INTERVIEW WITH TATYANA CHERNIGOVSKAYA
Tatyana Chernigovskaya is an Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Education (RAE), Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor of General Linguistics, Head of the Issues in Convergence of Natural and Humanitarian Sciences Department, and Head of the Laboratory of Cognitive Studies of St. Petersburg State University.
On April 13, the upper House of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation held the meeting of Valentina Matvienko, Chairperson of the Federation Council, with women science representatives on the ‘Open Dialogue with Women Scientists’ theme.
The journalist of the Eurasian Women’s Community had an interview with Tatyana Chernigovskaya, a remarkable neurolinguist. She found out how laziness can be useful for us and how creative thinking leads the humanity to groundbreaking future.
- Tatyana, do you think that men are better in science than women?
- I don’t think that sex matters here. It’s important for a person to be capable of doing something, to be able to work. Sex doesn’t have to do with it in any way.
However, if we don’t want to lose ourselves as well-developed biologic species, we must acquaint our children with science. If we don’t do that, we will become similar with our relatives from wildlife and they may become even better than us. Education and lifestyle are primal.
- Does a person have to improve oneself in a single sphere of work?
- No way. A person doesn’t have to place oneself in a single professional niche. One’s brain activity declines because of it. In my opinion, a future society doesn’t need highly specialized workers. Computers are able to do such work. A person needs to know different things to have a creative and unique way of thinking. One shouldn’t walk a single narrow path. Originality of thinking is a territory where the inventions are made.
- During one of your lectures you said that every scientist needs to know philosophy. Why do you think so?
- Philosophers can formulate questions in a correct way and come to correct conclusions. They are taught to do so. One can’t invent anything in science if he is incapable of it. One’s work will be pointless.
I don’t grade my students for being diligent. I don’t need them to study all day at all. They can work from morning till night if they want to or work only one hour a day. It’s up to them. The result is the only thing that matters.
- How often do you acknowledge a phrase of Socrates: ‘I know that I know nothing’?
- I always remember about it. Sometimes I’m even embarrassed of myself. I realize that the further I go, the worse it becomes. The more one knows, the more obvious the huge situation gets, as well as total impossibility to figure it out. Of course, one reads a lot. What other options can be offered?
We should know what the world creates. It creates a whole lot of things constantly and at a fast pace. That is why we have a very hard task. We can’t reach the world’s speed. However, it is a problem of the whole humanity. There is a lot of information we don’t know how to do with and how to elaborate. We need a new method to understand how to cope with this situation.
- Maybe it’s our generation’s characteristic to cast a look at some information to fill our need to know everything.
- I agree that it is a big problem. All of us became surfers. We surf at the upside of knowledge and don’t dive in it at all. Of course, it is very bad because such a technique can be mastered by computers, as they are good systems of data processing. We don’t need it. We need to understand something others didn’t, look at events from different angles. Only then we can have a chance to make a breakthrough.
- Do you mean that it’s important to ask a correct question?
- You need to know a lot to do this at least.
- I’ve read somewhere that a human evolved due to three brain wishes: to eat well, to rest and to breed.
- You were misinformed. I’m not sure that it is the brain that wants to breed. There are other body parts to do so. Of course, the brain wants to be fed but in a different way. It wants to learn. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a simple truth. A hepar produces blood like the brain produces and elaborates information.
- There is so much information that the brain gets tired very soon…
- I can speak only for my condition. I have fine intuition. If I feel that I need to make a pause (to go for a walk, read some books or meet my friends), I do so. This decision is irrational. In such cases, rational decisions have bad consequences. We are surrounded by endless deadlines. They will remain tomorrow and the day after it. That is why we need to learn to ignore them and allow ourselves to be lazy.
It’s highly important for the brain to be lazy. It is a special condition when it does whatever it wants. Actually, it does the same even when we aren’t lazy, but when we are, it gets even more freedom.
- Is it useful for the brain?
- Yes, it is. These are the dim conditions when people invent things. There is a phrase about it in the English literature: ‘Let it wander like a cat’. It tunes the brain to certain algorithms of high importance.
- Such borderline states remind me of genius and madness conditions.
- This theme is very delicate. If one acts incorrect with it, one will find out that all genius people are madmen, which isn’t true. However, it’s clear that genius people aren’t normal.
Still, if we could reject the concept of genius and did this way, our civilization would come to an end.
- What do you think about Eastern practices about handling one’s heartbeat and digestive system?
- It’s not my profession, that is why I can’t be responsible for what I say about it. However, I take it very serious. I make a conclusion from everything I’ve read about it that these are, undoubtedly, special practices and dangerous games. They can be done only under the command of an actual expert. If James meditates only because his friend Mary told him to do so, it will be harmful for him.
People perform these religious practices on an annual basis. They shouldn’t be treated like fitness as if you swam a little, gave it up, took up jogging, and in a week you quitted sports at all. It has a direct effect on the brain and one’s whole organism as well and it is a dangerous territory only the keened professionals can stay at. Go to Nepal. There you can do such things if a mentor finds you worthy enough.
Agata Korovina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Irina Nikishina