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April 30th, 2019
Society, school, family, jobs – all of them place more and more restrictions on the forms of behavior that are deemed acceptable. Anyone who ventures outside of these norms is greeted with eye rolls, nervous looks, and worse yet, exile to be filed away in some institution.
Childhood is a time when many of these restrictions are at their most relaxed, though much of childhood seems to be about installing such restrictions.
Don’t do this.
Don’t do that.
But children have yet to import the full brunt of society, school and jobs. And it’s this lack of restriction, this freedom from inhibition that allows children to often see ingenuous little solutions when adults do not.
Professor Alison Gopnik has outlined a framework that characterizes the difference between a child’s consciousness and an average adult:
She describes a child as having ‘Lantern’ consciousness
and adults as having ‘Spotlight’ consciousness.
The difference she seeks to illuminate here is that adults focus on smaller areas of reality, whereas children are focusing on everything that comes their way.
We can further evince the utility here with regards to finding creative solutions by making Gopnik’s image even more extreme.
Take this thought experiment for example:
Let’s say you are camping out in the woods and the sun has gone down and there is no moon, it’s pitch dark but you’ve lost something somewhere around your campsite and you have to find it. Which would allow you to find it faster: a bonfire or a laser pointer?
Clearly a laser pointer is absolutely useless in such a situation as it only illuminates the tiniest pinprick of reality, whereas a bonfire, while lacking the singular bright intensity of a laser pointer, casts enough light in all directions that we can quickly scan all possible places where our missing item might be.
Creativity certainly benefits and flourishes from having certain restrictions in place, but it’s often likely that we have the wrong restrictions in place. Many of the norms that we are conditioned to behave within most likely have little actual utility and function only to hinder what might flourish.
Apple’s incredibly successful marketing campaign highlights this unabashedly by commanding that we ‘think different’
The older generations of our species would probably do very well to learn from the very generations we are so resolute to teach the ways of the world.