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He who knows it not and can no longer wonder no longer feel

amazement is a good as dead.

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” Unknown.  

Awe can rock our world, making us reassess our beliefs and revise our theories of how things work. 

What may sometimes appear to be devious or deceptive, is, in the end mysterious, and (almost?) magical. 

Wonder is the accidental impetus behind our greatest achievements.

 

There in may lie the power of priests, doctors, politicians, psychoanalysts, and, (dare we say it?) teachers.

We are creatures of boundless curiosity.

For example: To think or speculate curiously; To be filled with admiration, amazement, astonishment, or awe; To doubt; something strange and surprising; producing puzzlement or curiosity; the reverse of what might be expected are disappearing down a Smart Phone or a Google Search.

These days everything is awesome.

We marvel at mundane everyday experiences and not objects that evoke mystery, doubt, and uncertainty.

For most city-dwellers, the night sky is merely a murky orange haze. We are becoming estranged from natural sources of awe with electronic media becoming the only source of awe.

Image of night sky

One can’t say when, in our evolutionary history, our ancestors first got blown away by something immense or amazing.

SENSE OF WONDER  n.

A feeling of awakening or awe triggered by an expansion of one’s awareness of what is possible or by confrontation with the vastness of space and time, as brought on by reading science fiction or standing on the top of Everest.

The sense of inspired awe that is aroused in a reader when the full implications of an event or action become realized, or when the immensity of a plot or idea first becomes known, or (Not that I have ever stood on the summit of Everest) the view of the Himalayan peaks.

What do we really desire from our future technologies?

We claim that just as in life, it should assist us in solving problems and improving our everyday efficiency. However, we could further argue that technology also must prompt us to think, be curious, and wonder.

If we fail or, worse yet, ignore this vital design space of wonderment for technology, we are almost certainly doomed to live amongst emotionless, servant-like, lifeless, problem solving, scientific systems.

We deserve more.

Feelings of wonderment are difficult to measure and nearly impossible to assign a value. Nonetheless, these episodes are part of our lives and as such deserve a place within the discussion of our future digital technologies.

We still need to understand how conviction and belief actually arise in a human being.

How far have I walked today? How many people have ever sat on that bench? Does that woman own a cat? Did a child or adult spit that gum onto the sidewalk? These are all feelings of what we call “wonderment” that color and enrich our lives.

Step back with me for a moment. What really matters?

Everyday life spans a wide range of emotions and experiences – from improving productivity and efficiency to promoting wonderment and daydreaming.

Our successful future technological tools, the one we really want to cohabited with, will be those that incorporate the full range of life experiences.

We are at an important technological inflection point.

The value of invisibility, but does not make it visible.

It is this important element of human mystery and curiosity that is underrepresented as a design practice for technological interactive systems.

Currently our mobile phones are doomed to live out only short product lifespan. As these fully functional objects fail to satisfy our technological fetishes and trends, they are replaced by I Pads, by Watches, by Glasses, by Virtual Reality.

Changing people’s sense of control can influence the kinds of scientific explanations they prefer: if you feel that you don’t have control, you’ll be more drawn to explanations that promise order and predictability.

People have become more individualistic, more self-focused, more materialistic and less connected to others.

To reverse this trend, I suggest that people insist on experiencing more everyday awe, to actively seek out what gives them goose bumps, be it in looking at trees, night skies, patterns of wind on water.

While as I have said it is difficult to place quantitative measurements on wonder in terms of enjoyment, benefit, or even improved quality of life, it is indeed a essential element of daily human life.

We need to understand two elements of belief:

Suggestibility and Surrender.

“These are not only elements of religious conviction, they are part and parcel of the experience of learning and teaching, of certainty and persuasion, as much as they are part of various social strategies to modulate and sooth doubt and anxiety, as well as strategies meant to shock and gain influence.” (Frank 1974, Galanter 1993).

Education comes in all different forms and many people believe if they can look up information on their phone, including current news, then they are learning and expanding their mind. So what’s the problem?

Although mobile apps and texting have made our lives easier, some question the impact they’ve having on the relationships we have with one another.  The use of texting and Facebook and Twitter and other sites as a form of communication is eroding people’s ability to write sentences that communicate real meaning and inhibit the art of dialogue of the impossible.

We will soon have a generation that has no clue how to read any of the cues of wonderment.

Wonders never cease!

Nine days’ wonder:  No wonder: Time works wonders: Gutless wonder: Wonder about: Wonder at: Wonders will never cease: A one-hit wonder: A chinless wonder: Little wonder: Wonder Drugs: Wonder boy.

The sky would have been the most pervasive natural influence of wonder now it’s the Mobil Phone. There ringtones have a private meaning but are a public experience. They are as expressive as the clothing we wear and an obvious extension of our public presentation of self.

Ringtone sales are a $4 billion market worldwide. Now ain’t that awesome.

Wonder is sometimes said to be a childish emotion, one that we grow out of.  But that is surely wrong. Wonder might be humanity’s most important emotion.

Wondrous things engage our senses.

Wonder is what leads us to try to understand our world. 

Knowledge does not abolish wonder; indeed, scientific discoveries are often more wondrous than the mysteries they unravel. 

Wonder, then, unites science and religion, two of the greatest human institutions.

Art, science and religion are all forms of excess; they transcend the practical ends of daily life.  Science, religion and art are unified in wonder. 

Without wonder, it is hard to believe that we would engage in these distinctively human pursuits. 

We needed to master our environment enough to exceed the basic necessities of survival before we could make use of wonder.

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Art, science and religion are inventions for feeding the appetite that wonder excites in us. They also become sources of wonder in their own right, generating epicycles of boundless creativity and enduring inquiry.

Each of these institutions allows us to transcend our animality by transporting us to hidden worlds.

In harvesting the fruits of wonder, we came into our own as a species.

Personally I wonder who read this blog.

For those that do:

I leave with a wonder of all time but don’t spend too long contemplating the wonder.

Infinity.

It’s enough to drive anyone mad, as well as a good point at which to bring to an end this blog.

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