Tools and reflections

Lao Tse eloquently addresses the role of tools,

Thus tools come from what exists,
But use from what does not

In TRIZ Genrich Altshuller ascribes the skill of an inventor to two elements, the amount of tools (manipulations) with which he is proficient, and his ability to access his tools. Similar to a handyman, whose capabilities are determined not only by his proficiency in using his tools but also with the order in his toolbox.
Altshuller viewed physics as an important subject for building up a toolbox. One of the reasons is that much of our world is constrained by physics, so understanding the interplay between gravity, friction, momentum energy etc. goes along way in coming up with inventions. A second reason is that physics reaches us not only the tools ( various axioms and rules ) but also how to apply them to problems.
For this reason many people view physics as an important part of the curriculum as it teaches people to think. However physics along with other scientific studies are challenged to hold the interest of students. Morever the ‘classic’ way of teaching science is being challenged as being too theoretical.
This highlights the inherent paradox in teaching people to be creative. We need to teach the use of tools and rules while developing a proficiency in using the tools outside their original scope. This is somewhat akin to the zen saying “I can show you the way, but the not the one you need to walk by”.

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2 thoughts on “Tools and reflections

  1. Pingback: Creativity and Education | Zen and the Art of Invention

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