Saturday, December 7, 2013

Boredom and creativity

Computers have memory. Computer memory is divided between permanent memory and working memory. The permanent memory stores all your songs, pictures and movies. Working memory is used for processing.
So when you are reading your birthday wishes on Facebook wall, or writing an email, the computer is using its working memory to temporarily hold the text, pictures and everything else.
Human beings also have working memory, which we use when we are busy at a task, like writing or catching a train. This memory is used to keep all the thoughts about the job at hand.
There is an interesting difference between our working memory and that of the computer. When computer does not need all the working memory it has, the remaining memory remains idle. But that is not the case with us.
When we have more working memory than we need, the rest of the space is filled by wandering thoughts. Sometimes these wandering thoughts become more important than the actual job you are doing. You turn the pages of a book, but your thoughts are somewhere else and later you don't remember a word from the book. We call this daydreaming.
This characteristics of our working memory has two interesting effects:
- Those with more working memory do more daydreaming. But it also means that they have more capacity of focusing when the job requires it. So those who seem more distracted, ironically can do a better job at focusing.
- The wandering thoughts lead to creativity, as they enable more connections between unrelated ideas. Now, if you have a boring task in office, your working memory is not used, so your thoughts wonder, and creativity gets a chance.
So getting bored at your desk is not bad, you can turn it into creative ideas. Did you ever have this experience?

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