Summary of Contributor Responses
On this overall perspectives page are summarized the most frequently
occurring responses to the three questions. These common threads are
discussed first (the numbered summaries) without regard to the field
from which they came and, immediately following, contrasted between
the two broad categories of "the arts" and "the sciences".
But people are complex, and no summary can be as meaningful as reading
fully what each of these unique and creative people have to say. An
overview here has only been attempted by your host in the hope that
what is discovered might be helpful to students, as well as to parents
and teachers in their quest to guide and nurture young people to become
the best that they can be.
one starts down this path of attempting to identify and interpret
conditions that may be conducive to finding a life of involvement
and interest, which often leads to the pursuit of excellence, there
is a temptation to cover all the bases. But a website is not the
place for a thesis, and so you will find here only the tip of the
iceberg. It was important, however, to read Prof.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's firstclass book entitled Creativity, which explores the lives of 91 creative people in greater depth
than done here with the three basic questions asked of the Mars
Millennium Project (MMP) respondents. The result of this comparison
clearly identified many similar traits across the full range of
the Creativity and the MMP respondents.
terms of what factors most influenced the many different MMP contributors
in choosing their particular fields in the first place, the most
frequently occurring explanations, in decreasing order (with percentages
in parentheses), are shown below. Naturally, one must always be
mindful that the MMP sample size was not large (72), as well as
the fact that many of those choosing to participate may have already
had a "dreamofspace" bias. Nonetheless, the
findings seem of significant value to those seeking to find an exciting,
"alive", and rewarding life. There was also evidence that
"the younger, the better" held generally true for when
exposure to a given factor carried the greatest leverage.
Major Reasons for Choosing Life's Pursuit:
Turning to the first question, there
was a total of 168 cited reasons from the 72 respondents in the various
categories given below. Thus, 40 people (24% of 168), or over half
of the respondents, cited the most frequently occurring reason. The
other reasons are also given in the following list:
1. 24% The
influence of a special parent, teacher, or friend in sparking and/or
nourishing a young person's interest in some activity, frequently
one that young person has shown an ability to do generally better
than his or her peers. An activity can vary widely and might include
drawing, singing, writing, building models, solving puzzles, learning
to use a computer, playing "strategy" games, looking at
the stars, dancing, making home movies with a camcorder, or even
observing an ant colony. In Creativity, there was also this
same dominant factor of parents and teachers who foster curiosity,
wonder, and interest.
2. 18% Storytelling
in all of its forms. This included personal reading (with the author
as storyteller), or as told directly by another person, movie, or
TV special. It comes as no surprise that the MMP respondents were
particularly fond of adventure stories, either in the form of science
fiction or customary novels. In essence, the storyteller was able
to influence the young person in very positive ways that later facilitated
development along creative pathways.
3. 15% Exposure
to the intrinsic beauty of the natural world, from the sea to the
mountains, even to the moon and stars overhead. This was often cited
by the MMP respondents, from both artists and scientists alike.
In Creativity, as a powerful corollary to this, Prof. Csikszentmihalyi
notes the remarkable fact that all 91 of his respondents were greatly
concerned about the deterioration of the natural environment.
4. 15% A
combination of curiosity and natural ability. Many respondents professed
to this reason without being able to attribute the cause to any
other special person. They just believed that they were "born
that way", suggesting of course a genetic connection. Though
not obvious, such a connection has been well established in the
5. 14% The
excitement of the space age, particularly of the Apollo missions
to the moon. This fascination continues today, and no doubt into
the foreseeable future, with the production of movies and TV episodes
that draw millions of viewers. Some have never forgotten 2001
A Space Odyssey, the great story by Arthur C. Clarke,
and powerful film directed by Stanley Kubrick. Perhaps the human
race, being made "of star stuff", is drawn to explore
distant worlds beyond Earth as it "returns to the stars".
6. 14% What's
left is a variety of different factors, no one of which exceeds
5%. Among these are the desire for recognition, competition, model
building, the wish to create one's own world, the witnessing of
a unique event, the need to escape from an unhappy family situation
by wishing and dreaming of a better life, and various other factors
that may have occurred only once or twice among the MMP respondents.
regard to the above list, the notable artistscientist differences
occur in areas #1, #4, and #5. About half again as many respondents
from the sciences as from the arts cited the #1 reason, with this
ratio increasing to just over twice as many for the #4 and #5 reasons.
Relative to #1, perhaps this stems from a greater number of technical
parents encouraging their children to pursue technical careers than
for artistic parents encouraging their children to follow artistic
careers, but this is only the host's opinion. Relative to #4, more
scientists expressed the belief that motivation for choosing their
fields derived from a combination of innate curiosity and natural
ability. One could understand the curiosity effect (often attributed
to the sciences), but presumably comparable numbers of both artists
and scientists possess a natural ability to do well in their chosen
fields. Finally, relative to #5, although 21% of the artists noted
motivation by the space age, 33% of the engineers and scientists,
and all of the astronauts, cited the inspiration and growing excitement
of the space age as a motivating factor.
Major Features of the Creative Process:
Turning next to the second question, there was a total of 211 cited
reasons from the 72 contributors in the various categories listed
below. The most frequently occurring reasons were:
1. 19% The
importance of a strong educational background and being prepared
and knowledgeable before undertaking the activity. This could manifest
as a solid grounding in math and physics for a scientist or engineer,
or as a good grasp of technique for an artist such as a painter,
photographer, sculptor, dancer, etc. In Creativity, it was
wonderful to learn that almost all respondents pursued the quest
for knowledge until the end of life, remaining "eager for the
2. 18% The
ability to conceptualize the task at hand and engage in broad and
deep thought about it before getting on with the detailed process
of solving the problem or carrying out the activity. Many expressed
the importance of getting at the "big picture" first before
jumping into the rest of the solution process. In Creativity, Csikszentmihalyi notes the added importance of having clear goals
and a good match of the creative person's capability with the challenge
he or she faces.
3. 9% The
importance of relaxing a bit after a period of intense thought and
work. This seems to allow the creative process to continue working
in a less constrained, more freeform manner, often leading
to the "aha" solution that springs forth when it is ready
to emerge. This can happen when first awaking in the morning, or
when taking a stroll down a scenic path. This was frequently expressed
by the Creativity respondents as well, as part of the process
of learning the field, incubating an idea, relaxing a bit to experience
the "aha", evaluating the solution, and finally implementing
it if it makes sense after further thought.
4. 9% The
benefits derived from interfacing with colleagues or even people
from outside of one's own field. This was more commonly cited by
scientists as important for their own successful progress in their
field. When selfconfident, it is easy to believe that one
can solve one's own problems without help or ideas from others,
but several respondents felt strongly about the value of gathering
and integrating ideas from other people and even from other disciplines.
5. 8% Simply
being happy in one's chosen field. This may seem like an obvious
state for all creative people, but it was only mentioned by about
a quarter of the respondents. Some did note the importance of establishing
an environment within which it was fun to work. Several of the Creativity respondents also noted that their work was really "play",
and that some of their most productive periods occurred when both
their playfulness and their discipline coexisted and bounced back
and forth. It was also observed that it was important to help young
people find pleasure in the right things.
6. 7% Being
passionate about the work and jumping into it with "all burners
on". During such periods, not only was the activity enjoyed,
but there was no fear of failure and the passage of time was not
noticed. This was to many a period of intense satisfaction when
they felt alive and engaged. Obviously, during such periods, one
must make time for family members and friends who, though not engaged
in the passionate effort, are an important part of the emotional
sphere of the creative person.
7. 5% The
ability to simplify any problem to its essence and apply a set of
basic and simple principles to its solution. There are times when
problems appear very complex, yet their solution is driven by only
a few dominant features of the overall problem. This is a skill
that a few creative people have that is enormously valuable. It
can be cultivated to some extent in others with help from those
possessing this ability.
8. 4% Following
the beat of one's own drummer in order to do original work that
is not derivative from the works of others. Though this was not
stated as often as many of the more frequent responses, the host
believes it to be very important in achieving true creativity and
unique work. Success and recognition may at times not come quickly,
but to follow one's own heart can ultimately lead to works that
set new levels of excellence and that endure.
9. 4% The
use of a strong imagination and "outofthebox"
thinking. Too often, we approach our problems in a conventional
manner and automatically apply a set of rules and constraints that
are customary. Instead, we should question some of these rules and
look for widerranging alternatives. In Creativity, several respondents were successful when applying both
convergent and divergent thinking. There are times when an outofthebox
solution is not only simple but the best as well.
10. 17% What's
left is a variety of different factors, no one of which exceeds
about 3%. Included are unique timing, using both left and right
brain halves in concert, building the creative process in layers,
emotional honesty, curiosity, raw talent, genetics and hard work,
a love for challenges, iterating the solution many times, following
the heart's lead, and daring to accomplish impossible dreams.
regard to the above list, several notable differences occurred.
Relative to #1, more scientists than artists by a ratio of 2.4 to
1 cited the importance of a good education, and by 1.7 to 1 in #3
cited the value of letting up a bit after a period of intense concentration
to allow a good solution to pop to the surface without forcing it.
For reason #4, more scientists than artists by nearly 3 to 1 cited
the value of interfacing with colleagues or even going totally outside
their field as important. For matters of the heart and following
the beat of one's own drummer, artists somewhat more than scientists
cited these types of reasons.
Suggestions for Future Martian Community:
Turning finally to the third question
which asked for ideas to help the future community on Mars survive
in an enjoyable and enduring manner, there were many interesting suggestions
here. Several were very human and society oriented, while others were
relatively technical. Some of the specific technical suggestions occurred
at lower frequency, probably because many of the respondents were
unaware of such technical matters as "terraforming", coping
with the harsh survival conditions on Mars, constructing a solar system
Internet, adapting future robots to help humans in crucial ways, and
even the distant possibility of genetically redesigning the human
body to better adapt to the Martian conditions.
surprisingly, only two respondents alluded to the issue of community
governance, and there were no references to utopian or communal
societies. In any event, it is hoped that the MMP participants will
fold in the best of these ideas along with their own to arrive at
interesting and promising designs for a small human community on
Mars in the year 2030. There was a total of 148 suggestions from
the 72 contributors in the various categories given below. Please
note, however, that the many diverse types of suggestions given
for the future Martian community could have been grouped into different
structures than the one shown below, which leads to the following
most frequently occurring reasons:
1. 18% The
importance of meeting spiritual and cultural hunger needs through
staying in touch with ourselves and in blending the arts and sciences
for the most enjoyable environment. Many respondents declared that
it was not sufficient for the body to survive if the soul should
starve. Specific suggestions included clarifying or redefining meaning
in life, having easy access to Earth's stories and images, and striving
for uplifting architecture and great views. No longer will a collection
of drab engineering "habs" suffice, dropped in the middle
of a vast and dusty plain.
2. 10% The
importance of maintaining a diverse mix of people, including ethnic
types, ages, sexes and, perhaps most important, skills to deal with
both raw survival issues and providing the needed food for the soul.
With only 100 humans in this MMP scenario, however, choices must
be made with care.
3. 10% The
need for extensive communication networks on Mars and between Mars
and Earth. Though largely recommended by engineers and scientists,
many recognized the essential value in staying connected to information
and to other humans. Our own burgeoning information age is clear
testimony to this point.
4. 9% The
importance of exploring and learning everything possible about Mars,
overlooking nothing it has to offer. Though mostly the suggestion
of scientists, a few artists also wanted Mars to be carefully observed
from the new landscapes and sunsets down to the most closeup
details. Exploring a new frontier has always been popular.
5. 7% The
enormous importance, from the very first planning stages, of designing
the community with great care. The art and skill of "systems
design" is not commonly appreciated (except by a few to whom
it is practically a religion), but it is critical that all facets
of starting anew on another world such as Mars be managed using
a systems approach. Attention to detail, such as designing efficient
habitats, will always be critical to success.
6. 7% The
importance of creating an Earthlike environment by any means
possible, including terraforming, holodecks to create virtual experiences,
archives of books and films, and even popular public events. As
Mars is clearly no match for Earth's great biosphere or its infinite
variety of human activities, many respondents felt that steps had
to be taken to compensate for these shortcomings.
7. 6% The
great value in using robotic devices in the most effective way to
both prepare for the arrival of the first humans and to support
the community during and after it has been established. In any harsh
environment, robots have been indispensable, but there are many
other tasks that they can accomplish better than humans. By relieving
humans of as many tasks as possible, humans will have more time
to cope with making the new community a success.
8. 6% Adopting
principles that will allow the community "society" to
operate effectively. These include important goals such as having
a clear purpose, developing a sense of ownership, simplifying wherever
feasible, finding a form of governance that works, learning how
to start anew on another world, and recognizing that society is
the "ultimate machine".
9. 6% Ensuring
the availability of adequate water, food, and other needed resources.
This seems too obvious to need explanation, yet relatively few respondents
made a special point of it. Clearly, technology must be adapted
to handle these needs. Some even stressed the importance of learning
to "live off the land", in order to reduce the need for
supply ships from Earth. An early determination of suitable Martian
raw materials will be essential.
10. 4% Allowing
Mars and its new citizens to find their own voice and their own
uniqueness, rather than trying to make the conditions like those
on Earth. This courageous view was taken by a few and bears thought.
If the proposed Martian community is ever to be the envy of people
still on Earth, it may well need its own signature.
11. 17% What's
left is a variety of different suggestions, no one of which exceeds
about 3% of the total. Included are running the community like a
business, developing affordable transportation, eliminating most
of the stifling laws and regulations that evolved on Earth, developing
courage and commitment, providing an escape route for humankind
if Earth becomes at risk, enjoying low gravity (particularly when
older), developing new games, protecting the Martian environment,
locating habitats below ground, assessing new risks to humans, genetically
redesigning the human body, and learning to adapt.
regard to the above list, there were many notable differences. Relative
to #1, more artists than technical respondents, by 1.5 to 1, suggested
the need to feed the soul. Relative to #2, more scientists recommended,
by 2 to 1, the vital importance of having the necessary skill mix
within the community. Relative to #3, engineers and scientists cited
the need for communication networks by 5 to 1 over the same suggestion
by artists. For #4 about exploring, the same ratio occurred. For#6,
half again as many scientists as artists expressed a wish for an
Earthlike environment. For #7, again the engineers and scientists
cited, by 6 to 1 over the artists, the need for robots to assist
the human community. For #9, the technical respondents again listed
the importance of obtaining the necessary resources by 5 to 1 over
the artists. Finally, for #10, only the artists and no engineers
or scientists argued for the importance of allowing Mars and its
new inhabitants to find their own unique voices.
In summary, much inspiration and knowledge can be gained by absorbing what the MMP individual respondents have to say. Here a summary perspective has been offered, but the visitor to this site is strongly encouraged to browse through the various responses, many of which are beautifully written and poignant. What does it all mean? In the fewest words, get an education, discover what you want to do in life, and then live these dreams to the best of your ability. That is one of the major secrets to a happy and fulfilling life.