Curiosity or Hallucination

I read a question on Quora, which asked whether octopuses might ever evolve into sapient creatures. An answer—suggested as the “best” one—said it would be impossible because of the short life-span and mating practices of the creature. The original question, I suspect, was prompted by the understanding that octopuses are extremely intelligent; that it, they can learn rather complex responses to solve problems in their environments. Whether the original question, the featured response, or any of the follow-up answers contain elements of truth, they teem with curiosity.

Curiosity is an interesting characteristic. Or is it a trait? The question intrigued me, so I explored it a bit. I found (on a subset site of the How Stuff Works website) the following explanations about different types of curiosity: 1) “The fleeting arousal of curiosity that would evoke curiosity as a reaction is known as state curiosity.” 2) “The concept that curiosity resides within is known as trait curiosity.” Elsewhere on the same site, I found another intriguing concept: that curiosity is the “urge to gain information we don’t really need.”

Basically, the descriptive theories suggest that state curiosity is triggered by events, whereas trait curiosity is an inherent interest in learning. As I ponder my own curiosity, I think both types are at work. And, I suspect, that’s true of most people. Other thoughts presented in the series of articles about curiosity imply that curiosity may be increased or decreased by the rewards or penalties attached to its display. In other words, positive feedback tends to cultivate curiosity, whereas negative feedback tends to stifle it.

A quote about curiosity I found online intrigues me: “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” The original “curiosity killed the cat” warns of the dangers of unnecessary exploration. The rejoinder (according to Wikipedia) suggests resurrection awaits those who take the risk of exploration.

I wonder about the rewards of exploring the possibilities of a cephalopod’s sapience. What are those rewards? Are they purely intellectual? Does curiosity stimulate the brain physically in some fashion? Or is curiosity purely a mental exercise? I miss rigorous exploration of such concepts, the kind of rigorous engagements one gets in college courses. But I don’t have the discipline or the intellectual stamina to get engaged. I want knowledge, but without the effort. I’d be satisfied with an injection in my arm, filling me with all the information I’ve ever wanted to know. I suppose that’s an invitation to hallucinogenic drugs. Probably not good for me, not at this age and stage. Yet hallucinations can, I’ve been told, lead to both intense knowledge and intense curiosity.

Hmmm. More to ponder.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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