“To develop a complete mind, study the art of science, study the science of art. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
These words are attributed to the great artist, scientist, designer and thinker Leonardo Da Vinci who, more than 500 years ago, mastered a dizzying array of pursuits unmatched in magnitude by any person since.
Not only was he responsible for the Mona Lisa, ranked as the most famous painting of all time, but for the initial conceptualisation of a mind-boggling range of designs including human anatomical structure, a military tank, an underwater diving suit, a self-propelled cart and designs associated with human flight including concept plans for the parachute, glider, and helicopter.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the brilliance of each of these endeavours, but in reality, the enduring legacy of Da Vinci’s efforts for today’s world lies in the transdisciplinary nature of his output.
In an increasingly complex and challenging world, seeking to solve problems and find solutions through approaches born from restrictive, intradisciplinary approaches should no longer make the cut.
Instead, approaches that reflect Da Vinci’s thesis of interconnectivity will enhance understanding through the application of the continuity that exists between the domains of science, technology and art.
Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History at Oxford University, demonstrates in his new book The Earth Transformed: An Untold History, how Da Vinci’s transdisciplinary approach can be applied to modern dilemmas. In the book, Frankopan shows how technological developments like machine learning, sensors and data analytics can be used to create new historical perspectives by identifying novel links between the Earth’s climate and historical events.
Frankopan claims that a consequence of the rewriting of history through the application of new technologies will require a rethinking of the skill set required by the modern historian. He asserts that as well as specialising in the humanities, historians must acquire scientific and mathematical skills so that they can more accurately interpret the new sources of information they work with.
This of course, has ramifications for schools and universities whose traditional siloed, intradisciplinary approaches create insularity between disciplines. According to Frankopan, future historians must posses an integrated skill set and this integration will be reflected in their university and school experiences.
Here at EducateCo, we’ve been working on developing our School of the Future project where we’ve created a blueprint for the characteristics that will be necessary for schools and universities to prepare students for an everchanging and challenging future. The need for transdisciplinary approaches to learning features prominently in that blueprint.