Well; I read this sometime somewhere, “Curiosity never killed the cat”, and then there were friends around who also had read, quite the contrary; “Curiosity killed the cat”! Well this piece is a quick sneak peak into the intrinsic element that we all have within in some measure- called, “Curiosity” and to know whether that’s actually helping us live or getting us killed! So here we go!
Every, life-form that has a brain with an ability to exercise cognition- will be curious in some or the other way- depending on the type of organism, it’s immediate environment and the kind of dangers and threats that it needs to ward off! Curiosity has evolved, being a reflection of how dominant a species has been through the evolutionary ecosystem! One thing that you will always find even in nature is that the most dominant of the species in an area of study will demonstrate heightened levels of curiosity which are reflective of the higher value that the organism carries in the value chain and these are enhanced in equal measure for both prey and predators and this I believe is nature’s masterstroke, among many others, to ensure that the natural world and the selection of the species and survival all of these aspects keep moving ahead through a fine balance!
Coming back to our world- a world of evolved- sapiens- the final frontier of biological evolution (as of now at least), we can flip the pages and take pride in the the kind of achievements that we have been able to register- as Individuals and societies across the world at different times- under different co-existing challenges! An element of common thread that runs beneath all the success and failure that humankind has experienced and shared through the ages is also reflective of the amount of curiosity demonstrated/ exercised and avoided!- We have stood to benefit and struggle at different times through history depending on whether we decided to act proactively or ignored our wanderlust mind and tried to remain passive to our own peril!
Every person who has read history, geography or geology has read about Mt. Vesuvius (the eruption that happened around AD 79) which famously wiped out the entire human habitat at Pompeii in a matter of minutes! What could have happened here , when we think about “Curiosity”- Weren’t the residents of a progressive society, living under the shadow of a tall mountain- which may also have sent out smoke plumes and occasional rumblers, ever wonder and think what was going around that Mountain? Well, certainly they would not have had the advantage of modern day science apparatus and gadgets, but during that time, knowing well, that Roman societies were highly evolved with arts, sciences (like Philosophy, Literature etc.) the question simply remains- why were their “curious minds” so oblivious of a danger sitting right over them? Think around this and hold your thoughts- as we explore another arena from recent history…
Fast forward to 1700s (the dawn of modern history)- say we arrive in a period post 1700s- what we witness here is a rapid development in technological areas and machine science coming of age- methodical and unprecedented documentation of history through volumes over volumes of books, research papers, scientific journals, all of them collaborating and contributing to help us reach where we are today! So what is the common thread running through human history in this period of time- Well, you guessed it right! “Enhanced Curiosity” and a sustained effort towards experimentation! The result, well we owe each and every bit of our modern day luxury to the pioneers and scientist of this bygone era- whether it is the CT scan machine that you are using, that X Ray door frame at the airport terminal, that electron microscope that ensures that airplanes are safe or the simple science applied to food chemistry that has ensured we live longer (living healthy is a choice as yet left unto us!)
So what actually was different between the Roman example and the the advent of modern societies post rapid industrialization- well the difference was in a simple aspect- the aspect of knowing when to be curious and in what measure. Of course, stable societies that guarantee safety and offer incentive for risk taking and enterprise always enhance “curiosity”. Societies that shun risk appetite (for one or the other reason) eventually end up being under the proverbial Volcano that will certainly erupt! (it always is just a matter of time- it’s then about When and not about If!) These proverbial Volcanic eruptions are not necessarily volcanic ash in pour face and lava lakes flowing through our cities- it is something far worse then that- when societies shun – individual enterprise by penalizing curiosity and enterprising approach by tying it up with penalties; these curious minds seek environments that offer better intellectual spaces and (which are the least penal and far more intellectually stimulating- read Brain Drain!)
Well, so whats the point here- well simple as always- The intrinsic fabric of our mind holds Curiosity- don’t believe me – fine- try interacting with those 2-5 year old’s and then let’s have a chat! The essence of human mind and the bio-chemical gift that it is also underlines this basic hardwired trait to be always seeking, searching and finding answers and developing our abilities of reliability through cognition and experimentation to make our today and tomorrow safer for us and the following generations! Like every other attribute- too much or too little of it surely can spell a disaster– example by setting off false levels and layers of urgency or complacency- which we often see in our workplaces! (because as long as we are not ending up killing anyone – everything seems fine in the corporate world- no matter what new levels of dumbness we achieve). Most of the times these errors are not fatal , but complacency when coupled with a fatigued mind- has almost always led to disasters and the only attribute that could have helped avoid them would have been a sustaining and an inquiring mind- which always asks- “Why is this – what I see- the way it is- is there a better way- for this to exist or work or provide that next level of benefit which is out of reach as yet!”
Before I leave you at the mercy of your curious mind- Always remember- All greatness that Humankind has ever achieved has been a function of an underlying curious mind and a curious-mind led thought leadership! As species it is our curious minds that help us navigate situations which are out of any written script whether we are dealing with animal instincts hidden among humans around us or we encounter real animals at their wildest best- when we are on our next hike!
I leave you here, grab your drink and let your curious mind wander a bit- a good question- well- try and figure out – “Who are you”! Ciao for now!