Dear Kim,

On 26 Mar 2009, at 11:33, Kim Jones wrote:
>
>
> Dear Bruno
>
> (Here I am putting on the hat of the sensei)
>
>
> I hope you are wrong on this. Usually I hope you are right on  
> everything, because you usually have the "ring of truth" about you.  
> Here, unfortunately I feel in my adenoids you have the "ring of  
> fear" (like dear Johnny Mikes) - but I could be wrong. Why would  
> teaching the joy, the love, the fascination of something make that  
> thing less than what it is?


Be sure that I may be wrong indeed. Be sure it is possible that we are  
not talking about the same things. And be sure conversations are  
interesting only as far as it it is between people disagreeing :)

But here is what I think.

I can teach math, but I can't teach the joy of math. I can just let it  
happen and encourage it. I can teach math, but I cannot teach the  
fascination of math. I can share it with those who are sensible to  
similar questions.

I cannot teach beauty, nor truth, nor imagination. Only by example,  
letting myself attract to truth, beauty, and making free my imagination.

I can't teach courage either. Some can show it and provide lessons,  
again by exemples, but those who don't fear, will learn nothing. That  
is why bibles, movies and dreams can teach a lot, but much less than  
"real" life.



>
> Teaching creativity leads straight to hell if you are Hitler, or  
> Mengele or Madoff or Bush or Aristotle or ....... (sorry - not in  
> Alpha order)


Hitler has not been creative. He was just not enough dumb  to kill all  
creativity in his neighborhood.




>
> If the VALUES of the creativity teacher are fine, then the outcome  
> will merely depend on the VALUES of the STUDENTS. That probably  
> depends on their parents, their socio-economic background, their  
> religion, their life-story their drug-use, their whatever.



OK, I think that creativity is a value by itself, akin to  
intelligence, and love. You seem talking about some competence. This  
you can teach, but usually it has a negative feedback on intelligence  
and creativity.





>
> Some people may be better at creativity (lateral thinking) just as  
> some people may be better at mathematics


For most mathematicians, to be good at mathematics *is* to be creative  
in mathematics.



> but this does not mean that there is a process that cannot be  
> learned and used. As I said, Edward de Bono ALONE AMONGST ALL HUMANS  
> worked out for himself (by '68) what creativity IS.


Edward de Bono is creative himself, and quite generous in his  
interesting ideas. I have used some of them when working in artificial  
intelligence, like I have used some inspiring abstract problem solving  
tips by Polya. But I would not count that as a teaching of creativity,  
more as a collection of creative ideas, including ideas pertaining on  
creativity. it is an interesting subject. But like many things in  
psychology, we can study those ideas, not use them normatively; and  
thus we cannot teach them as such.
We can give tips and clues.

Perhaps I have a problem just with the expression "teaching  
creativity". It seems to me this is a contradiction per se. To be  
creative is somehow to be able to make something new, and thus which  
escape the teaching. I think we all have this ability in us, but for  
social and life pressure we are not encourage to do so, except in  
singular situation.

To sum up, my "fear" is that by teaching lateral thinking, you, and  
your students, will end up making it vertical.

(I think creativity is something obeying the laws of the contrary  
effect: Bp -> ~p. Like consistency for Lobian Machine.)




>
> Some people have 'the gift' of creativity to be sure - but  
> creativity itself is NOT a gift. Gift from whom? From what? Come on   
> - get real!!!!
>
> Lateral Thinking (=creativity) and vertical thinking are  
> COMPLIMENTARY - not antagonistic.



All universal machine are creative, and thinking exists for all  
angles, in many multidimensional directions.

In mathematics alone many would agree that recursion and set theory  
are vertical, algebra and category theory are horizontal.




>
> It can be shown that creativity can make people generate more ideas,  
> and by definition gifts cannot be taught.



The gift is the neighborhood which let you develop the creativity.





> In my book, NOTHING is 'a gift' because I can never be sure what or  
> who is doing the giving (thank you for this enlightenment Dawkins,  
> Dennet, Hitchens, Harris, de Monfroy, Vic Stenger et al).


Those damned Aristotelian theologians who are not even aware they are  
so!

(Assuming comp I could argue that it is arithmetical truth which is  
doing the giving).



> My only 'gifts' came from the genes of my parents - things I did not  
> have to 'learn' - like musical ability (Fuck, how I wish I had  
> quantum physicists for parents!!!!!!)
>
> There is nothing mysterious or metaphysical about creativity!  
> Creativity is a way of HANDLING INFORMATION. Please stop  
> metaphysicalising creativity! If only Superman or Jesus can be  
> creative then we are all screwed!!!! When you do this, you become AN  
> INCONSISTENT MACHINE!!!!!!!



All universal machine are creative. All humans are universal machine.  
So all humans are creative. Some are more lucky than others in the way  
they can develop it.





>
> Many people are scared of creativity because they think (feel) that  
> it threatens the validity (=supremacy) of (academic) VERTICAL  
> thinking.



Academies, when sane and not rotten, are natural place where  
creativity can develop, together with intelligence and beauty and all  
that.
I think we are barbarian because theologies, in general, have been  
abandoned to authoritative arguments, which truly have no places in  
(again, sane) academies.





> (Vertical thinking = where you must be 'right' at every step of the  
> way and therefore 'consistent'). This is not so at all. The two  
> processes are complimentary - not antagonistic. Remember, Socrates  
> sold the car with only the front left wheel. I am selling the OTHER  
> THREE WHEELS!!!!! Creativity (=lateral thinking) is useful for  
> GENERATING ideas and approaches, vertical thinking (= logical,  
> academic, lawyer-style, "I am right, you are wrong"-style thinking  
> is useful for DEVELOPING ideas. Lateral Thinking enhances the valuse  
> of Vertical Thinking by offering it MORE TO SELECT FROM. Vertical  
> thinking multiplies the effectiveness of Lateral Thinking by making  
> good use of the ideas generated.


I agree with this. Just that creativity can be encouraged, tips can be  
given. But it is like in the Chess play, creativity develops by the  
acceptance of constraints. Creative thinking develops in science and  
it art, by the good teaching of the non creative parts, itself the  
result of the creativity of the predecessors, I think.



>
> Most of the time, one will be using vertical thinking, but when one  
> needs to use lateral thinking (as in the present moment in history,  
> where we are desperate for a 'new idea') - no amount of excellence  
> in vertical thinking will do instead.

The ideas are here. It is the communication inflation which are  
problematic.



> To persist i n vertical thinking when one should (if one is a  
> consistent machine) be using lateral thinking is HIGHLY DANGEROUS.  
> In truth, one needs skill at both types of thinking.

But we do it all the times, in many fields. And the results are always  
a bit frightening. So *new* ideas takes time, always.


>
> Creativity is like the reverse gear in a car. One would be a crazy  
> fool to attempt to drive everywhere in reverse gear. On the other  
> hand, one cleary nbeeds to ahve it and to be educated to know when   
> it's use is necessary - for example, how to get out of a cul-de-sac.


The ideas are here, all along with us. But people are sleepy, and  
forget to think about them. They are a bit coward, too.
Well, this leads usually to catastrophes, and hopefully this reawaken  
creativity.

I would already be so happy if people could understand how bad lies  
can be. But today some industries work mainly on lies, on the type  
"you need that car", "you need that medication", etc. This generates  
fake moneys, and castles on sands. You can't be creative in Chess  
without knowing the "vertical" rules, and today we lies on the rules.  
That's the problem. It is not the lack of ideas, it is the  
impossibility to listen to any ideas which *seems* to contradict our  
habits. It is normal, we are humans, in this case. In a sense I don'  
care too much, I am interested in the billions years to come, and  
beyond, yet I would like to encourage rigor in *all* directions of  
thinking, because I believe this gives the best conditions for  
creativity to develop itself, and to give chance to us for belonging  
to the most paradise-like type of billions of years, instead of  
destroying ourselves in some myriad hellish ways. The best I can do is  
to share my enthusiasm for some possibilities.

We can fight for more freedom, but we can't fight for more freewill. I  
think you are fighting for the equivalent of "freedom" for creativity.  
That could be interesting, but I have no words for it, yet. Thanks for  
making me thinking,

Very kind regards,

Bruno


http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~marchal/




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