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165 Ways to think bigger and think better

by Andrew Taylor Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For over a decade now, John Brockman has been posting a single question to brilliant people, and gathering their responses. Past questions have included “What will change everything?” in 2009, or “What do you believe is true, even though you cannot prove it?” in 2005. This year’s question is particularly important and compelling, as it encourages insights that will help us think better: 

“What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

While you can buy the book to read the responses from economists, artists, philosophers, mathematicians, neuroscientists, and others. You can also read all of their responses online. Pace yourself. It’s a bucket-load of brilliance.

Of particular interest to this blog, of course, are those entries that emphasize the arts, or artistic process, as a “way of knowing” and a “way of thinking” in the world. For example, the response from curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who suggests that curating, itself, is an increasingly essential way of seeing and knowing the world. Says he:

I believe “curate” finds ever-wider application because of a feature of modern life that is impossible to ignore: the incredible proliferation of ideas, information, images, disciplinary knowledge, and material products that we all witnessing today. Such proliferation makes the activities of filtering, enabling, synthesizing, framing, and remembering more and more important as basic navigational tools for 21st centurylife. These are the tasks of the curator, who is no longer understood as simply the person who fills a space with objects but as the person who brings different cultural spheres into contact, invents new display features, and makes junctions that allow unexpected encounters and results. 

The evolving world requires all of us in arts and culture to think bigger and think better. But the importance of these reflections goes far beyond that. Artists, arts organizations, and cultural connectors have a rather unique and essential role to play in helping us all think bigger and think better. If you agree, then resources like this one should be the subject of staff meetings, board meetings, community reading circles, and coffee conversations. 

Go, get smart.

Bright Ideas