What captures the depth of your imagination?

presents

Christmas morning was a special experience for me as a young child.

Three hundred and sixty five days of anticipation build into one night. I’d struggle to fight off sleep, yearning for the sound of sleigh bells on the roof. My efforts would prove futile as I drifted off, only to awake in the blink of an eye.  I’d shake off the last remnants of sleep and spend the next two minutes in an enlightened state of being as I raced to discover what awaited that morning.

I was fully captured by the possibilities, the anticipation, the excitement. My imagination was fully engaged.

I now have the privilege of watching this drama play out through the eyes of my three young daughters on Christmas morning.  The expressions on their faces are my favorite part. Their rosy cheeks, still warm from sleep, can’t fully hide their excitement as they race to discover what awaits them.

These are magical moments, moments that we dismiss as rare and special far too easily.  As adults, we are content to leave these moments to children, telling ourselves that we have transcended the need to entertain such simplistic tendencies.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent enough time with “adults” and they can keep their unimaginative maturity.

What strikes me further about imagination and an experience like Christmas morning is the depth of it.  A child on Christmas morning is fully engaged in the imagination of the moment.  They aren’t participating half-heartedly, they are locked in a dance with awe and wonder at a level that adults seem to slowly lose the ability appreciate.

The question I ask myself is, “What has the ability to capture my imagination produce an experience at that level?”.  Our world is so completely filled with fascinating sights and experiences that we’ve become numb to the works of imagination around us. We’ve scalded our imagination to famous architecture, insightful art or even a beautiful landscape for the hum drum monotony of life.

Einstein famously said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination”.  We observe this in children, yet struggle to reconnect with it as adults. This says to me that our struggle for imagination is not an effort of learning something new, but reclaiming what the process of maturity has seemingly stolen.  Seeing adults go through this process of rediscovering their imagination captures mine and gives me tremendous hope.

What captures your imagination so completely that time seems to stand still?

Two challenges facing the human race.

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I see two challenges facing the human race.

Water shortages

The current potable water crisis in California is a foreshadowing of the unforeseen consequences of climate change and population explosion. Simple conservation will not be enough. Our planet’s natural water cycle is struggling under the burden humans have placed upon it in their unflinching quest for water. We can survive without oil but we cannot survive without water.

Short-Term Thinking

The second is more subtle, but I believe Western society has discarded and forgotten the importance of the softer attributes of what it means to be human. Our quest for progress has pushed aside anything that does not immediately contribute to short term goals and profit. We esteem this pursuit in the media and the “have-nots” are left with two choices. They either resign their drive to succeed and “coast” through the rest of their life, or consciously object and pursue a life at the edge of traditional society through other means.

This is catching up to us as the current trend of press around “Why aren’t millennials <fill in the blank>”. I’m a millennial myself (born in 1982, so at the top end) but see this distinction clearly between my social group.

Society will be forced to repay and repair the rips to our social fabric that have been created. Humans aren’t ready to face this, but I believe I will see the pendulum swing back during my lifetime.

How much of the world will software eat?

I stepped into a fun riff on Twitter where Marc Andreessen published a 15-part tweet-blog on his thoughts on the limits of AI and Robots and their effect on society.

The concept captures my imagination because the media is quick jump to the inevitable end depicted in the Matrix where our machines come alive and Human beings become biological battery power in a post-apocalyptic world.  Once singularity is achieved, humans fall to the dark side of evolution as we slowly welcome the ascension of our new robot overlords.

While that makes for a good Hollywood screenplay, it doesn’t work for two reasons.

First, computers systems will never replace Humans because they lack judgement. Machines can easily distinguish between good and bad options, but they cannot predict taste and style.  Judgement is the result of a lifetime’s experience of constantly making choices, choices where there are multiple positive outcomes. This doesn’t translate to the world of machines where basic rules and logic make up a computers brain.

Second, artificial intelligence falls far short in creativity. They cannot “muster up” the next Mona Lisa or replicate Shakespeare through an digital force of will.  Creativity is the ability to transcend tradition, moving beyond the known into the unknown. If a human programs a machine by transferring its “known” knowledge into instructions, how can the machine ever move beyond it’s own reality into the unknown? The answer? It can’t.

So how much of the world will software eat?

Machines are making a monumental impact in every area of society and as the generations pass by, they will become more and more accepted as a sub-class of steward, albeit more intelligently with each iteration. I believe the impact of this shift won’t be a replacement of what it means to be human, but an amplification of the amount of time we have to focus and spend on the things that truly make us human.

The inevitable end is not the singularity of machines, but the self-actualization of human beings in a beautiful chorus of individual creativity and art.

Optimistic? Maybe. But, that end would be much more interesting then the drab and hopeless background of the Matrix, even if you could learn Kung-Fu in 5 seconds.