In this episode I want to do a thought exercise as I am curious what people think about the topic of technology and creativity.
So, my wife just got back from South by Southwest the film, media, and music festival in Austin, TX and she came home with a hat, part of the swag she collected, that featured a message that essentially offered the thought that advancements in tech will help open opportunities for creativity. This got me thinking and led me to do some research where I found an article from Forbes written by Greg Satell titled “How Technology Enhances Creativity.” In the article, he argues
Technology does not quell creativity, in fact, there’s a great deal of evidence that suggests that technology enhances creativity. Certainly, we are expected to be more creative in our working lives than a generation ago. The truth is that by expanding possibilities and automating part of the creative process, we can all be more creative and productive. (Satell, 2014)
Furthermore, at the end of the article he states:
Probably the strongest sign that technology enhances creativity is that, as Richard Florida argues in “The Rise of the Creative Class,” creativity is becoming an intrinsic part of working life. The man in the gray flannel suit has been replaced by the hipster with spiky hair and tattoos.
As we become a more technological society, we also become a more creative society, because many of the rote tasks that used to take up a lot of our time and effort have become automated. What’s more, technology increases our potential to engage in the types of experiences that lead to greater creativity.
Certainly today, exposure to African art is not rare or difficult to obtain. A modern day Darwin wouldn’t need to embark on a five year voyage to inspect the finches of the Galapagos, an internet connection or a plane ticket would do. He could also model his suspicions by computer, shortening the gap between hypothesis and theory. (Satell, 2014)
Although I completely understand the argument, part of me can’t help but question the reality of this line of thinking. I feel that inspiration comes from doing and advancements in technology are leading to less doing. Additionally, using social media as a measuring stick, it seems that technological advancements are leading more to selfies and face swapping then creativity. My wife argued that in their own way these are expressions of creativity or at least the tech that allowed us to do this is an example of the point the article is trying to make. I just don’t know if I agree.
Now, I am going to play devil’s advocate here for a moment and I get it that this is a very limited and perhaps misguided argument. I want more creativity in society. My brother is an artist, I am a wanna be writer and use this forum as a creative outlet, but I can help but wonder if people will take advantage of the freedom automation will give us to go experience life in a way that inspires thought. Instead, I can’t help but wonder if people will simply get distracted or, dare I say, lazy?
For example, and I know there is an obvious counterargument to this, but I think of recent movies and television. TV is seemingly becoming more and more reboots of old shows and many movies being created are remakes. Take for example “A Star is Born”, which has been made three separate times.
The counterargument is obviously that there is so many more places for content and more TV and media content than ever before, which is a sign that creativity is on the rise and will fuel future media because people can just create something and get it out there, not so different than what I am doing. I agree with that statement as well, which showcases my conflicted thoughts on this subject and why I am interested in having a discourse about it.
To continue playing devil’s advocate on this subject, according to an article from the New Yorker by Caleb Crain suggests that there are less American’s are reading then 15 years ago. (Crain, 2018) A Washington Post article by Christopher Ingraham provided data that seems to emphasize this point, “aggregate reading time among Americans has fallen, from an average of 23 minutes per person per day in 2004 to 17 minutes per person per day in 2017.” (Ingraham, 2018) Finally, a NBC News article via the Associated Press reported on a survey by Deloitte that showed that “(large) numbers (of people) said they would travel less and spend less compared to a year ago than those reporting increases in travel and spending. Thirty-five percent say they will spend less this year on leisure travel…” (People are Traveling Less Often, Spending Less, 2009)
So if less people are reading, people are perhaps traveling less, and doing less then where is the creative spark going to come from?
A different article from Forbes, this one by David DiSalvo, states “Intuitively it seems like the more resources we have available to us, the more tools and opportunities we have to stretch our creative wings. Not so, claims the results of a new study – it’s scarcity, not abundance, that promotes creativity. The more stuff we have, the less creative we are.” (DiSalvo, 2015)
The article focused on research that was being conducted by the John Hopkins Carey Business School and the University of Illinois. From the research, the article quotes Ravi Mehta, a professor of business administration at the U. of Illinois and the lead study author who states, “If you look at people who don't have resources or only have limited resources, they actually end up being more creative with what they have, If you go to a poor country and see how they solve problems by repurposing older products, it's super-innovative." (DiSalvo, 2015)
A later passage reads, and I apologise it’s a little lengthy, but I think it is a super valuable point,
Forty years ago television was being blamed for a loss of creativity, but that was just a thin slice of pie compared to what's happened since. Just ten years ago people didn't walk around with eyes glued to a little box in their hand. We're clearly moving in the direction of ever greater immersion, and that has very real effects.
The study authors cite an analysis of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking performance data over the past five decades (a reliable test of creative thinking) showing that IQ scores have steadily increased since 1990, but creative thinking scores have significantly decreased. Perhaps not surprisingly, those results are especially evident for the age group spanning five to ten years old – ages that traditionally saw the burgeoning of imagination. Our kids may be getting smarter (relatively speaking) but creatively speaking they have less and less need to be imaginative.
‘Once we become used to not being creative -- to being merely passive consumers -- it seems that the creativity muscle begins to atrophy, which does not bode well for future generations,’ Mehta added.
That is, unless we want future generations to merely fill the role of functionary consumers. Hopefully that isn't a choice we’re making by default. (DiSalvo, 2015)
So the more tech we have and more it automates our lives, is there less motivation to be creative?
I don’t know the answer, which is why I pose this topic as a thought exercise. Let me know what you think, please.
What I do firmly believe is that there will always be a portion of the population who express their creativity. There will be artists, musicians, inventors, writers, makers etc. This is a good thing. My hope is that this portion of the population is able to grow instead of shrink due to the advancements in technology, but I don’t know what the future holds and the evidence on this topic seems to almost be as conflicted as I am about it.
So I guess if I am to have a final thought one this, I will leave you with one of the mantras from the Nerdist, now known as ID10T podcast, which is to “Go Make a Thing.” If you have a creative idea, then do it. Make the thoughts I presented in the role of devil’s advocate wrong, because there is more and more automation coming, use the time that it will free up to breed creativity. Travel and expose yourself to new ideas. Don’t a functioning consumer, be a maker.
Crain, C. (2018, June 14). Why We Don’t Read, Revisited. Retrieved from newyorker.com: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/why-we-dont-read-revisited
DiSalvo, D. (2015, November 19). Study: The More Stuff We Have, The Less Creative We Are. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2015/11/19/study-the-more-stuff-we-have-the-less-creative-we-are/#730d6557505c
Ingraham, C. (2018, June 29). Leisure reading in the U.S. is at an all-time low. Retrieved from washingtonpost.com: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/29/leisure-reading-in-the-u-s-is-at-an-all-time-low/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2357ac50cf11
People are Traveling Less Often, Spending Less. (2009, November 16). Retrieved from nbcnews.com: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33972965/ns/travel-news/t/people-traveling-less-often-spending-less/#.XIqMdShKiUl
Satell, G. (2014, January 27). How Technology Enhances Creativity. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/01/27/how-technology-enhances-creativity/#51f2c713f50c