Imagination is our human superpower. It is how we conjure a world that does not yet exist and live our way into making it real, step by step. In the Imagination Age, AI is Applied Imagination, not Artificial Intelligence. Our intelligence expands every day, an emerging collective. The hardware and software we create and the meaningful relationships we create with each other should serve our creativity. 

My work developing the Imagination Age has been shaped by many experiences, but one in particular, at a shrine in Bangkok, stands out. It contains a gold statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, with four heads. Vendors outside the gates sold offerings including incense, wooden elephants, coconuts and bright yellow garlands of marigolds. These sacred objects were meant to be arranged around the four golden faces of Brahma, the Hindu creator god. It was a solemn experience to light the incense and watch the smoke rise into the prayers of the crowd. After leaving the shrine I turned back to see a custodian with a small dumpster, shoving all of the sacred objects into it. For a moment I was outraged. But then as I watched, holding one little wooden elephant I still keep on my desk, I was overcome with a sense of renewal. The shrine was overloaded until it was cleared for the next round of prayers. Nothing could take away the words already uttered in the presence of Brahma.   

Later, I found out the shrine may have been built to attract customers to the nearby mall. Does this make what I experienced any less sacred? No. Our brains are machines that give rise to our minds and imaginations. It is with imagination that we can see, in the world around us, the raw materials of what is possible with all of creation unfolding. Each person’s imagination is the burning sun at the center of their own system, and the power to connect across the void gives our personal lives meaning. At the same time, applied imagination increases the chances that we will build, together, the problem-solving capacity we need to transform this world. 

Rita J. King: EVP for Business Development at Science House, a cathedral of imagination in Manhattan that is reinventing the future of work through Model Meetings and inspiring people to create what they imagine, Resident Research Fellow at the Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence at UC San Diego, and visionary advocate of The Imagination Age.