I’m not as curious as I used to be

I remember at the beginning of graduate school, I told my friend jokingly that I’m only taking graduate physics because I want to improve my imagination. I wanted to imagine the interior of the sun with more detail and more rigor.

And I think you can relate, when I say: I am not as curious as I used to be. When we were children, we really wanted to understand things, we wanted to understand the adult world. The world was full of possibilities and amazing mysterious things to understand. When you grow older, due to various necessities, you start to become less curious. You go on with your life, and you don’t really have time to stop and really think about what you don’t understand. You have a (fake) sense that you get the world, there is not much to understand.

If you’re religious, you just think it’s all god, god is working in mysterious ways, and that’s that. If you’re a scientist, it’s all just atoms moving around, and life started through evolution and complicated things happened, and that’s that!

I think the reason we feel less curious, is not that we understand the world deeply, it’s because we’ve figured out enough things to live safely in the world. And from there we just have a reduced standard of what it means to understand something, superficial level understanding becomes enough.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not all that bad. Paying less attention to deep curiosity and playfulness is the price we pay for operating efficiently in the world, getting things done without wasting time thinking about things that we think will not be that fruitful, like “what exactly is an electron”.

On the other hand there is a very specific reason children are playful, stupid and curious. That attitude is what allows kids to learn new things relatively quickly and discover genuinely new possibilities. It is silly for someone who lived 30 or 40 years to think that there’s no genuinely new possibilities in a universe that is billions of years old. There are unimaginably many ways that the world can be different and better and there are many many deep things about our lives that nobody understands. We need curious and playful adults to guide the world to these new possibilities. To help solve thorny world problems. And to have a population full of happy silly people.