SXSW Interactive 2016

Burning Man: From Free Play To Innovation Science


Playfulness is a refined mechanism of evolution that acts as an engine of engagement and adaptability. The biology of fun is the biology of deep engagement and creative invention. In play, animals (including humans) generate novelty and build strong social relationships. Furthermore, the creativity of play is a precursor to innovation akin to how natural selection generates innovation, as some ideas generated in play's abundance result in useful, game-changing strategies.

Here we bring together an elite panel that will show how the future of robust social networks, as well as innovation (& social joy), relies on tapping into our evolutionary resource: playfulness.

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  1. Why and how is play nature's engine for generation of novelty and innovation? Furthermore, why is this key for adaptability in a changing world?
  2. Play is about breaking rules - and enjoying the process in doing so. How (and why) is this subversiveness essential to creativity and innovation?
  3. The Burning Man event demonstrates the role of play in creativity, adaptability and social trust: what broader principles can we learn and apply?



Jenn Sander, Global Initiatives & Innovation, Burning Man

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