An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Podcast: In Praise of Wasting Time with MIT Professor Alan Lightman

  • Jay London

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According to novelist/essayist and theoretical physicist Alan Lightman, unstructured time that allows our minds to roam freely can lead to more creativity. “We need a new mental attitude,” he advocates—one “that values our inner reflection, values stillness, values privacy, values personal reflection—that honors the inner self.”

Lightman—who is a professor of the practice of the humanities as well as a senior lecturer in physics at MIT—shared these and other thoughts on creativity with an audience of MIT alumni in late 2018. He delivered his lecture at MIT’s Endicott House during a holiday luncheon event jointly organized by the Alumni Association’s Cardinal and Gray Society and Emma Rogers Society.

Lightman’s lecture drew on aspects of his new book, In Praise of Wasting Time (TED/Simon & Schuster, 2018), about the potential damage to our collective mental health and creativity from a modern lifestyle dominated by electronic devices.

“Technology is only the tool,” Lightman says. “Human hands work the tool, and behind the technology is us. I believe that our entire way of thinking, our entire way of being in the world, has changed.”
Listen to the podcast above or on the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page, or read the full transcript of Lightman’s talk.

Then learn more about the

  • Cardinal and Gray Society, which invites MIT alumni who have reached the 50th anniversary of their MIT graduation to gather for social and intellectual events between and during their five-year reunion festivities
  • Emma Rogers Society, which invites surviving spouses of MIT alumni to stay connected to MIT

Photo: Jack Mohr ’50

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