The satiation of human curiosity

People involved: Félix Schoeller

KeywordsLearning, pleasure, curiosity, intelligence, education

Project Description

My main interest is in human curiosity and how humans learn to adapt in real time to a changing world. This has lead me to write a thesis encompassing the fields of biology, psychology, neurology, psychiatry, and philosophy. In particular, I am interested in the relation between learning, understanding and pleasure. In the laboratory, I made important discoveries concerning psychogenic shivers, the feeling of cold in your spine that you may experience while listening to music, watching narrative films or doing mathematics. My hypothesis is that these episodes are best described as events where natural curiosity is satisfied. I am now interested in the pedagogical and technological applications of this research. These can be sorted into three main categories. First, I am developing Satori, a machine to help subjects limit their uncertainty about the world and relieve stress in clinical populations. Satori is a sort of augmented reality, but instead of obtaining data about the external world, the subject can read information in real time about the internal states of her brain and body. Second, I am working with several institutions in the more political and social realms to derive conclusions from my scientific work. In particular, I have been involved in the making of a film about school shot during one year of immersion in a Parisian ghetto. The film concerns the fundamental principles of education and was shot together with French sociologists and Danish pedagogues. The aim with this film was twofold. First, I intend to use it as material for a debate clarifying the problem of education in Europe, the fundamental social inequalities and the contradictions in our current pedagogy. Second, this film can reach specific populations usually not affected by more traditional media and help foster their curiosity and intelligence. The third dimension of my project is Symposium, an experimental space, which I created together with a colleague and the help of the Ministry of Culture. The function of Symposium is to provide physical algorithmic structures to facilitate the dialogue between disciplines on the basis of common problems. Symposium publishes books and hosts workshops for all ages to provide new insights and reflect the most recent trends in the arts and sciences. From these three main axes derive a number of more specific research projects. In particular, concerning the problems of human altruism, the radicalisation of young terrorists, and the universal logic of stories.