was available.

The full explanation of any biological phenomenon engages three levels of thought.
  1. For any conceivable living entity or process, the first inquiry must be ‘What is it? Provide the structure and functions that define the phenomenon.
  2. Howe was it put together? What made it came into existence, what were the events that resulted in the conditions of its origin
  3. Why do the phenomenon and its preconditions exist in the first place? Why not a different mode of evolution not present on this planet that have produced a different kind of thinking brain?

The most beautiful face has a slightly smaller chin on average relative to the rest of the face, eyes set farther apart, and higher cheekbones.

Neurobiologists have come to recognize the existence of three neural routes activated in the brains of human and other advanced primates during social interactions.

  1. Metalizing, in which goals are formed and appropriate activities planned to meet them.
  2. Empathizing, putting oneself in the skin of another to access their motives and feelings and anticipate their future actions. Empathy is kind og gaming, through which the individual communicates with the group and the group thereby organizes itself.
  3. Mirroring by which the individual senses the mood and emotions of another and experiences them to some degree. Mirroring leads readily to imitation of successful strategies by others.

Empathy and mirroring have evidently evolved to a degree that corresponds to the average amount of time members of the group interact with one another. Human beings spend a great deal more of their time socializing than do these and other Old-World primates.

Neuroscientists at Duke University observed that the apes easily cooperate with their group mates in mutually beneficial behavior, they can do so only for a few, relatively simple task. They suspect that it is not a tendency to act altruistically that makes human unique.

To express this increasingly complex as succinctly as possible, the ancestors of our species developed the brain power to connect with other minds and to conceive unlimited time, distance and potential outcomes. This infinite reach of imagination, is what made us great.

What exactly is creative literature, by what means a language rendered as art? The answer is: by its innovation of style and metaphor, by its aesthetic surprise, by the lasting pleasure it gives. Some examples

““Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” Vladimir Nabokov

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. - Charles Dickens.

The humanities, particularly the creative arts and philosophy, continue to lose esteem and support relative to the science for two primary reasons:
  1. Their leaders have kept stubbornly within the narrow audiovisual bubble we inherited happenstance from our pre-human ancestors.
  2. They have paid scant attention to the reason why (and not just how) our thinking species acquired its distinctive traits.

The full meaning of the humanities will not come from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). It will come from a combination of many less vaunted disciplines, of which the most important are: paleontology, anthropology, psychology, evolution biology and neurobiology.

We are primarily audiovisual, one of the few animals on the plant that depend on sight and sound to find their way. In both audio and color spectrum, we can only hear and see very limited spectrum. Same goes with smell and senses. Why can human see a particular spectrum of color but cannot see infrared, or ultraviolet or other frequencies outside the narrow segment of the electromagnetic spectrum?

We are close to blind when speaking of touch, humidity and temperature. We are physically trapped inside the human bubble and worse, remain unconscious of its limitations. .

It turns out that three preconditions came together to produce human-grade species.
  1. Creation of the campsite, made possible by the shift in diet (from hunters to settlers)
  2. High levels of cooperation among members of the group
  3. Capacity for spoken language and language skills

Why humans have limited life span when compared with some trees (sequoias and pine of the Southwestern US last several millennia).

 The human conditions depend upon phenomena at four levels.
  1. Processing of sensory input (five senses)
  2. reflexes (eye blinks and autonomic nervous systems)
  3. Paralinguistic (facial expressions, hand movements and laughter)
  4. Symbolic language

Each of the four levels is altered to some extent by emotional centers of brain. The result of all these processes is what we call ‘thinking’.

There is a logical reason flowers and gardens should rank so high on into modern times. The poet Diane Ackerman has expressed it close to perfection:
“A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life-force, all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire.”

Flowers grace our literature, our fashions, our religious ceremonies.

The invention of language in the first place defined as the expression of thought through sounds given arbitrary meaning, was the supreme achievement of human evolution, genetic in its origin, cultural in its elaborations. Without metaphors, we would still be savages.  

Metaphors are the device by which new words, combinations of new words and new meaning of words are invented. An added poetic content invests language with emotion. Language impelled by emotion creates motivation, which drives civilization.  The more advanced the civilization, the more elaborate its metaphors.

Contributions from the social science of the first kind can be in premier journals such as ‘Nature, Science and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those of the second kind, allegiant to the humanities are to be found in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Public Internet and Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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