Humans are an apprentice-learned craft

If you’re in my social circle and acquired a child, I’m likely to have given you The Scientist in the Crib. What I like most about it, and the insight I’m trying to share with new parents, is that these little beings in our world spend their time running experiments like, “What happens if I crawl toward the electric socket? Wow, that was a cool reaction. What happens if I do it again?

It doesn’t stop. One friend observed, the reason we don’t talk about the Terrible Threes is that parents go numb to all the challenges. Even as adults, our lives are defined by our attempt to collect enough data to develop a hypothesis about what’s really going on. We then run tests to attempt to gain insights about those other humans, the world around us, and, often lastly, ourselves. “That person looks friendly. Will they affiliate if I say, hello? I think they will. How will I respond if there’s a rejection?”

As noted in a previous post, these experiments require curiosity, and curiosity is driven by questions.

For most humans, our curiosity ebbs and flows over our development. It shows up relentlessly around aged two; exhibits a small peak at aged nine; pops up again in mid-adolescence. The adolescent peak makes us intensely curious to the fashions of the zeitgeist, then strangely diminishes for most, leaving us a lifelong comfort with the music, hairstyles, and clothing of that era.

Could it be, we become numb to the challenges? How often do we stop gathering the data that might challenge our hypotheses, and stop testing them?

Claudia Rankine, Professor of Poetry at Yale, offers an alternative. Professor Rankine offers a master class in shaking off the numbness to challenges, as she makes transparent her trials to gain insights about those other humans, the world around her, and herself.

And there’s Ada Yonath.

There is honoris causa surrounding Dr. Yonath for any number of reasons. The most important to me was her work uncovering the structure of ribosomes. What gives me shivers is the revelation she made 25,000 attempts at crystallizing the structure.

What would happen if we considered a human or two around us to be worth 25,000 experiments in understanding?

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