Imaginative thinking is central to the practice of every person working in the scientific, creative and humanistic fields and disciplines—in every aspect of human endeavour. Philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger wrote that the “imagination is the scout of the will, anticipating how we might get to the there—or to different theres—from here.” This conversation between Lee Smolin, a theoretical physicist, Jaron Lanier, a technology pioneer and musician, and Madhur Anan, a literary writer and scientist, explores the role of the imagination in their diverse practices. How does this capacity enable them to see and to reveal new possibilities for the world?
This conversation was presented and hosted by the President’s Office of the University of Guelph.
Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who is a founding and senior faculty member at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His main contributions have been to the quantum theory of gravity, to which he has been a co-inventor and major contributor to two major directions: loop quantum gravity and deformed special relativity. He also contributes to cosmology through his proposal of cosmological natural selection: a falsifiable mechanism to explain the choice of the laws of physics. He also has written four books: Life of the Cosmos, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, The Trouble with Physics and Time Reborn. Most recently, he co-authored The Singular Universe and The Reality of Time with Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Photo Credit: Nir Baraket
Madhur Anand’s poetry has appeared in literary magazines across North America. She completed her Ph.D. in theoretical ecology at Western University, and is currently University Research Chair in Sustainability Science in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph and interim director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation.
Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist and author who writes on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the impact of technology, the philosophy of consciousness and information, internet politics and the future of humanism. Lanier’s most recent book is Who Owns the Future? A pioneer in virtual reality, Lanier founded VPL Research and led teams creating VR applications for medicine, design and numerous other fields. Lanier is also a musician and artist.