Thursday, January 03, 2008

(Un)real world

Why do children ( or,for that matter,adults) spend so much time in an unreal world of fantasy, when there is evolutionary advantage in learning more about the real world?

Alison Gopnik, psychologist, UC Berkeley explains in her article, while responding to The Edge Annual Question 2008 “ What have your changed your mind about?”

For human beings the really important evolutionary advantage is our ability to create new worlds. Look around the room you're sitting in. Every object in that room - the right angle table, the book, the paper, the computer screen, the ceramic cup was once imaginary. Not a thing in the room existed in the pleistocene. Every one of them started out as an imaginary fantasy in someone's mind. And that's even more true of people - all the things I am, a scientist, a philosopher, an atheist, a feminist, all those kinds of people started out as imaginary ideas too. I'm not making some relativist post-modern point here, right now the computer and the cup and the scientist and the feminist are as real as anything can be. But that's just what our human minds do best - take the imaginary and make it real. I think now that cognition is also a way we impose our minds on the world.

…..When children learn and when they pretend they use their knowledge of the world to create new possibilities. So do we whether we are doing science or writing novels. I don't think anymore that Science and Fiction are just both Good Things that complement each other. I think they are, quite literally, the same thing.

So, ‘pretend play’ is not without some use. So, go right ahead and pretend that you are Superman, or Rajnikanth or whatever. That’s the way to unleash your creativity.

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