Curious Minds: from building knowledge networks to inciting political resistance
Okay. Welcome everyone to. This ml, talk on, curiosity. Curious. Minds, my. Name is Philip Schmidt I head, up the learning initiative here at the Media Lab and we try. To understand, how the Media Lab as a social. System. For learning works and how we could design experiences. For other people to, participate in similar, learning experiences. And so, curiosity. Is very near. And dear to our hearts, and we think is really. Part of the DNA of the Media Lab and I'm extremely, excited, about the two speakers, we have here today. Danielle. Bassett, is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She's. Clearly very curious. About many different things because she has formal, affiliations. With at least four departments. Bioengineering. Physics. And astronomy electrical. And systems engineering and neurology, I think, that says a lot about her, work also in her group she. Studies biological, physical and social systems, and uses. And develops tools from Network science and complex, systems. Theory, to better, understand these systems. Perry's. Earn, fellow. At the Center for curiosity. At the University of Pennsylvania and. An assistant professor of philosophy at, the American University and. Looks. At curiosity, really through a completely different lens. Political. Theory political science. Philosophy and. Curiosity. As a philosophical. Method, and political, practice, so. I'm very excited that we get to hear, from both of you about the different perspectives, on curiosity and engage with all of you and our, livestream, as well I. Know there are people watching on the Media Lab website, as well as on Facebook, live so welcome to you and, anyone. Who's following. Us in, on. The interwebs, please use the ML Talks hashtag. On Twitter and we'll keep an eye on your, comments, and questions throughout. And we'll try to weave them into their conversation, the, flow is I'll say a couple of words about what, we're trying to do here in. This talk then. Danielle. And Perry are going to give short, presentations. We'll, have a chance to kind of chat a little bit about the things in your presentations. And then we'll open it up to everyone both here and, online and, we're hoping for kind. Of a lively, discussion, so. I'm. Gonna keep this quite short but in the context of my work here with the learning initiative, we, think of curiosity, in a way as kind, of the oxygen. Or the, rocket fuel that drives learning inside, the media that we think of the Media Lab as a actually. When when I read about the fellowship at the Center for curiosity. I was like center for curiosity, that's the Media Lab like there's another one somewhere. And. So. I think we think of ourselves as, a very curious place full of curious, people curious. In both. Meanings, of the term maybe and sometimes. But. As. Curiosity, as kind of the rocket fuel that drives learning here but, there's obviously, also another side to curiosity. All right both historically, which we'll, get to later, but. Curiosity hasn't, always been this positive thing, that that that we think about it is and. You. Know in the context, of a lot of the technical, systems. That are being developed today, are. The underlying mechanisms, that make curiosity, this great source of learning the, same mechanisms, that make it impossible for, us to stop scrolling through Instagram videos. When we know we should be getting out of bed in the morning like are those two things related what's the relationship, between them, I hope. That in the conversation, we can touch on three large buckets. Related, to curiosity the, first one is just getting a sense of what is curiosity what, do we mean when we talk about curiosity. And the, goal, is not to have one, definition, of this is exactly what curiosity is but more to highlight different lenses, different ways to think about curiosity and talk, about curiosity and study curiosity. The. Second one is the political, and social dimension, of curiosity, which I think often people underestimate. But, in the context of the Media Lab, disobedience. Is something that we care about I think that's a particularly, interesting aspect, of the conversation, and then finally, of course we want to come to some, thoughts, on how would you design learning experiences. And both. Physical, and social, that, would foster and support, curiosity.
And Learning and and and, the the connection of those two. So. I think that's that's all I'll say to, set. The stage, Denny. Is going to start with a talk then Perry and we'll go kind of want from one to the other so if you have thoughts or reactions either tweet them or write them down and we'll open it up to questions afterwards. But, yeah thank you for coming I'm really excited about the conversation, thanks, very excited - yeah. Shall. I stand if you whatever, you would. You like to stand. Ok. Yeah ok I I. Tend. To move a lot when I speak. So. It may look funnier, when I'm sitting than when I'm standing so. Today the title of the talk that I wanted to offer to you is curiosity and the science behind knowledge. Network building but. Before I get into the, specifics, of how I think about curiosity, as knowledge network building I wanted, to share a, little bit about myself and. What. I specifically, wanted to share is that I, like. To talk, to neurons all of us have this, little you know secret, thing that we don't tell anybody my. Secret thing is that I really like to talk to neurons and I talk to many different neurons, from many different walks of life and they each tell me their stories, some. Of these stories are really unusual some, of them are sort of mundane and, anywhere in between but. I received one message, recently, from a neuron that I found particularly, mysterious, and I wanted to share that message with you because it motivates a lot of the work that I do in my lab so here's. The rather mysterious letter, that, I received recently from. My friend a neuron, mankind. And monkeys ostriches. And partridges, antlered, stags ganders. Spiders, unfathomable. Fishes, that dwell in the deep and all creatures too, small to be seen every. Living thing in life itself all has come to an end of its melancholy round, and is now extinct. Thousands. Of centuries have passed since the earth bore any living creature and this pora moonlights its Lantern all for nothing no. More to the cranes wake and cry in the meadow no more are the may bugs heard in align groves there's nothing but the cold the, cold cold, emptiness, emptiness, and. More emptiness, terrible. It is terrible, it, is terrible, the bodies of all creatures that ever lived are as dust they're indestructible matters, become stones, water clouds and their souls are become one soul and that soul, is me, I am, the souls of Alexander, the great of Caesar of Shakespeare, of Napoleon, and of, the lowest of the leeches in me, godlike, reason is fused with animal instinct, every memory is my memory and every life has lived again in me I am, all alone once, in a hundred years I, opened my lips to speak and my, voice echoes, dismal, e in the void and there, is no one to hear me. Why. Is this a rather mysterious letter, to receive from a neuron I think. There are actually many reasons why this letter is rather mysterious to come, from a neuron but, the one that really strikes me most is that last sentence, once in a hundred years I, opened my lips to speak and my, voice echoes, dismal, e in the void and there is no one to hear me this is mysterious because when neurons speak, there. Are many other people, to hear that neuron right the, fact about neurons is that they share their information immediately. With many other neurons and in fact that constellation. Of cell, bodies and interactions. Between them allows, for communication and, computation. And. Inference. And perception, and behavior and what makes us humans. What. My lab is particularly focused on and what I find amazing, and interesting to study is how does the pattern of connectivity between neurons allow. That ensemble to perform the functions that it does for us and obviously, that's a question that we can ask at the cellular scale which is illustrated here, but, it is also a question that we can ask of the entire human, brain so, here, is. Image. Of diffusion, imaging data, which is a type of data that can be acquired on an MRI machine so a magnetic resonance imaging, machine and this, type of imaging.
Can, Watch the diffusion, of water molecules inside, of the brain interestingly. Water, molecules, diffuse, by Brownian, motion in, your head, and, those, molecules bounce, up against, certain, constraints. And one of the common constraints, are large, bundles, of axons. That. Length one. Set of cell bodies to. Another set of cell bodies or one region of the brain to another region, of the brain so, each of those, little threads that, you see in that video, or, that sort of that. Picture, are large. Bundles, of neuronal. Axons, that can connect up different parts of the brain and form, a pattern of interconnectivity, that, allows for large-scale, computations. In a human importantly. That pattern. Of connectivity differs. In each person, and, individual. Differences in that pattern relate, to, what. Each of us finds, easy. To do what each of us finds more difficult to do and possibly. What. Makes us. What. It is that we each find curious. So. The, way that we have been tackling trying to understand, that pattern of connectivity and what it means for how humans think is using, tools from an emerging field called, network neuroscience, so, network neuroscience, asks, the question of how does that, pattern of physical connections, or functional, interactions, between different, neural units in the brain support. Computation, cognition. And eventually. Behavior, we, use a set, of mathematical. Tools, and actually a sort of a very fundamental language. That. Has come from statistical. Mechanics and physics from, graph theory in mathematics, from. Computer science and, engineering, that together, allows, us to quantify patterns. Of connectivity or patterns of interactions, the, architecture. The potential, functions, that, they provide and the dynamics, that can occur on top of them and. So this work is is very interdisciplinary it, pulls from many different areas of science to try to say what, is it about that pattern, that, allows. The. The functions, that we observe either at the small scale between cells or at, the large scale between, different areas of the brain, so. Here is a picture of the network, inside, of your brain this is from one example individual, and. What you can see here is that we've plotted it so the the, color of each of the individual, nodes. Or circles, in the graph. Corresponds. To the color on their brain so. When you see red in the graph you also see red on the brain and that's because those regions, are present, in, that portion of the brain so, what you can see it on your, left, is that the pattern of, interconnections. Between different, parts of your brain has interesting, clustering, structure, meaning, that there are groups of brain regions that tend to be strongly and densely interconnected with, one another and that group may not be strongly connected to another group, so this clustering structure, is very evident what's interesting about that clustering structure, is not. Only that it exists, but each of those clusters seems, to be formed of regions in your brain that help you perform similar, functions so, for example regions, of your brain that are important, for moving your body all tend to have strong and dense inter connectivity with one another regions. Of your brain that are important, for vision, are also strongly, and densely interconnected with, one another in their own cluster regions. Of your brain that are important, for executive. Function, and cognitive, control working. Memory strategizing. And decision-making, tend, to be all densely, connected with, one another as. Well so, this picture that you see on your left it, illustrates. Not, just that then the network architecture has interesting mathematical, characteristics, but that those mathematical characteristics. Means, something for how your brain actually functions, having this local, interconnectivity, allows, for those regions to, collaborate, and.
Support, The cognitive functions that you have and. That. Observation, that, there is clustering structure, in these networks in the each of those clusters maps on to specific cognitive, functions has, led to a really, interesting industry, of fascinating, questions I've just written down a few, here and I'm actually going to read them so that you can see how this connects. To many different areas, both. In science and in the humanities so. In psychology, we are asking how do Network modules, change in different brain States as you're performing very different, functions in neuroscience. We want to understand, what, role. Neuro physiological processes. At the sort of neurotransmitter. Level play in these, modules in, medicine, we want to understand how these modules, are altered, in psychiatric, disease or, neurological, disorders and that what that means for how we can intervene in, mathematics. We're asking, what type of graphs brain networks are most like and. Why can we build generative, models for them in statistics. We're asking how we can parse significant, structure, from noise in these networks in physics. We ask what, does what role does the network structure play, in, material. Properties, that actually, becomes particularly important, in traumatic brain injury, that, complex. Architecture. Of interconnectivity. That you observed actually, changes, the transmission, of forces, through the brain after a traumatic a, traumatic brain injury and. So that's really important. To understand, in. Engineering, we're asking how we can control, this network or design, new networks that's, particularly important, in epilepsy, when we want. To design, stimulation. Interventions. That can quiet seizure dynamics. So. That individuals, can have a fuller and happier life and. Then in art what role does the network structure play in the creative process and, why so. While I think all of these are interesting questions and I could certainly talk for another five to ten minutes just about these questions I wanted, to mention the fact that there's one important. Characteristic. Of your brain that is not. Illustrated. By, this idea, of a, modular Network and that is. The. Fact that the. System is. Has. A level of change. Ability, that, is important, for how you can actually respond, to external cues, and to, illustrate that I wanted to show you these two pictures so on the left hand side you see your brain on the right hand side you see a social network of Caltech Facebook friends so each each. Circle. Indicates, a person and then a link between two people indicates, a connection. Between them on, Facebook, what's, interesting about this architecture is that you can see, certain. Regions, or certain people I want you to focus on the very center of the graph there, are certain people that have a color let's say that one in the center that is red, the. Color of the individual, node tells you what house they belonged in in Caltech, and you can see that red, person is, not actually friends with any of the red people, so the other friends, in their house but they're friends with many other people from many other houses one, could suggest that that person might want to move maybe. They don't like anyone in their current house or. You, could also argue that that's a beautiful place for somebody to be having, strong connections, with many very disparate and diverse individuals, and.
In Fact what we find in the brain is that we have, regions, of the brain that are very much like that red person, in the center that, they flexibly. Move between. Communicating. With very different, modules, in your brain so, the picture that we have of the brain is a lot more like this where, we've added the dimension, of time and now, instead of having a static network that can be captured, by a drawing, or a photograph, or a picture or a network now. We have something that's actually a time evolving, network that captures the changing, reconfiguring. Properties, of these interconnections, that allow, for us to change our cognition, and behavior and, that, is, what we've found is most important. For learning learning. Is not something, that's well characterized, by a snapshot, of a person's brain no matter how beautiful and orchestrated, the architecture, seems to be it's, best captured, by a dynamic. Video. A. Way. Of understanding the reconfiguration, processes, fundamentally. But. Once we start thinking about dynamics. And dynamics, of cognitive processes supporting, learning I think we're faced with a new challenge and. I think that challenge is very well illustrated by this quote. From Alexander, Pope there, is some peculiar, in each leaf and grain some, unmarked, fiber or some varying vein shall, only man be taken in the gross grant. But as many sorts of mind as moss and while, it also loved to give a talk on the many sorts of species of moss I'll leave that aside for a second and say that this is an illustration of the many different kinds of humans, that we should admit exist, we don't want to only understand, man in the gross we, want to understand, man in its diversity and not, just, man. So. What we have been doing over the last couple years is trying to understand, how this, flexibility. And reconfiguring. In our networks is related, to house but he learns and how that may differentiate. Successful. Learning from unsuccessful. Learning and so this was a very early study where, we found that flexibility. Of these networks in science somebody's brain are correlated. With how much learning occurs and individuals with more flexible, brain networks are those that learn better than, individuals, who have less flexible, brain networks and. That's driven by many different brain regions that are. Supportive. Of a broad, array of cognitive. Processes, and that's illustrated, on the right hand side but, that's motivated. Some. Questions about what could potentially enhance flexibility. If flexibility, may be important. For learning generally, an adaptive. Cognitive, processes, could I do something, to make my brain more flexible, I could, try to drink more coffee. Many. People suggest I should not do that I drink plenty of coffee as it is so that's probably not a very good idea for me I should certainly eat more vegetables. I love. Carbohydrates. And I, don't eat enough vegetables I should probably do that I'm not sure if it would make me more flexible, I'm sure my mom would think it would but I, should probably read more original. Classical. Literature maybe. I should spend more time hiking, with my husband and my two sons and that's what the picture is on the bottom right but. What we found you know kidding aside scientifically. Is that. Positive. Mood so when you're in a positive, mood your brain is more flexible, when you've had rest, in, the night before it had breakfast, your, brain is also more flexible and there are also for, those who cannot, change, either. Their mood or how. Much they rest or eat for. Medical. Reasons there, are pharmacological. Interventions, as well that can enhance flexibility, in someone's brain so, there are ways to become more flexible, but, if that is ingenuity, in general important for learning then the question is you.
Know Thrown around in this word learning a couple times now and I've never actually defined, for you what I mean by that and I think most of our studies of learning. Classically. Have been. Could. Become even richer by, considering, what it is that humans, learn and what is what are the sort of complexities, and what it what, humans learn when, I think about human learning and, whether that's learning, something that is instantiated. In a book or in a research paper that I write from my lab or in a conversation like the conversation, that we're going to have in a few minutes or a lecture. In, a classroom situation. Or others, what, I think of is that that each, of those. Methods. Of, transmission. Are trying to present a network, of ideas it's not a single idea that's being transmitted, it's also not a bucket of ideas that I'm offering to you it is a connected, piece connected. Pieces of information that I am presenting or connected pieces of concepts, and so. In in, earnest, I think what I'm trying to do is transmit a network, to, an individual, whether that's, in the book paper conversation, or lecture form so, let's take this network on the left-hand side as an example I have 15 ideas I would like to share with you and those 15 ideas, are interconnected, with one another in a particular, way, if, I, want to share with you that network the question is how do I do that and. I. Think, it's. Maybe, a more complicated question than it seems at first and, the reason is that there may be that, high dimensional, object I've mapped it in two dimensions right here but there may be a high dimensional network object I want to transmit and my, challenge is I need to map that into the one dimension, of time, because, I can only say one, word in front of the next right so. My constraint, is that I can only have, one word in front of the next have one sound in front of the next time constrain to take a high dimensional object map it into one dimensional space in such, a way that the person on the other side can. Optimally, reconstruct, the high dimensional object that I am trying to transmit so, you can sort of think this as a problem of network, mapping high, dimensional, into one dimensional so that the reconstruction into, the high dimensional space is easy for the person, interesting. Questions, are what is an optimal, map you, can all probably think back to your least, favorite, lecture in college, where it seemed that it was a set of disconnected, ideas not actually, an organized, network, that was being, transmitted, or that, the manner of transmission, was so disorganized that it was impossible to see what the what, the what, the whole picture, was, at. The end so. I think interesting questions are what, is the optimal mapping what is the optimal, reconstruction. Do, each of us prefer to have information, shared with us in different ways do, we each learn different, network architectures. Differently, so here I'm showing you a modular, graph that has clustering, structure what, if I was trying to transmit to you a lattice, graph or a random, graph or, some other network, that has very different architecture, do you each prefer, a different type and see, that and reconstruct, it more easily and if so could we use that understanding to. Better. Help, individuals, with learning deficits for, example. But. That motivates, this last quote that I wanted to share with you which is from Dewey's democracy, and education in, other, words knowledge, is a perception, of those connections, of an object which determine, its applicability, in a given situation thus. We get at a new event indirectly, instead, of immediately by, invention, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and ideally. Perfect, knowledge was would represent such, a network of interconnections. That any past experience, would offer a point of advantage, from which to get at the problem presented, in a new experience. Curiosity. Is not an, accidental, isolated, possession it is a necessary consequence. Of the fact that an experience, is a moving, changing thing involving, all kinds, of connections with other things curiosity. Is but the tendency to make these conditions, perceptible. So. That fact that we are are sharing. With one another knowledge, networks, is. Something, that is I think important, for helping us to understand how to transmit, information but it's also important, for us to understand, how each of us seeks out information. We are seeking, information not. As independent, units often, but. As a network, we stand in or we sit in one particular, place and then we search out new information along. A path of connected ideas sometimes, we jump sometimes, we even leap across to other stones inside of the stream but, we're doing so often, to make the connections, from something far away to. Something that we already know and, I think this is a nice illustration of, one type of curiosity.
That Allows us to build these networks, over. Time, to. Study that from. An empirical perspective, we are engaging. In this study called the not study knowledge networks over time where, we have individuals. Browse. Wikipedia. Many many days in a row and, then we they share all of that information with us we there's an app installed, on their computer and. We can see very different. Transversals. Of the. Knowledge space of Wikipedia, so importantly, you, can map out the, the, distance, between any two pages, in Wikipedia, based on their semantic, content or based, on the link architecture. Between two Wikipedia pages where they a direct, link of single click were they multiple clicks away etc so. We can map out the distances, that exist, inside of the Wikipedia network and then we can ask how do people traverse those distances, and here, are just three different examples of, individuals. And their their personal, traversal. So on the left hand side you can see that this is an individual, who is connecting, up very. Relatively. Nearby pieces. Of information and content and seems, to stay roughly, all connected, everything connects to something that they already know in. The middle you see the, existence, of several independence. Networks, so they're curious are their following, information. In this space and then I also follow some information, in this space even, though there's no direct connection between them and on the far. Here, far. Right. For you there, is somebody who is. Dropping. At very very distinct. Web pages each time so. An interesting question is which of those these people, is the most curious, is. It the person who is connecting. Up information, into a single. Graph is it, a person, who is finding. Disconnected, pieces of information. And. That leads us to the question of what does your curiosity. Look like and. I'd like to liken, this to earnest Henkels radiolaria, so here has microscopic sea, organisms when, I see these figures I think about the curiosity, of many different people. In my life some, of them have very stringy, curiosity. A little bit like what you're seeing there. So, where. They like to follow an idea for a really long time before branching off into something new others. Build. A very dense web of knowledge around, one, space, and so they're a little bit more like what you see here on your left hand side and then others do a little bit of both. And so what they end up with is a knowledge space, that, looks a lot more like what you see in a Center so there is density but there are also loops, inside, of their knowledge spaces, that they haven't filled in maybe, Kerry not to fill in maybe we'll fill in eventually maybe, not. And. With that here are my last open questions and then I'll kick it off to Perry so what are the net what is the network architecture of, curious, thought what, are the networks that are built up over time and then is there a map and what is that map between curious. Thought networks, and these flexible, rain networks that are important, for learning and that's the direction that our lab is going right now and I'd be very happy to take questions about that after. Perry's, talk thank, you right, thank, you. What. You. Alright. So quick thanks to Philip, and to Catherine for organizing, this, event and to. Danny for that intriguing, presentation. This. Is going to be a bit of a let's let's stretch out now from, considering curiosity. As it functions within the brain and start thinking of it at a. Social. And political level. I'm, here to convince you that curiosity, is political. It's a it's a big task. Why. Political, I, like. To define curiosity. At this point as an ensemble, of, investigative, practices. By. That I mean to emphasize, that curiosity, is not one thing it's. Not one desire it's not one practice, it's not it. Can't be defined in one way, but. That there if that there's ensemble a collection or a series, of ways in which curiosity, functions, and the more specific we get about those, functions, I, think the better will understand, curiosity. Those. Practices. Are I, think propelled, by knowledge desires desires, to know but. Those desires that we have are deeply, embedded and kind, of directed, and trained by these social structures in which we find ourselves and, the. The political hierarchies, in which were placed so. For. This reason curiosity. Is political. Who. Is curious when. And especially, how and. In what context, reflects. I think the differential, allocation, of power in a society. Think. About what, kind of questions are, normalized.
And Which ones are pathologized, what. Questions are legitimated. And which ones are diligent, emitted which ones are acknowledged or respected, and which ones aren't these. Are the. The hierarchy, of questions is produced, by social and political commitments. We inherit, those and live through those. Which. Makes. Not. Only curiosity, political, but curiosity capable, of affecting, the political, or of changing, the, polis so. Curiosity, can if we follow those sort of normalized, questions, as traditional, questions we can maintain the status quo if we start tracking some of those more D. Legitimated, questions perhaps we can transform or those disobedient, questions perhaps, we can transform. Society. Curiosity. Isn't, just political today it's always, been political. Interestingly. In the ancient, Greek and Roman times curiosity. Was first attributed. To politicians, and to empires, politicians. Because, they're interested, in helping. To guide everybody, else's life and. Empires. Because they're interested, again in helping, to guide other nations, and lands, so. There's some kind of. Interest. In other. People's business and directing. Or leading. Facts. So that's kind of the earliest sense of curiosity this is why it was first applied the term curiosity, was first applied to anthropologists. And geographers. Their interest in people and in. Land. And. Then more generally to scholars. After. That in the medieval period curiosity. Became, thanks. To kind of Christian theology and, the reign. Of the Roman Catholic Church curiosity. Was a religious vice so, it really took a hit in the Middle Ages it was not good to be curious and. Just. Toward the end of it as we're getting out into, the Renaissance curiosity. Becomes aligned, with secular, inquiry, and, with secular travel, so. If you were traveling. Through, different. Spaces, not. On pilgrimage, you were called a curio --ss or if, you were traveling in groups you read the kurios I so. Secular increased secular travel of. Course in the modern period that's when curiosity, really comes back and, is endorsed, full, strength and we've inherited that today, so as as the, source, of early modern science, in particular but. This is during, the rise of the early modern science, this is also when we're seeing a lot of colonization. And imperialism, and then globalization, such, that the practice, of curiosity, is not just scientific, but is.
Kind. Of directed, at foreign, spectacles, or exotic eyes objects. So, it's always throughout, each of these steps you'll, notice it's about curiosity, is about, inquiry, yes but, it's always inquiry, within a, given, political structure. And political, commitments, and, I think political effects are implications. When. I think about, curiosity. As an ensemble of investigative, practices, part, of me wants to again get specific, about what those practices are and what are some of the models, of those, practices where how can we model and represent, those, those, curious practices, and this. Is again my attempt to get away from a singular definition, and more into a practice logical or a functional, account of curiosity. So. I thought what I'll do is I'll track this word curiosity, across. Western philosophy, the Canon, of Western philosophy and see, what, kind of figures or what kind of characters, keep popping, up as oh this, is the curious person because, of their their, behavior, in this way so. I tracked specifically, the, Greek words Pali. Pragma sunny in Perugia, which are then translated, into Latin as kurios ITA's so they're they're the sort of first first. Curious words and then curiosity, us and then the French curiosity, the, German especially, no year this is a desire. For. The new or agreed, for the new visible. Year curiosity, that and then of course English curiosity, so track all the uses of these words and then say again what are the characters that keep popping up, these. Were the three at, least on first pass or 30th pass or. Three hundredth pass through, the history, of Western philosophy these are the ones that really pop up the. Busybody the, busybody is, someone. Who loves to be at the center of town hearing, everybody's, news just. Wants to collect a lot of disparate pieces of information, is. Sometimes. Up in everybody's business right, that's a, kind, of curiosity that keeps popping up across the history of philosophy in. Political, theory the. Second figure. Very, different the hunter and again, these are this is the language that's used in the text.
Futhark. Was the one who really. Focuses on the busybody as this, person in the in the, in the center of town he, says though we, should get rid of this busybody, like curiosity this I want to be interested in a lot of the things, interdisciplinary. Things perhaps focus. He says become, a hunter choose. To be a scholar you can, be an astronomer he says you can be a botanist, you can be a historian, but. Choose something focused, get serious, Nietzsche, later. In the 1800's German philosopher he'll, say I want, to round up the hounds, and the hunters and I want to dive, into the history of the human soul he says so. I can get to know why it is that we are the way we are and and, perhaps how we can change it so hunt right this is a different kind of thing it's very focused it's not. Everywhere. But. Then the dancer this is a third one it's a little bit less common but I think is again it's there's, a different, what I call kinesthetic. Signature, to, each of these. Each. Of these figures the dancer, Nietzsche. Again he will say and I don't have a book I usually have a book for this but the. First thing he asks, if a book is can. You walk can. You dance and. He won't read it if it can't test we've. All read those books that can't dance right. But. He says this via these, sorts of books are marked by leaps, of imagination. This. Is creativity, this is artistry. This. Is a dancer like curiosity so, I. Never. This down to what what are the really the practices, here the curious practices the busybody collects, information, the hunter tracks down a specific answer, to a question and then the dancer is busy imagining, and each of these again is a is a is, a thread or a function of curiosity. So. We can do this we can start to understand, these a little bit better I think through a network neuroscience, perspective and is one of the things that, we've. Been working on together but we can also start to understand it from a social, and political valence, so. The busybody, again is one who collects discrete, bits of information and therefore creates noose or loose, knowledge. Networks so though, there. Were several loose knowledge, networks that, that. You showed earlier where, there's gaps right, in what in what is known this. Is also going to be at the so at the political level an, act of social collection, collecting, information. The. Hunter is going to create targeted connections. Is going to build that one piece of information on, the next piece of information on the next piece of information it's, that PhD. Thesis sort of process. And. Therefore tight, knowledge networks or, at least that's what your adviser, once write.
This. Might be sort, of a form of social investigation, at the political level so not collection, but investigation. One inquiry, in. Down one pathway and. Then. The dancer the dancer is going to be marked, especially. In aviation alas, Diskin with discontinuous. Concepts, gonna have some over here and some over here and some over there, beak, and therefore, we'll, be constantly, remodeling. Knowledge. Networks will be changing, the significance, of each of the nodes in the network I think and. We see this again at the political level as social imagination. How. Does this but. What does this look like on the ground I think we have a sense of what it might look like in the brain. Based, on your previous presentation, but what does that look like on the ground politically. So, one of the other, projects, I'm engaged in is trying to understand curiosity's, role in political resistance, so. I first started with just tracking down a few. Political. Philosophers, and what they said about curiosity. And political resistance so I used, Friedrich Nietzsche you're, noticing he's one of my favorites, Michel. Foucault and Jacques Derrida and, each. Of these folks when they're talking about political, upheavals, they. Say or they, indicate over and over again that this is not it's not that curiosity, is all on the side of political resistance but. That rather rather political, upheaval, is marked by a. Clash. Of curiosities. There's. An institutionalized. Curiosity. There's a status quo curiosity, where you ask those normal questions that is kind of accepted, or inherited, questions and then, there's a resistant, curiosity, that opens all of that alright. So. Again institutionalized. Curiosity, entrenches. Social, structures, keeps. Them maintains, them where as resistant, curiosity, will transform, does transform, social, structures. So. This is what the theorists, say but what does it look like in, an, actual political movement. I've. Done this an. Analysis, of a number of political movements in black, lives matter for instance a lot of prison revolts because some of my research focuses on prisons, but. I want to just focus on something that's perhaps more easily. Connected. To or. Familiar, which is the civil rights movement, when. You look at the civil rights movement you can track a difference, between or, a clash, or war between institutional. Curiosity, and resistant. Curiosity. So. At the level of the institution, meat, the media outlets were covering many things right. Many, questions were being asked to develop, news to, follow out journalistic, investigations. But, not. Segregation. In the way that it needed to be right, national. Policy was addressing many many problems but. Not race. In the way that it needed to so.
There Were questions of problems and solutions right but not, the kinds of question that needed to be asked and the, u.s. future was being imagined. But. Not but primarily by white elites and for white elites so. Resistant. Curiosity, in the civil rights movement counters. Each of these point. By point. First. It began with fact gathering I don't know if any of you are familiar with we charge genocide, book published in 1951, but, it is a, a. Damming. Collection, of. Facts. Of, the. Beatings. And lynchings, and the burning and bombing of African American homes and, churches of the, segregation, rates in schools and in housing, and in jobs and, they're just developing, a massive, proof, that. There was a problem right, this is how it starts and then. How. Do you mobilize that, how. Do you mobilize those facts you. Problematize, race through nonviolent, protests, so, a fella named Leroy, Pelton. He argues in his book nonviolent, protests that, the the point of protest or the power of protest is that it draws and and and. Energizes. Public curiosity, around an issue such, that you see something, as a problem that you didn't see before, and, then. The practice of political imagination. This. Is MLK's. I have a dream right how do we imagine. In new world a world that is not the. One represented, by the. Facts that have been gathered how do we do something different each, of these is a kind of curiosity and if you think back to the busy body which. Collects information the. Hunter who focuses, in on a problem and the, dancer who imagines, something new. Here. We see all three of those mobilized, but, on the ground for. The sake of transforming. How. We live with one another. So. Where is this going for me today I'm very interested in. Inserting. Or centralizing. The. Language of curiosity, in diversity. Work in higher ed. Why. Why, does curiosity, need to be in this in the talk of diversity work. First. Of all because I think this this is the easiest way to answer that question if diversity. Work is simply adding different bodies and for. Many. People. It this is this is the basic thing just add some different bodies to this mix. Well. Different people will ask different questions and, a. Diverse body of people is more likely to ask new questions or, to innovate. This. Means that the value. Of diversity is, precisely. In creating a robust. Social. Foundation. For curiosity. Right. Diversity, will produce more curiosity, based. On much growing. Literature in the diversity field and beyond, but. I find this particular, framework to be. Dissatisfying. This, additive, model just add some new bodies for, a number of different reasons one. Of which is the diversity is a should. Be valued in itself and not because it will produce innovation, later yeah, but, also because I think it misses a genealogical, question, how did we get here how did we get to a, non-diverse. Higher, educational, system and, I think it's when we analyze, how we got here that we'll be better equipped to change, the, future of higher ed but. Also the phenomenological, question, which is what, is it like to, be a diverse, person in academia, I know a lot of people who've got this question I'm not even sure that diverse person. Is. A meaningful phrase. Right. But what is it like to be seen. As the person who adds diversity, to the mix I think, diversity work has to address these two questions at least so. I like to follow. Sarah Ahmed here her, book called, on being included, she, defines diversity, work as attending. To what gets passed over. And. Shonda, prescott williams or. Weinstein, in her piece curiosity, in the end of discrimination, she, says this takes curiosity, attending, to what gets passed over. And. When we attend to what gets passed over even when we're adding different bodies to the equation, in higher ed one of the things that we see is that. Marginalized. Faculty, over. And over again testify, that our, curiosity, often goes unrecognized, or, dismissed and you. Can track this out through faculty testimonials. You can track it through, staff. And student, testimonials as well some. Of the examples. Of this Alison, Kafer in her book feminist, queer crip when, she was a graduate student she, said. She. Proposed to write a paper on disability. Studies which, at that time was, not a thing in the way that it is today, and her, professor, said no no that's.
A Self-help projects, you. Can pursue therapy that's not an actual, intellectual. Interest. Of yours. So. Her own personal. Curiosity. As, a disabled. Person was, suppressed, as just. Personal interest and not academic, curiosity, Robin. Wall Kimber in her book. Sweetgrass, she's. A member. Of the Potawatomi nation and, she she. Says as a graduate, student she, was taken, with the Co, appearance. Of golden, rods and, asters, and this, blue or this yellow. And this purple right coinciding. In the field and she says she, wanted to know why. These. Two grow together golden. Rods and asters and also, why are they're so beautiful, to, the human eye and she, said she came with a sort of passion to her to, her professor and her professor says you, know I really think that you should leave your PhD in botany and you should go be a poet, so. There was a dismissal, of. Her of her curiosity which she, only later, really. Kind of embraced. As as. An indigenous curiosity. That brings together the. Plant and the human, together. A, few. Others so in Eric pitchers book. Called. Becoming, professionally. Being and becoming professionally, other fellow. Called Erin he says he does a lot of work on on trans people in higher, ed and he consistently gets asked why are you doing that as if to ask are. You trans and therefore is this project, a. Personal. Project a pet, project and not in a truly. Academic. Project. So. Again a way of dismissing and, then, finally and presumed incompetent so, this book on the, intersections, of race and class for women in academia. Angela. Wiley. There says oh really. I think says. Specifically. That often. Female. Black, professors, will, hide. Their, questions, behind the, language or the words or the, frameworks, of other people who've been as have. Been assigned in the class because, they know that their questions will be given, more weight by students. If. They're. Not taken on their own merit but kind of through, the voice of somebody else who's more normalized. In the profession, part. Of the work here is to. Be able to recognize, the curiosity. In the many places in which it appears right if. We're going to diversify, higher ed and we've got all these new voices but. Their curiosity, is dismissed or lost, we've. Lost the game. We need to be able to recognize just not just different modes of curiosity, but, curiosity, coming, from different, bodies. Voices, people. So in, conclusion curiosity. Is for, me always embedded, in and, therefore. Though capable, of disrupting, social. Practices, and political, structures, that, leaves us responsible. For understanding how. We've inherited the, questions that we have and how, we can change the, questions that are asked Thanks.
Do. You want to come a little closer. Intimate. So first of all thank you so much for, your. Presentations. And your, thoughts. On. This topic and I feel like for. A curious, mind these were the perfect presentations. Because there were so many different ideas floating, that one would want to learn, more about and, kind of go deeper but then also jump to the next one so I thought. This was brilliant, and I'll start with a total, kind, of softball, question it's like how did you get. Curious, about curiosity. It. May be not a softball question. Yeah. No I think I, think I became interested in curiosity definitely. Because. Because. We started talking about it but also more just generally. I was interested in the fact that. Often. What, is supported. By. The. Current. Organizational. Structure in academia, tends. To while lauding, curiosity. Also. Pressure, individuals. To sort of focus in on specific. Ideas. And so I think that that, was pointed out to me early, that I didn't, quite fit in the box of focusing, and, so I think then I sort of questioned, oh is that was, that really bad. Yeah. I believe. I first got interest I mean this, is one of those things where you can map your your, current interest back through till, you're tiny, right your whole life but. I think to be fair this. Specifically. The concept of curiosity, oh I, got. Excited about it when I was reading st. Augustine his, confessions. While. I was in college it was assigned in at least three different classes and. What. I found was that well first of all he's torn, up about how the fact about, how he can't get rid of his own curiosity and he thinks that his curiosity draws him away from God and it keeps begging God please please take away my curiosity, you, know and. I just thought God please never take my curiosity, in and. So it was that that kind of no there's got to be something more here is it this is this, is special. Great. So I I think I wanted to start kind of historically. And. You talked about these three modes. Of our. Patterns. Of curiosity. And. I'd be curious like are those the, only ones you found are, those the most important, ones and I'll make one little, remark when you showed the translations. The. German, translation actually is a fairly, negative word, so Ghia is greed, right so it's like a very has, a very negative connotation, the greed, the desire but this like negative desire, so, I wonder, historically. Kind, of why. Did, it have this negative connotation, and, when did that change and, how did we end up where we are yeah.
This. Is a great question so the history of curiosity, or the, story of how curiosity. Grew up is. Is, a is, a complex. One and there are many many many great great pieces out there about it so I can't I can't cover all of it but I might I might pause just around the the shift in the in. The mode, of early modern science, okay so when curiosity. Is no, longer considered, of religious vice so that's part of why it, was dismissed for so long but, become something, useful. Become, something productive for, science. For the citizen. For, industry. Precisely. At that moment, there's. A kind of curiosity that's still dismissed, as kind of gossipy, and transgressive. And disruptive. And, this is a sign to women specifically, so, it's it's at the rise of early modern science, you get this split which you didn't have before between the kind of masculine curiosity, that's useful that's productive that's scientific, and a feminized, curiosity, that's social, then, that's transgressive. And that's less valuable, so. That's just a, little, window into the history of curiosity, but there's much more there that's, interesting and the models like those three models like what, were some other things that you came across or. Yeah. So these are the three that really again really jump, jump, out at me, but. One of the things I started doing as I you'll, notice that the busybody the hunter and and the dancer these are all human, figures. Or characters but, I started noticing how many animals, were. Associated. With curiosity so I mean we have some of this today right curiosity, killed the cat, we, have Curious George I'm, not sure why cats. And monkeys get. Preference here, but. There's a fantastic and I shared this with you there's a fantastic book. Of virtues, produced. By say zeriba in, 1603. And. The. Virtues. And vices and there's a picture of a. Woman, that who's supposed to be kind, of be curiosity. And apparently. Her hair is standing straight up she's, got big wings. And she's wearing this robe that, is covered with two things first. Of all ears. Second. Of all frogs. Why. Why. Frogs. So. That was a 1600s, in Italy, and, then, my other favorite would be the octopus, so I think the octopus is a little bit like the busybody right as many many arms can collect a lot of different kinds of information but, it's also got these suction cups that, draw. Out whatever, is below whatever. Is hidden. Underneath and so I've I've been I've been trying to think about curiosity not, just the side, of it in this two-dimensional space and I wonder what you think about this not, just as a two-dimensional network but what is cute the kind of curiosity that tries to bring up maybe.
First Principles, in science, or. Presuppositions. In philosophy or biases, and political thought what, is this curiosity that brings things up I'm not, sure the busy body of the country or the dancer do any of those things but, what you think yeah I mean absolutely even in the next works that I show it here are were all two-dimensional. Representations, of networks but I think that knowledge, itself so what we are curious about is a, much higher, dimensional. Network, object, and one that really. To be optimally. Embedded, to really show the correct distances. Between ideas. Would have to have many. Dimensions, for embedding, and so, the more dimensions, that you have obviously for a network embedding, the, more different types of walks through, that space you could take and so, I I. Sort, of think about. Curiosity. As as, are there are there different sorts of walks that you can take through a network that are more or less characteristic. Of how we humans, walk, through ideas I mean in mathematics, a very simple, walk on a network is called a random walk and that is where you, just went at your when you are at an existing node and, there are a certain number of connections coming out of it you have an equal probability of following along any connection that comes from that node and that's a random walk there are many other kinds of walks that one can take on networks, some. Of them can be biased in certain ways according to the network topology or they, can be biased by the type of note that you're sitting at so I'm I'm very, interested in trying to understand, whether we can build mathematical, models of the different types of curiosity, that, are embedded, into a much higher dimensional, representation. Of the knowledge network itself, I, wonder. Actually if we could go continue. On that thread, from these. Maps. Of knowledge and and networks of knowledge to the, things you are starting to see inside, the brain like these patterns. Of connections. Or connectivity well what can we already, see about curiosity, in the brain what, are we about to be able to see what are some of the things that you're seeing there yeah absolutely, so much of the work that's been done in understanding. The neural signatures, of curiosity, has focused on which regions, become activated, when you are curious, and. There's. There's also a and. And. Then there are a few different studies that are also trying to probe which connections, are being used as well and those, are often. Patterns. Of connections that are also used when you are. When. You are searching for novelty there's somewhat even related to sensation. Seeking of other other sensations, not just epistemic. Sensations. And, so, that's sort of interesting and, then there are also circuitry. There's also a secretary that's involved in reward so. When you actually. See. The thing that you were looking for there's. A huge amount of reward circuitry and that the activity, of that reward circuitry, sort, of, gauges. How much, or is a good predictor of how much you will continue seeking. What. Will come next I think honestly. I think what needs to happen is is to the building, of more complex. Ways, of measuring curiosity. In the in, terms of the task itself rather, than the imaging component, because. Often.
The. Some, of the tasks, at least are much more like the busybody. They, are probing, that type of curiosity. Do you want to see this new piece of trivia or do you want to see that new piece of trivia and that's quite different than, searching, for something that you care about for another region or reason. Or searching, in in a sort of directed, way in a path through, ideas that are connected with one another so. I think we could there's a lot of work to be done to, develop tasks. That a human can engage in that probe the different sorts of curiosity and that will help us to parse the neural signatures, of it as well and. Do you think there, will be a point, where kind, of tracing. Curiosity, in the brain lets us say something about the potential, for learning, both at the individual, level or kind, of at a, more general level is that where some, of the research has had it. Yeah. I think that that would be a wonderful, use. Of it, I think what's interesting though, is that then there there needs to be a simultaneous. Conversation. Of maybe. Even the different stages of, curiosity. Because. Eventually, yes you want to search for awhile but you also have to know when you found it, or you have to know when to stop or and. So the engagement, of, the executive, circuitry, so that's part parts, parts of your brain that are important, for really. Difficult, decisions, for. Controlling your own behavior, for stopping, inhibiting. Behavior, from continuing, those, are all extremely important. In order to allow you to do something productive with the new information that you gathered so, I think eventually it's going to be a conversation, between. The. Search itself, and and the capacity, to close, the search and both, will be important, in learning I think. There's a I, think there's a real preference, so the way that I staged these these three models the busy by the hunter and the dancer I think that this is preferred, in in higher ed today and in, scholarship, today so this the, the practice of having gen ed classes so speaking of all this the the kind of stages are the steps have all your gen ed classes then focus in on a major so. You're busy body you're hunter then the, senior project or something do something creative something new at the end or. The. Articles. You, do a literature review what. Does everybody else said now, do you study now. Do the discussion, or future directions right, and so part of me wants to think I mean when we first started talking about this we thought well maybe some people are busybodies and, some people are dancers and some people are hunters, there they have different strengths or maybe we're all all of these all the time and, then the question is why. Is that particular. Trajectory privileged. And and if we mix that up would, we would, we serve learners, better. You. Said that the kind of the functions, in the brain that we most, associate. With curiosity are that's kind of closing, a gap or seeking. A there's. Something that's, seemingly missing, and we're trying to reach, that the, information, or that this kind, of a reward for, finding something and. It. Made me think there's a kind of a community here that things about mindfulness quite, a bit and we. Have a director's fellow, who's. Done, a lot of work on meditation is, a Buddhist monk and, in Buddhism and meditation often. You're trying to be fully present right, like so this idea of like, trying to close a gap it's almost like the opposite, of what you're trying to get to but. Then. That. Would mean that there, would. That mean meditation is less curious or what, do you I mean I I'm I'm, not trying to set, it up but I'm what, are your thoughts on there's like is there is there a different, kind of curiosity that maybe we find through meditation, or how, are those two things can I that I. Think.
Curiosity Is often. Associated. With talking or receiving, information or, gaining information, and. Not silence. But. There's. A kind of curiosity that one can practice in silence, I think and this is this is more an attentive. Practice. Of attention, and mindfulness is a, series. Of attention, practices, or practices of attending to, the present so I think it shifts how. I think it's a different level of curiosity that we that again is not privileged, in in. Standard. Educational, structures. But. Is consistent, with with with. Curiosity yeah, yeah. I think the more common, measure, of curiosity, is is, question. Open questioning. That. Vocal actually, make making sounds, and. Clearly, one can be curious without, making any sounds, but, then then an interesting question for the empiricist, is how can you develop, methods. To quantify, that type of curiosity. And could, you even quantify how curious someone is while they're meditating, I think. Neural, signature is maybe away but we'd first have to understand, those, signatures better. So. Let like to shift a little bit into the political space. Because, as, I told you and maybe, some of you don't know the. Media Lab has, kind, of celebrates, disobedient, sites so we have a disobedience. Award that we. Started. Last year where, we gave away 250,000, dollars to a. Project. Or group of people that in, this case the people who were kind of disclosed what was going on with the water in Flint and. Who published. Essentially. Before their work had been peer-reviewed and they have risked their academic. Reputation. And. Received. A lot of pushback, and we kind of want to celebrate these acts of of disobedience. And, I'm. So. I would say that we're a community, that really thrives, on, creative. Disobedience. And and so, I wonder if you could you talked a little bit about the civil rights movement but you also said that you're thinking, about other maybe, more current movements, I wonder if you could talk a little more about and, of how you see political disobedience. Today we, needed to curiosity, and how places, like the media that might play a role in that. Yeah. So I think the first thing that, I would underscore is just that curiosity isn't, essentially. Disobedient, and this was this was a real shift for for my research was, to think about the, questions that are institutionalized, in the ways the questions are institutionalized, were the ways the disobedient, questions can, become. Co-opted. Or normalized or put, into it into, a bureaucratic structure. So. Secure. So I do think that this clash of curiosities, between institutional, resistant, or between obedient, and disobedient, this, is more true of how curiosity, works the. Yeah. I think that's the first thing that I would underscore. Do. You want to give some of the examples, that you're working on now like I'd be curious to like what are some of the movements you're tapping into and, then also how do you work with them are you observing, and, reflecting on, their practices, or are there also kind of strategies, that you could develop on how, to be more. Resistant. Curious, if, you're trying to change things. Yeah. I think one. Of the things that I appreciate about the disobedience, award.
Is That. You're particularly. Asking, for not the most likely candidates, or the most well-known or the well best. Heard already. And, this kind of connects up to my or are, we recognizing curiosity, from, marginalized. Or underserved or disempowered, communities, and. So if in so far as the the the disobedience, prize is targeting. Some. Some of those folks who, who. Need who. Could use more that, have their voice magnified, right not to be spoken for but to have their voice magnified, I, think this is part of the the, being, a good Ally, and co-conspirator, to, disobedient. Curiosities. Some. Of the work that I've done is specifically. On the history of prison resistance, movements, and how, how, much, this. Is a this. Is a history of information. Information. War. But. But. Therefore also a war of curiosity, which questions, get asked or, the questions, for prison, reform people, coming, from prison, reform people or are they coming from prisoners, for instance which, questions, are we listening to in which our guiding, our movement, those, are the there's. Some of the questions. And. I'd love to come I definitely, want to come back to the diversity. Theme. And in education, and and the different voices the different types of curiosity, well take a little detour there but. Actually stay with you I was going to ask so I want to switch into learning environments, how do we design environments and. Experiences where. Certain. Kinds of curiosity, may be fostered, or support, it and. I, was gonna start with Danny and I will come back to you but at lunch you, made a comment that intrigued, me so much that I do want to kind of keep going here and so. I want, you to talk a little bit about your. Own learning, experience and. Your learning path, and what, happened when you encountered, school, yes. Great all, right so I was um I was, home-schooled in a for. For. All, 12 grades and. Well, before that I suppose, and. It. Was a sort of homeschooling that was very student, driven that was very what do you want to learn how, fast you want to learn it how long do you want to study it where do you where do you want to get the information from it wasn't just a here's a curriculum, make your way through it, it. Was very interactive and very self-directed and I, found it just I mean that's when I just.