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Week 8 (emergence)

Paul Grobstein's picture

Interesting to have the addition of things related to emergence from people outside our course. What new thoughts/questions do those prompt?

rob's picture

the g word

oh, oh god. god. flowers are pretty. like really pretty and amazingly intricate and elegant arrangements of matter. at the risk of getting assaulted, i'm going to say that i believe to a certain degree in intelligent design. i believe that there are certain non-physical energies in the world that enable things like creativity and community and morality and justice. if all we are is objects moving through space, ethics don't make any sense. there is no such thing as a good electron.

i play music. a lot of music, and i listen to even more. i really want to believe that there's more to music than just sound waves triggering neurological responses like the release of seratonin in my brain. i want to believe that there's a spiritual energy or tendency that our brains can tap into that shapes what we do. i don't want to believe that songs and paintings and poems originate in the random gray matter in our heads, but rather, i like the idea of there being a nonphysical creative energy that we channel when we formulate artistic expression. and if we can accept that such a force exists, then maybe, nature is a direct manifestation of this energy, which brings things not only toward order but beauty as well.

natsu's picture

Creativity in the absence of conscioussness

I was thinking about the discussion we had after the book presentations of Steven Strogatz’s ‘ Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order’ and the idea that nothing can be creative without consciousness. It really made me think about the two levels of thought processes- the conscious and the unconscious, and the definition of creativity. Personally, I strongly agree that one cannot call something creative, if it was formed unconsciously. I do think that something beautiful , fascinating and truly amazing can be formed without a conscious mind, and that it can have the power to strongly draw us to the phenomena (I think that nature and natural selection is an excellent example). However, I would not define the emergence of such things as being creative.

The discussion also made me think once again about a very old forum post and the discussion we had in class about music and how objectively speaking every music can have a pattern or not have one. I guess I hesitated to completely agree with the statement, because to me, if we define music having a pattern as something like repetition of sounds, that just is not creative, and to me, creativity is a requirement for music. For example, a siren is a repetition of sounds, and it definitely has a pattern, but it is not music. It isn’t creative. A group of people simultaneously making sounds may accidently form something amazing, but that isn’t creativity to me. That is, unless they consciously realize that have come up with something fascinating, and make a conscious effort to try to continue the beautiful music. From there, there is plenty of potential for creativity to emerge.  

biophile's picture

That makes sense. I wouldn't

That makes sense. I wouldn't call something that emerged arbitrarily creative. I don't look at flowers and say "wow, that's such a creative invention!" And I don't listen to background noise on the street, like cars honking or doors slamming, and say, "this has a nice beat to it... very creative."

That being said, I think there are certain things that we label as creative that aren't the result of conscious processes. A lot of important ideas have been conceived in the most random moments: while driving, after waking up, in the shower... It reminds me of the story of how Archimedes supposedly thought of a way to measure the density of solid objects while taking a bath and then ran through the streets of the city in his excitement. The solutions to problems often come to us when we're not consciously thinking about them. I'd say that the solutions are creative because something is obviously going on in our unconscious minds, something is making connections for us.