Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.
Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia. Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought. It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to “think outside the box”, say experts from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
In some people, it leads to mental illness. But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms.
Take a look behind the scenes of the ‘What If…?’ display in the windows of the Wellcome Trust; an exploration by designers into the ways in which science might shape our future. This video includes interviews with the creators of the Cloud Project, the Synthetic Kingdom and the Race: projects that speculate about the possible influence of synthetic biology, co-existence with bacteria and even seeding clouds to snow ice cream.
Stewart Brand, the ecological visionary and creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, is more persuaded. Brand has got to know Venter over the last couple of years through John Brockman’s Edge initiative which brings together the world’s pioneering minds. What differentiates Venter from many of his peers, Brand believes, is that he is not only a brilliant biologist, but also a brilliant organisational activist. “A lot of people can think big but Craig also has the ability to fund big: he doesn’t wait for grants, he just gets on and finds a way to do these things. His great contribution will be to impress on people that we live in this vast biotic of microbes. What he has shown is that microbial ecology is now where everything is at.”
Brand once suggested that “we are as gods and we might as well get good at it”. That statement has gained greater urgency with climate change, he suggests. “Craig is one of those who is rising to the occasion, showing us how good we can be.”