Last week I had a bit of time to kill so I loaded the TED talks app on my surgery TV. One of the talks that caught my attention was by David Eagleman. He is a neuroscientist who’s name popped out at me because he has written a couple of books on my “to read” list about how the brain works.
So when I was deciding which audiobook to download next and I saw that he had just released a new book I thought that had to be my choice.
In The Runaway Species, Eagleman along with Anthony Brandt discuss how humans have conquered the world over the last 10,000 years, not because of their superior dexterity or use of language but rather because of their ability for creative thinking. The vastly increased numbers of neural connections that accompanied the cognitive revolution brought with it the ability to remake the world around us, building on the ideas and work of our ancestors to shape the future.
A lot of the book is spent discussing the 3 main ways in which creativity arises. These all use existing ideas which are then bent, broken or blended:
Bending is a makeover of an existing prototype, opening up a wellspring of possibilities through alterations in size, shape, material, chronology and more.
Breaking enables us to take something solid or continuous and fracture it into managaeable pieces. Our brains parse the world into units which can then be reworked or rebuilt.
Blending takes 2 ideas or items and mixes them to create a new concept with different properties or benefits. Such as blending football and golf to create footgolf or blending calcite forming bacteria with traditional concrete to create a self healing construction material.
I have found The Runaway Species to be thought provoking and deeply interesting although I was hoping for it to also provide more actionable material. This feels like it has been created to try to inspire budding scientists, artists and innovators while also highlighting the importance of this topic for those individuals tasked with teaching the next generation. However I feel like with just a little more detail it would have been possible to also put forward more of the best theories for how to maximise personal creativity. If you would like to make up your own mind about this book have a look here: https://amzn.to/2HoEHa4
Dr Chris Harper