A scientific case for curious

I’m a bit of a closet science nerd. Even if I can’t begin to understand a lot of it, that has never stopped me from finding it fascinating. For example, despite it being a prelude to robots taking over the world and my eventual enslavement, I found the following particularly interesting and relevant to our agency.

As computer scientists continue to examine behavior in the world of artificial intelligence, they have found that even the top learning algorithms don’t reach their potential when they are not allowed to explore a bit. To “think” outside of their programmed routine. Without that freedom, algorithms get stuck in a virtual rut, tending to produce the same responses over and over. But when algorithms are weighted to be rewarded for trying something new when considering different possible actions, something magical and altogether human happens. They ultimately end up better off in the long run when they’re allowed to leave the beaten path. They become more successful because they are able to gather knowledge about different behaviors, even if it didn’t benefit them immediately.

We humans can learn a lot from that.

Fortunately, nature has cleverly built into each of us a trait called neoteny, which is defined as the retention of juvenile characteristics in an adult organism. One of the main characteristics of neoteny is an ability to retain our childlike curiosity and imagination. This prolonged childhood of sorts allows us to internalize and develop a more robust and complex cognitive and behavioral repertoire. It allows us to keep the window of opportunity wide open for producing new networks in our brain. But, if we fail to nurture that childhood characteristic, we too are destined to get stuck in a rut and not reach our full potential.

The implications are pretty clear. Whether making art or meaningful strides in science, philosophy or business, human curiosity is our secret weapon. To push forward. To find new and better.

Being curious is neither optional nor up for debate here. It’s an integral part of how we work. It makes us question, experiment, explore, adapt and learn. It helps us to solve business challenges in new ways for our clients, which has become more relevant than ever. And, at the risk of quoting Albert Einstein, I’m going to quote Albert Einstein. He pronounced, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Something to think about as we wait for the machines to rise up. Which I’m guessing will come in the form of a well-coordinated cyberattack on key infrastructure, starting with our coffee makers.

Steve Casey

SVP, Executive Creative Director

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