So said Albert Einstein; and one would suppose that he would know!

At a recent discussion at my daughter’s (who seems to be growing intellectually more like her mother daily, according to the husband) we took apart this idea, and asked ourselves if it is still true today.

We had an animated discussion and settled nothing – but there is no harm in that. What is harmful is instant disagreement with no intention of debating the subject. Black Hat thinking has no place at our breakfast tables.

Einstein understood that there is a difference between the analytical thinking so approved of today, and the creative thinking that leads to new and life changing ideas.

In nineteenth century Paris, a great writer thought impossible thoughts and brought forth new and exciting ideas. He was, of course ridiculed and mocked, but Jules Verne retorted “Whatever one man is capable of conceiving; other men will be able to achieve”

I can remember when I was a young child growing up in rural England. We were far from the centre of commerce, and when things went wrong my grandfather would have to fix them himself. The necessity made him a good handy man. Likewise my grandmother, of frugal Yorkshire stock, refused to purchase what could be grown, made or otherwise concocted on the farm and so I grew up knowing the art of a lot of unusual things.

One Christmas I had worried myself into nervous excitement because I had set my heart on a doll’s house and I couldn’t see how Santa was going to get it down the chimney. Of course I needn’t have worried because when I awoke there it was, in all its glory, sitting on a table by the bed.

I learned later, that my grandfather had spent five months secretly working on the gift in his workshop and the resulting home for dolls was a work of art. It had a myriad of personal details; unique touches that can come only from ‘hand made with love’. My grandfather had truly created a work of art.

Recently a friend’s granddaughter made a request for a similar gift – and her husband went out and bought one. I found it sad, because the man himself was quite capable of building one himself – he just never thought of it.

Ideas start in the mind of one person; and it takes creative thinking to bring them out.

We still don’t really know how thinking takes place; we have some knowledge of what parts of the brain can be involved, but the bit that is hidden from us is that moment when the light bulb goes on and we say “Ah ha!” and a new idea is born.

Perhaps we are placing too much faith in the fact that computer games are putting our children into a creative situation – that must be good for them! But I beg to differ. Computer games merely invite us to engage in the practicalities needed to manage the bland and similar worlds of someone else’s contriving.

If that is all you want to do, then go into politics!!

Back in 1953 Alex Osborn wrote a book entitled Applied Imagination in which he explored the need for more creative ideas to solve the problems of society. However, nothing has changed; in fact we are becoming even more sterile in our ability to create new and exciting ideas.

Osborn listed four different types of mental abilities; they were

1. The ability to observe and absorb information.

2. The ability to memorise and to recall information.

3. The ability to analyse and judge information, and

4. The ability to visualise, predict outcomes and generate ideas.

The computer, we are told has put paid to deep thinking; and to a point they may almost be right. But if we consider the four distinct mental abilities listed above we can immediately see that 3 and 4 are outside the ability of today’s computers.

But by allowing computers to take over the first two activities for us, we may have already had a devastating effect on our creative abilities.

Great thinkers like Darwin and Bernard Shaw have told us that their life-changing ideas were the product of them mulling over information they have absorbed themselves. They were a product of juxtaposing two different concepts, sometimes buried deep and needing teasing out of their recall memory; before they could be analysed and a new alignment visualised.

So the first two attributes of a human mind are vitally important to the generation of new ideas, and this is one of the first things we have handed over to our computers.

Children themselves are now handed into the care of computers at a very early age – and I worry that what we are doing is promoting more and more reliance on the memory of the electronic device; along with more and more emphasis on the knowledge (which can so easily be extracted from the computer memory so why bother learning it personally). At the same time we appear to put so very little importance on the creative and imaginative parts of our minds which are still out of reach of the computer.

We, personally, no longer make the things we need – we buy them. We, personally, probably have little understanding of the things we use – we call someone else to fix them.

How soon before we expect others to do our thinking for us – or has it already arrived?

Michele @ Trischel

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