On the Principles of Imagination and Creativity: Philosophy, Neuroscience, and the 4IR

On the Principles of Imagination and Creativity: Philosophy, Neuroscience, and the 4IR

Rajashree Chaurasia (Directorate of Training and Technical Education, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9188-7.ch001

Abstract

Human beings are the only mammals to be able to utilize high-level cognitive functions to build knowledge, innovate, and communicate their complex ideas. Imagination, creativity, and innovation are interlinked in the sense that one leads to the other. This chapter details the concepts of imagery, imagination, and creativity and their inter-relationships in the first section. Next, the author discusses the historical perspectives of imagination pertaining to the accounts of famous philosophers and psychologists like Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Descartes, Sartre, Husserl, and Wittgenstein. Section 3 and 4 present the neuro-biological correlates of imagination and creativity, respectively. Brain regions, neuronal circuits, genetic basis, as well as the evolutionary perspective of imagination and creativity are elicited in these sections. Finally, creativity and innovation are explored as to how they will contribute to knowledge build-up and advances in science, engineering, and business in the fourth industrial revolution and the imagination age.
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Introduction

  • Come with me and you'll be

  • In a world of pure imagination

  • Take a look and you'll see

  • Into your imagination

  • We'll begin with a spin

  • Trav’ling in the world of my creation

  • What we'll see will defy

  • Explanation

  • (Bricusse & Newley, 1971, track 5, verse 1)

The excerpt above has been taken from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In the scene featuring this verse, Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder) sings this song, titled “Pure imagination”, while introducing the golden ticket winners to the Chocolate Room of his chocolate factory. We see the extraordinary world Willy Wonka has created because of his imagination where there is a chocolate waterfall, a chocolate river, toadstools made of candy and cream, trees with candy and giant gummies as fruit, giant lollipops growing as if from the grass, etc.; a chocolate lovers’ delight! Here is a fictional example of how pure imagination can give rise to fantastic creations. In real life too, there are numerous examples of such feats, be it in art, music, scientific discoveries and inventions, entertainment, engineering, medicine, architecture, construction, business, etc. In everyday life, everyone uses their faculties of imagination and creativity in dealing with everyday situations and making decisions, responding to novel changes in their environment, and the like.

Imagination, creativity and innovation are factors that contribute to an animal’s intelligence and not all species share these traits. Imagination and creativity are the high-level cognitive functions of the brain that make us human. Rudimentary imaginative and creative abilities have been shown to be present in bees, ants, birds, rats, and the great apes (see McNamara et al., 2007; Gould, 1990; Wehner & Menzel, 1990; Durier et al., 2003; Visalberghi & Fragaszy, 2001; Layman, 2010; Mitchell, 2012; Soler et al., 2014). However, human beings are the only mammals to be able to utilise these functions to build knowledge, innovate, discover, invent and communicate their complex ideas. Imagination and creativity are interlinked in the sense that one leads to the other. Innovation stems from creativity as has been reported by many scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, inventors and geniuses. Thus, all these concepts are inter-related in one way or another. This chapter begins with the concepts of imagery, imagination and creativity and their relationships in the first section. Next, the author discusses the historical perspectives of imagination pertaining to the accounts of famous philosophers like Aristotle, Kant, Descartes and Wittgenstein. Section three and four present the neurobiological correlates of imagination and creativity, respectively. Brain regions, neuronal circuits, genetic basis as well as the evolutionary perspective of imagination and creativity are elicited here. Finally, creativity and innovation are explored as to how they will contribute to knowledge build-up and advances in science, engineering and business in the fourth industrial revolution and the imagination age.

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Imagery, Imagination And Creativity

Mark J. Polland (1996), in his doctoral dissertation, examined 44 accounts of experiencing imagery along with creative discoveries made by scientists, artists, musicians and writers. Among the 29 scientists’ accounts he studied, were the ones of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Nikola Tesla and many more. This tells us that imagery and imagination are necessary ingredients of creative works of not only artists, musicians, writers and designers, but also of the creative inventors and scientific researchers. Let us first examine each concept and its meaning and then try to grasp their inter-relationships.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Creativity: Is the process of generation of novel ideas, that bear some value or significance in a wider context, that requires expert knowledge, practice and skill in the field in which the creative ideas are shaped. Imagination plays a major role in the generation such ideas.

Neurons: Are a functional unit of the nervous system and differ in appearance depending on their function and location that consist of three major components – a cell body (soma), an axon, and dendrites.

4IR: Is the ensuing era of computing, with the amalgamation of emergent technologies like cognitive and machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things, wearable technology, biotechnology, 3D printing, smart cities, etc. to create a smart world where everything communicates with everything else intelligently, with the purpose of achieving the unthinkable.

Default Mode Network: Consists of the medial temporal, posterior cingulate cortex, medial praecuneus, inferior parietal and prefrontal regions of the brain and remains active during the brain’s resting state as well as during cognitive tasks such as daydreaming, mind-wandering, anticipation of the future, self-referential judgements, etc.

Mirror Neurons: Are a class of visuomotor neurons found in the human brain’s motor cortex, that fires both in the presence of meaningless intransitive movements and movements forming an action.

Innovation: Is the process of executing these novel ideas to create a new product or implementing that idea in some way.

Imagery: Is a process of creating mental images that helps us to form memories, retain information for future recall, think and reason about objects not present in the visual field.

Imagination Age: A new era beyond the information age, where creativity and imagination are gaining momentum as the major originators of economic importance.

Imagination: Is the process of forming mental images of what is not actually present to the senses. It also allows anticipating the outcome of an action without actually performing it via simulation and plays a significant role in visionary and creative thought.

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