Saturday, September 09, 2006


I discovered today that arti has a wiki about Knowledge Building and Innovation.

I have just posted some extracts there, mainly citing from some authors I like about what is creativity (on the Innovation page)

Douglas Hofstadter's idea is "Variations on a Theme as the Crux of Creativity" (a 1982 essay in Metamagical Themas) . This implies a few things. You probably have to know something deeply before you can come up with a good variation. It has been said that it takes 10 years to learn a field deeply, eg. Mozart, started at 5 yo and was a master by 15 yo. One educational implication is that it is important to spend time on basic skills as part of approaching the creative edge. I think the fluency part of the mantra is important. It also implies that slippage is a part of concepts within themselves, you don't necessarily need to juxtapose two ideas together (Koestler's bisociative requirement) because things naturally divide anyway, just like the so-called elementary particles of physics are always dividing into something new.

Extract from Hofstadter:
The notion ("Variations on a theme") encompasses knobs, parameter, slippability, counterfactual conditionals, subjunctives, "almost" situations, implicospheres (things that never were but we can't help seeing anyway), conceptual skeletons, mental reifications, memory retrieval - and more
Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences author) said in one of his books that it was important to encourage young people to learn one thing really well

Marvin Minsky (Society of Mind 7.10):
... in order to accumulate outstanding qualities, one needs unusually effective ways to learn. It's not enough to learn a lot; one also has to manage what one learns. Those masters have, beneath the surface of their mastery, some special knacks of "higher order" expertise, which help them organise and apply the things they learn. It is those hidden tricks on mental management that produce the systems that create those works of genius. Why do certain people learn so many more and better skills? These all important differences could begin with early accidents. One child works out clever ways to arrange some blocks in rows and stacks; a second child plays at rearranging how it thinks. Everyone can praise the first child's castles and towers, but no one can see what the second child has done, and one may even get the false impression of a lack of industry. But if the second child persists in seeking better ways to learn, this can lead to silent growth in which some better ways to learn may lead to better ways to learn to learn. Then, later, we'll observe an awesome, qualitative change, with no apparent cause - and give to it some empty name like talent, aptitude, or gift
The thoughts of Hofstadter, Gardner and Minsky have considerable implications for those of us wanting to achieve creativity in ourselves and others (our students). You have to know a domain well before you can be creative within it. This can only come about through passion, motivation, love for that domain, which will sustain the hard work required. You need to have the freedom to explore it and not be tied down to a mechanical productivity appraisal, so that the silent growth that Minsky refers to has a chance to happen.

My earlier blog posts, Dennetts creatures and behaviourism and the inner environment also offer a non question begging account of the evolution of human intelligence:
Gregorian creatures are named after Richard Gregory, an information theorist. Gregorian creatures import mind-tools (words) from the outer cultural environment to create an inner environment which improve both the generators and testers.

Gregorian creatures ask themselves, "How can I learn to think better about what to think about next?" ...

Finally, we have Scientific creatures which is an organised process of making and learning from mistakes in public, of getting others to assist in the recognition and correction of mistakes.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Bill,
How cool is it that teachers from the "trembly isles" can build knowledge with help from those "across the ditch"? Arti