Robbert Dijkgraaf is a theoretical physicist and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is also the co-author of " The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge".
Dijkgraaf explains how Albert Einstein saw the world in a different way from how most scientists see it. Following is a transcript of the video.
Einstein was a true genius and it’s the example that we all aspire to be as a scientist. But already as a child he had a very original way of thinking.
So from the very beginning, for Einstein, his imagination was crucial. He was not such a good student because he was a very original thinker.
And I think that was, kind of, the magic touch that he had. He always had a completely original point of view. He somehow didn’t conform to the existing theories, and he was always thinking in his own particular way.
His favorite way to operate as a scientist was the thought experiment. And he describes for instance, the crucial moment, where he essentially discovered the theory of general relativity.
He was watching workers on the roof of a building and suddenly thought whoa what would happen if they fell down. And then he realized, if you fall down, you no longer experience gravity.
And that, in some sense, that’s the natural motion and that actual led him to derive the theory of general relativity and described that moment as the happiest moment in his life.
And later he said something that I actually find personally very comforting: Is that imagination is much more important than knowledge because knowledge describes what we know. Imagination is describing everything that we can potentially know in the future. ~ RD
It seems that Dijkgraaf does not know that all children have such an imagination. Are all as 'original' as Einstein? Maybe and maybe not. We know that we live in a social imagination. There is no other place. Charles H. Cooley pointed that years ago. I like to think that the social imagination is a kind of quantum computer with a programmed in default mode operation that sometimes get overridden by corrupted imaginations - corrupted 'data' information. Why? Well, this is a world where entropy exists and that might be the reason. Information just decays and though the speed of a quantum computer is incredibly fast, entropy has its effect.
So, what happens to most children is that there 'original' imagination gets overridden by a decaying or overriding program - lets call them parents and teachers. Einstein was not a good student and had a kind of dysfunction family life. So, maybe simply because those two social 'programs' information interactors were loosely associated with him Einstein was freer to go beyond his 'social imagination'.
But, since we are all social actors/interactors living in a social imagination, how could being loosely associated be a benefit? Or even possible? In a state of entropy, information decays. Like in the game of telephone, the real information is often transformed. Not always for good and not always for bad and what is bad and good anyway in terms of information. That is determined by the users. And, we are all users.
As users of information, we all want to do well with it. So, we conform to the current usage in order to stay in the circle of information and social imagination we have to come know through usage. It is what is comfortable. Some may or may not be more comfortable outside of that circle and some may have a better means to circumnavigate it or find solutions to pitfalls in the usage. So, making the most of useless knowledge is right.
There is also the risk of accepting corrupted information. Quantum computer programmers are aware of that. As I understand it, it is best to go or act on the premise that all information is useful and adjustments can be made. Like God who can make all things good because God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
In the chain of information exchange in the social imagination, we can imagine that this is the same process. Entropy impacts the 'original' information imparted to the social imagination or let us say that it either gets distorted more and more as it moves on down the line and yet picks up the slack by filling the blanks. Now, the next one who receives can either continue that or inject even more utilizing a 'freer' aspect of the social imagination which is what I called the concept creative... which I wrote about in my doctoral dissertation.
One might think that what really happens is that aspect of the social imagination gets contaminated by corrupted information circulated in the social imagination. But is it? As with the quantum computer, performance at a high level is only possible when all information is accepted as useful.
One might consider this the act of free will in order to perform at a high level, being that all information is of the social imagination and was/is socially created by social creatures and programmed by social creatures, then somehow its all useful... right? Yes and No. Again, it simply returns to what is useful and what is not depending on the users. it too has that aspect. The real problem for this entire process is if the users themselves fall into doubt. If corruption creeps in that being doubt, it will no longer perform at the high level that it was originally able to.
Yes, doubt by the user is in fact that which produces 'error'. It was introduced to mankind in the garden and we as users are no under its authority - we doubt the source. We continue to doubt and largely stems from being social creatures in as much as it does from being a created entity as an individual thinker who would or should know that one can make use of all information as all information is socially generated and all is usable in the social imagination. This should and it would make us better performers or more original performers so to speak as we would no longer doubt being able to make good on all information exchanged. But, that also means that in order to be such an individual in the social imagination, one would have to recognize the truer nature of the one in the many and never doubt that... = all information is usable.