Celebrate the Child-Like Mind

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Geeks do this naturally.  Should there be a “philosophy and culture” category here on GeekDad? 

From what I can see, the best scientists and engineers nurture a child-like mind. They are playful, open minded and unrestrained by the inner voice of reason, collective cynicism, or fear of failure.

What is so great about the “child-like” mind? I highly recommend Alison Gopnik’s Scientist in the Crib to any geek about to have a child. Here is one of her key conclusions: "Babies are just plain smarter than we are, at least if being smart means being able to learn something new…. They think, draw conclusions, make predictions, look for explanations and even do experiments…. In fact, scientists are successful precisely because they emulate what children do naturally."

Much of the human brain’s power derives from its massive synaptic interconnectivity. Geoffrey West from the Santa Fe Institute observed that across species, synapses/neuron fan-out grows as a power law with brain mass.

At the age of 2 to 3 years old, children hit their peak with 10x the synapses and 2x the energy burn of an adult brain. And it’s all downhill from there.

Cognitive Decline by AgeCognitive Decline by Age

This UCSF Memory and Aging Center graph  shows that the pace of cognitive decline is the same in the 40’s as in the 80’s. We just notice more accumulated decline as we get older, especially when we cross the threshold of forgetting most of what we try to remember.

But we can affect this progression. Prof. Merzenich at UCSF has found that neural plasticity does not disappear in adults. It just requires mental exercise. Use it or lose it. Blogging is a form of mental exercise. So are most of the projects we see here on GeekDad.

Bottom line: Embrace lifelong learning. Do something new. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic.  So GeekDad is not just for the kids; the Dads need it too. =)

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"I know not what I appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore”  – Sir Isaac Newton

"When Richard Feynman faced a problem he was unusually good at going back to being like a child, ignoring what everyone else thinks and saying, ‘Now, what have we got here?’"  – The Science of Creativity

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