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The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice by John Maeda, Mara Hermano, Rosanne Somerson

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Preface

Frank R. Wilson

All humans are born biologically gifted learners — recipients of a host of inheritances from ancestors we will never meet. This claim is not one of those plastic verbal posies tossed lightly from a Preface writer to inspiration-hungry readers. It is a straightforward fact about the strength of every person’s connection to genetic heritage, and the reason for our astonishing capacity to acquire skill, knowledge, and understanding through physical experience, fulfilling the deepest instinctive intentions of the human mind itself. No matter who our forebears were or where they lived as individuals, as a group they learned to see beneath surfaces, to read meaning into the unfamiliar, and to adapt and survive not simply as a species, but as living individuals, in a future than could not be foreseen. But how did they do it?

The sources of our readiness are unimaginably remote, as the roots of human physical skill and intelligence extend into the past by millions of years. It seems likely that widespread climate and vegetation changes in Africa at the end of the Miocene epoch, more than 5 million years ago, increasingly forced tree-dwelling apes there to take their chances as bipedal ground dwellers. When this happened, the hand and the brain that we inherit were not what they are today. Much of what we know about the evolution of the human wrist and hand we owe to Lucy, who lived in the Afar region of Ethiopia 3 1/4 million years ago.1 A chimpanzee-size ape whose ...

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