We all know the Thomas Edison line: genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. But there are those who don’t seem to perspire at all. Their extraordinary gifts seem to come from no where. We often call those people savants. And some neuroscientists are trying to understand where their talents come from.
Larry Rosenblum is a professor of psychology with a focus on perception — he’s written a book about the senses called See What I’m Saying. Rosenblum credits a musical revelation with leading him down that path.
Biologist Bernie Krause believes animals communicate with each other on their own frequency, and when you put all those frequencies together, they interact in a way not unlike a symphony orchestra. He calls it “biophony.”
Jaron Lanier is a pioneering computer scientist, a creator of virtual reality, a musician, and the author of You Are Not a Gadget, which takes a skeptical view of the role we have given technology in our lives. Contrary to a view that the internet encourages creativity (with its infinite possibilities to share content), Lanier worries that it discourages originality and uniqueness in the generation that’s grown up with social media and broadband.
“If your paradigm of reality is that there’s a network structure in place and you fit into it, there are two positions — a peripheral node or a central node. That has profound implications for the way they approach science, art, and creativity,” Lanier says. “There’s a sense that the network encompasses everything. Kids embrace a worldview in which every category of knowledge is already precategorized, and you’re filling in pieces. Ambition becomes one of climbing the network, rather than penetrating further into the mystery that surrounds us.”
Lanier is an advisor to Studio 360’s Science and Creativity series, and gave this talk at the 2012 meeting of our advisory board.