Imagination in all of its applications

I found out that in science in all its application what is crucial is not that technical ability, but it is imagination in all of its application. The ability to form concepts with images of entities and processes pictured by intuition. I found out that advances in science rarely come upstream from an ability to stand at a blackboard and conjure images from unfolding mathematical proposition and equations. They are instead the product of downstream imagination leading to hard work during which mathematical reasoning may or may not prove to be relevant. Ideas emerge when a part of the real or imagined world is studied for its own sake. Of foremost importance is a thorough, well organised knowledge of all of that is know of the relevant entities and processes in that domain you propose to enter.

E.O. Wilson’s Advice to Young Scientists is a no-nonsense presentation of the wisdom gained from Wilson’s long career as a scientist and teacher. He offers several principles on which to base a scientific career, much of which applies beyond the sciences.

Technobiophilia

It can be found in the images on our machines, in the spaces we cultivate in our online communities, and in the language we use every day of our digital lives. It began the moment we moved into the alien, shape-shifting territory of the internet and prompted a resurgence of that ancient call to life, biophilia.

Sue Thomas discusses the thinking behind the slighly clunky term technobiophilia. Biophilia is a concept that E.O. Wilson defines as “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” Thomas is extending the concept to encounters with lifelike process in the digital realm.

She gives the example of Deltcho Valtchanov’s 2010 PHD thesis, which “concluded that encounters with nature in virtual reality have beneficial effects similar to encounters with real natural spaces. In other words, it seems that you can gain equal benefit from walking in a forest as from viewing an image of a forest or, as in my case, from watching virtual goldfish as opposed to real ones.”

As a web geek that is also a bit of a nature boy, I’m both intrigued and skeptical. I tend to get my biophila fix in by getting lost in the woods, rather than getting lost in virtual woods. Fortunately, Thomas has recently written a what appears to be a well-researched book that will allow me to explore the topic further.