Freakonomics points to some data that suggests - with one important qualification - that the answer may be yes. According to one study, healthier food has improved test scores and reduced student absenteeism in Greenwich, south London.
Louisville's Keith Robbins filmed this panel featuring philosopher Sandy Goldberg, architect Emiliano Gandolfi, game designer Jane McGonigal and the artistic director for Diavolo, Jacques Heim at the 2008 IdeaFestival discussing breakthroughs, the importance of failure and their sources of creativity. In addition to some great conversation, this ten minute video features a favorite quote of mine.
Concluding that we "owe it to ourselves and each other the opportunity to prove to one another how great we can be," Naomi Tutu described her big idea following her presentation at the 2009 IdeaFestival. This video, and those from other IdeaFestival participants ranging from theoretical physicist Michio Kaku to game designer Jane McGonigal, can be found at the IdeaFestival Channel on YouTube. Check them out!
Alex Soojun-Kim Pang points out an interesting thought from Black Swan author and former IF speaker Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who says that
[L]iving organisms (whether the human body or the economy) need variability and randomness. What's more, they need the Extremistan type of variability, certain extreme stressors. Otherwise they become fragile.
Taleb's description of "Extremistan" can be found in this live-blogged account (and here) of his presentation at the 2008 IdeaFestival. The suggestion that we change in tandem with our environment is of course nothing new. But I immediately thought of an important corollary when it comes to our minds: use them or lose them. The future belongs to those exposed to the "variability of ideas," who can take that information, whether it be from the arts, business or sciences, and build new things and imagine different outcomes. The future can't, of course, be predicted, but the festival is a celebration of the nimble thinking that makes the best of it.
"Otherwise we become fragile."
Information about the unbelievable line up of IdeaFestival presenters for 2010 is coming soon. Please stick around!
Niemeyer began by defining games as a "way for two or more participants to have a conversation in a fictional gamespace," and offered examples such as "Ring around the Rosey" that demonstrate our use of games in early learning.
Games are free, separate from reality, rules-based, limited in time and space. As distinguished from the game as a whole, game outcomes do not produce profit.
Fun, playfulness and the feeling of being in the moment, are powerful outcomes of game play. Like the willing suspension of disbelief while watching a movie, this momentary abandonment can lead to unexpected insight, because, unlike the experience of watching a movie or theatrical play, the game's outcome hangs in the balance and depends on participant interaction. Games are transformative. And yes, this phenomenal effect can be abused just like any other diversion.
Niemeyer has said that games will be the dominant 21st Century medium. If measured by the business revenue of screen-based games, they are ascendant today.
Games cut across many existing disciplines. For example, in anthropology, they might be thought of as "rule-based, participatory, systematic instances of culture." In medicine, the pair offered examples of games in a diagnostic or therapeutic setting.
Because they offer a safe space, games are often played when people are trying to process a societal change.
There were several exchanges on the use of games as a pedagogical device. Niemeyer said that games are not the only answer in learning, but they will reach some people that can't be reached otherwise. Traditional teaching and learning methods combined with games are better than traditional teaching methods alone. "This has been well established in the literature" on the subject, according to Niemeyer.
For a descriptive case study of one well known ARG, read '08 IdeaFestival presenter Jane McGonigal's paper on "I Love Bees" (PDF), in which she explores concepts like distributed intelligence in real world games.
If you bought a pass to see Shakespeare scholar Marjorie Garber, cooperative biologist Bert Hölldobler, journalist Dana Canady, Anthony Bourdain or any of the fantastic presenters at the 2009 IdeaFestival, you helped fight water scarcity in India, Nigeria and China!
Seeking worthwhile projects that might demonstrate how small investments can have big outcomes, an IdeaFestival offshoot, Butterfly Capital, partnered with the Abundance Farming Project last year to help AFP distribute a starch-based organic granule to rural farmers in areas of the world that are experiencing sporadic rainfall. The material, called Zeba, can absorb hundreds of times its mass in water and then slowly release it throughout the growing season. It's so absorbent that a teaspoon will hold an entire LITER of water. More importantly, when applied around plant roots, Zeba can provide life sustaining water for crops, contribute to food security and provide extra income for families.
You have helped! A percentage of revenue from sold 2009 access passes was donated to the project following the festival, and Paul Osterlund recently informed IF that the funds were used to start new field trials.
The festival is currently looking for investment candidates. If you have one in mind, please tell us about it in the comments below, or reply @ideafestival on Twitter.
These are the only existing video images of Anne Frank, taken during the wedding of a neighbor in Amsterdam in 1941.
Off-topic: If you're not already following the IdeaFestival on Twitter, please consider it. There you will find daily bonus linkage - this video link was tweeted last week - as well as IdeaFestival news and information.
While astronomy and medical imaging seem very different, both fields search through large amounts of image data looking for meaningful patterns. For example, a physician may inspect a patient's MRI scans looking for signs of disease, while an astronomer will analyze radio telescope image data to find evidence of a new star being born. The two sciences have separately developed many techniques to analyze, visualize, and catalog complex multi-dimensional imaging data, but seldom have experts from the two areas worked together.
It's one of those unexpected pairings that is the basis of what the IdeaFestival is all about. An ability to creatively combine and recombine knowledge to produce such beneficial outcomes is the future of knowing. It should be celebrated.