Why Great Artists, Leaders, and Scientists Open Their Minds to Uncertainty

Science and the arts both reward curiousness and uncertainty. They both attract great outside-the-box minds.

Mind & Brain

You don't learn anything from being certain—you're far more likely to learn something by throwing yourself into something unknown and figuring it out. Science rewards uncertainty, and neurologist Beau Lotto says it is science where uncertainty is it’s actually celebrated. In saying that he might be overlooking more pedantic professions (i.e. detectives and chefs are two jobs where, one can imagine, you have to operate on figuring things out on the fly) but Beau's point is clear: science is an area where you are constantly putting your brain into a space that is open and celebrates uncertainty and possibility. To be great at this, he suggests it takes a talent not unlike that of the great artists and painters and writers and musicians of history. Beau Lotto's new book is Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently.

Why creative people are actually highly logical

Is creativity a wild and free state of mind, or is it actually a pattern that others just can't recognize?

Surprising Science

To ensure your survival, your brain evolved to avoid one thing: uncertainty. As neuroscientist Beau Lotto points out, if your ancestors wondered for too long whether that noise was a predator or not, you wouldn't be here right now. Our brains are geared to make fast assumptions, and questioning them in many cases quite literally equates to death. No wonder we're so hardwired for confirmation bias. No wonder we'd rather stick to the status quo than risk the uncertainty of a better political model, a fairer financial system, or a healthier relationship pattern. But here's the catch: as our brains evolved toward certainty, we simultaneously evolved away from creativity—that's no coincidence; creativity starts with a question, with uncertainty, not with a cut and dried answer. To be creative, we have to unlearn millions of years of evolution. Creativity asks us to do that which is hardest: to question our assumptions, to doubt what we believe to be true. That is the only way to see differently. And if you think creativity is a chaotic and wild force, think again, says Beau Lotto. It just looks that way from the outside. The brain cannot make great leaps, it can only move linearly through mental possibilities. When a creative person forges a connection between two things that are, to your mind, so far apart, that's a case of high-level logic. They have moved through steps that are invisible to you, perhaps because they are more open-minded and well-practiced in questioning their assumptions. Creativity, it seems, is another (highly sophisticated) form of logic. Beau Lotto is the author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently.

Do Our Senses Reveal the World—Or Do They Obscure It?

Our brains didn't evolve to see the world accurately, we only perceive what is useful and apply meaning to it. Neuroscientist Beau Lotto shows us how the sausage of reality is made.

Videos

We know the world exists, we just don’t know what it actually looks like—and it's likely that we never will, says neuroscientist Beau Lotto. Humans can only access reality, whatever it may be, through the filter of our sensory organs, which interpret "inherently meaningless" data in ways that are useful for our survival. We don't see the world as it is, we see the world that helps us to live. It can be a concept that's hard to wrap your mind around: how is that chair not as I see it? What color is an apple, really? Lotto calls on two clarifying examples: "Dressgate", which blew people's minds in 2015 and exposed that perception is not objective, and the color spectrum, of which we only see a small slice of. Beau Lotto is the author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently.

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