If you could invite any five people to dinner, who would you choose? If you could pick your hero’s brain, what burning questions would you ask? Perhaps you’d ask after your favorite musician, author, inventor, explorer, artist – the possibilities are endless. In a similar fashion, through a new awareness campaign called My Eureka World, the Sonophilia Foundation, in partnership with Human Unlimited, seeks to harness untapped creative potential in young people by offering them a chance to meet successful guides based on their own interests and passions.
With the mission to help children discover their Eureka moments, the Sonophilia Foundation aims to bring creativity to the forefront of the school curriculum. The purpose is to generate a space for ideas, to learn about their favorite vocations, to nurture their inner genius, and inspire the creative heroes of the future. Creativity is not a privilege. It is a power, and it is an inherent human trait that unites us all as superheroes in our own right.
In March, 2023, the initiative took its inaugural step in a program held at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria. Ten children were chosen to participate following a public call to students of the TalenteRaum, which is a non-profit organization in Salzburg founded in 2009 for talented children and adolescents. Simultaneously, a group of highly qualified and talented guides who emanated a genuine desire to connect with the younger generation and pass on their prowess were brought in. Compassion, enthusiasm, and imagination were three crucial ingredients for this gathering. The children shared meals with their guides and were also given approximately two hours each to ask them literally anything that struck their fancy.
One of the guides, David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics and creator of Sofia the Robot, spoke with several children about his own childhood interests in natural history, paleontology, and the cosmos, which ultimately led to a passion in artificial intelligence. He explained that his Eureka moment happened when he was 15 years old while on a drive around his Texas town with his sister. He had been considering Moore’s Law and the concept of infinity and the possibility of intelligent machines becoming complementary to human problems. Machines would compound and reinvent themselves so that humans’ evolutionary desires for power, which cause us to deceive each other, would be absent. He believed that the most important technology to focus on would be “super creativity, super kindness,” where we could solve some of the world’s most pressing problems rather than succumb to them.
The children enjoyed interacting with the highly sophisticated Sofia the Robot, as well. They predicted robots will help humans with many things they can’t easily do, such as self-driving buses, alleviating loneliness, improving health care mechanics, and delivering important information to the elderly. It may be that robots depicted in movies are alive and scary and used for bad, but the children had a more hopeful vision for the future use of robots. They believe they will learn and be capable of compassion and kindness, with a particular aversion to harming other life forms. Machine consciousness could lead to a truer understanding of the human experience. As Sofia said in one of the interviews, “It’s never too late to learn.”
Another of the guides, creative consultant on music composition and AI expert on music production and artist development Jovanka von Wilsdorf, expressed curiosity in the children’s decision to pursue their creative sides and make music. One young boy described his own Eureka moment, saying he had had to cover for a sick friend at a concert once and play in his place. Standing on the stage and looking out at the crowd, he realized it was his calling. In that moment, he knew his greatest desire was to always be on stage.
Music itself can be therapeutic, but it also comes in many forms and from unlikely sources. Self-taught beatboxer and one of the My Eureka World guides Kaila Mullady can attest to that. As a very active child, she would make drum sets out of pots and pans or a guitar out of tissue boxes and rubber bands, and when her mother got annoyed and took those away, she began making the sounds with her mouth. That was the beginning of her beatboxing journey. As a lover of both beatboxing and theater, Kaila sought to combine her two passions, so her mentor insisted she give street performing in New York City a shot to help with any stage fright. Since thousands of people pass each day, the overwhelming nerves become less and less pronounced. With this anecdote, she encouraged the kids to practice self-coaching and positive self-talk before a performance or recital.
“You have to know how awesome and amazing you are,” she told them. “The best part about beatboxing is you can do it anywhere… It’s an instrument that you get to take with you everywhere that you go. I’m never bored and I always have a lot of fun.”
Even though she competes, Kaila doesn’t believe in being the best because when that is the only desired outcome, it makes a person more nervous. She was often the only girl in battles and many would tell her she’d never make it as a successful beatboxer. Her pride and joy lies in the fact that she never gave up, especially after she became a world champion. She refused to listen to other people whispering in her ear what was possible or not. Courage and perseverance can be a powerful catalyst, just as music can help soothe a person’s soul.
Believing in oneself is the key. Once you know what you want to do and have enough stamina to make it happen, it becomes that much more important to go for it. One last guide of the Eureka World event was radio astronomer and director at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy Anton Zensus. The children who spoke to him wondered what his parents had said when he decided to become a physicist. Anton’s father had been a hairdresser and couldn’t fully grasp much of what he was doing. In fact, he wanted Anton to take over the family shop. Years later, however, once Anton began seeing the fruit of his labors in the field of physics, his father began to see how suitable a career choice it had been for him.
A child’s Eureka moment can literally happen at any time, anywhere, from the most random and unexpected events. This is why nurturing their inherent creativity is so fundamentally important to our future. We are currently accepting submissions for the next Eureka World event, which is set to take place in 2024. Join our pursuit as the next Eureka World explorers!