"A Brief History of Creativity
from Athens to Silicon Valley"
(UC Davis, April 2014)
piero scaruffi
www.scaruffi.com
2
Here and Now
• We live in an age of accelerating
progress…
– "The 21st century will be equivalent to
20,000 years of pro...
3
4
Why did it happen here?
• The technology, the money and the brains were on
the East Coast and in Europe (the great elect...
5
Why did it happen here?
• The official history of Silicon Valley
– Defense/DARPA
– Fred Terman at Stanford and HP
– Will...
6
Why Silicon Valley?
• Until the 1950s the Bay Area was mainly
famous for
– Eccentric artists/writers
• Student protests ...
7
Why Silicon Valley?
The first major wave of
immigration of young educated
people from all over the world
took place duri...
8
Why Silicon Valley?
• Anti-corporate sentiment
• The start-ups implement principles
of the hippy commune
• SRI Intl and ...
9
Why Silicon Valley?
• The Bay Area recasts both Unix and the
Internet as idealistic grass-roots
movements
• Young educat...
10
Why Silicon Valley?
• Dysfunctional synergy between two opposite
poles
– The rational and the irrational
– Technologist...
11
Why Silicon Valley?
• What Silicon Valley does best
– Not invented here: computer, transistor,
integrated circuit, robo...
12
Why Silicon Valley?
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in
seeking new landscapes, but in having new
eyes” (Marc...
13
Why Silicon Valley?
How do we sustain the spirit that has propelled
Silicon Valley to the top?
For the first time in it...
14
15
Creativity
• Why do we value innovation,
creativity and originality?
• The history of human
civilization is about remov...
16
Creativity
• Creativity's peaks often correspond with periods
of great instability: classical Athens (at war 60%
of the...
17
Creativity
• Peaks in the humanities often coincide with
peaks in the sciences, and vice versa
• Wealth is not a cause ...
18
19
What is unique about humans?
• Animals live the same life of their parents
• Humans are the only species whose life
sty...
20
What is unique about humans?
• Children disobey, teenagers are rebels
21
What is unique about humans?
• Animals only “innovate” when there is a
genetic mutation
• Humans innovate all the time
...
22
What is unique about humans?
• Art is pervasive in nature (eg birds make nests and
sing, bees dance, spiderwebs, humpba...
23
What is unique about humans?
…….
Human aesthetic over the centuries
Spider aesthetic over the centuries
24
What is unique about humans?
• Being creative is the natural state of the human
mind
• Creativity is what truly sets hu...
25
Welcome to the 21st Century
• CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” (1959)
– a widening gap between the two cultures of
contemporary...
26
27
Accelerating progress
• The Silicon Valley dogma:
– Progress has never accelerated so fast
– Change is progress
28
Accelerating progress?
• One century ago, within a relatively short period
of time, the world adopted:
– the car,
– the...
29
Accelerating progress?
• while at the same time science came up with
– Quantum Mechanics
– Relativity
• while at the sa...
30
Accelerating progress?
• while at the same time cities adopted high-rise
buildings
31
Accelerating progress?
• There were only 5 radio stations in 1921 but
already 525 in 1923
• The USA produced 11,200 car...
32
Accelerating progress?
• On the other hand today:
– 44 years after the Moon landing we still
haven't sent a human being...
33
Accelerating progress?
• We chronically underestimate progress in
previous centuries because most of us are
ignorant ab...
34
Accelerating progress?
• Accelerating progress happened
simultaneously in the sciences and the arts
Monet Stravinsky Ei...
35
Decelerating progress?
• Today there is a lot of change
• But change is not necessarily progress
Insert here a picture ...
36
Decelerating progress?
• Progress in phone/internet:
– Developed world: you have to carry your own
device with you for ...
37
Decelerating progress?
• Progress in customer support
– Until the 1970s: a man with a toolbox
– 1980s (touch-tone phone...
38
Decelerating progress?
• Progress in encyclopedia
– Since the Enlightenment: lots of encyclopedia
created by the most k...
39
Decelerating progress?
• Accelerating change is a why,
not a what
piero scaruffi
www.scaruffi.com
40
Decelerating progress?
• Hyper-specialization in every field
• Practitioners do not interact
• Their audiences do not i...
41
Decelerating progress?
• Scientific memes are understood
only by science world
• Artistic memes are understood only
by ...
42
Decelerating progress?
• Science is often slave to an agenda of
self-replicating research
• Technology is often slave t...
43
Decelerating intelligence?
• The Turing Test was asking “when can machines be said
to be as intelligent as humans?”
• T...
44
Decelerating intelligence?
• Humans want to build machines that
think like humans while machines are
already building h...
45
Decelerating intelligence?
(MIT Forrester Institute, 2012)
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A Brief History of Creativity from Cheops Pyramid to Silicon Valley: 5000 Years of Art-Science Misunderstandings

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The two "cultures" (art and science) and the two "gaps". A case study: why did it happen in Silicon Valley of all places? Neuroscience of creativity. Demystifying machine intelligence: there is very little progress, machines are not getting much smarter, many humans are getting dumber.

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A Brief History of Creativity from Cheops Pyramid to Silicon Valley: 5000 Years of Art-Science Misunderstandings

  1. 1. "A Brief History of Creativity from Athens to Silicon Valley" (UC Davis, April 2014) piero scaruffi www.scaruffi.com
  2. 2. 2 Here and Now • We live in an age of accelerating progress… – "The 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress" (Ray Kurzweil) • … and Silicon Valley is one of the greatest engines of progress ever… – “The greatest creation of wealth in the history of the world” (Arun Rao) • … but why Silicon Valley?
  3. 3. 3
  4. 4. 4 Why did it happen here? • The technology, the money and the brains were on the East Coast and in Europe (the great electronic research labs, the great mathematicians, Wall Street, etc) • The great universities were on the East Coast (MIT, Harvard, Moore School, Princeton, Columbia), and in Europe (Cambridge) • Bell Labs, RCA Labs, IBM Labs • Britain and Germany won most of the Nobels • Transistor, computer, etc all invented elsewhere
  5. 5. 5 Why did it happen here? • The official history of Silicon Valley – Defense/DARPA – Fred Terman at Stanford and HP – William Shockley’s lab – Fairchild/Intel/semiconductors – Xerox PARC, Apple and personal computing – Unix, Internet, Relational databases, Videogames – The dotcoms – Google, Facebook, Oracle, Intel, HP
  6. 6. 6 Why Silicon Valley? • Until the 1950s the Bay Area was mainly famous for – Eccentric artists/writers • Student protests of 1964 • Hippies • Black Panther Party (1966) • Monterey’s rock festival (1967) • "Whole Earth Catalog“ (1968) • The first “Earth Day” (1970) • Gay Pride Parade (1970) • Survival Research Labs (1978) • New-age movement (1980s) • Burning Man (1986)
  7. 7. 7 Why Silicon Valley? The first major wave of immigration of young educated people from all over the world took place during the hippy era (“Summer of Love”) The first major wave of technology was driven by independents, amateurs and hobbyists (From ham radio to the Homebrew Computer Club)
  8. 8. 8 Why Silicon Valley? • Anti-corporate sentiment • The start-ups implement principles of the hippy commune • SRI Intl and Xerox PARC: computation for the masses, augmented intelligence Xerox PARC The first mouse
  9. 9. 9 Why Silicon Valley? • The Bay Area recasts both Unix and the Internet as idealistic grass-roots movements • Young educated people wanted to change the world • They did
  10. 10. 10 Why Silicon Valley? • Dysfunctional synergy between two opposite poles – The rational and the irrational – Technologists and anti-technologists – Hippies and engineers – Amateurs and corporations – Nerds and outlaws (the "traitors", Jobs, Ellison, Zuckerberg, hackers)
  11. 11. 11 Why Silicon Valley? • What Silicon Valley does best – Not invented here: computer, transistor, integrated circuit, robots, Artificial Intelligence, programming languages, databases, videogames, Internet, personal computers, World-wide web, search engines, social media, smartphones, wearable computing, space exploration, electrical cars, driverless cars… – Invented here: disrupting products
  12. 12. 12 Why Silicon Valley? “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” (Marcel Proust)
  13. 13. 13 Why Silicon Valley? How do we sustain the spirit that has propelled Silicon Valley to the top? For the first time in its history Silicon Valley is dominated by huge corporations: Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, HP are the world’s biggest in their fields How do we spread it to developing countries? The rest of the developed world consistently failed to create their own Silicon Valleys: Cambridge (Britain), Sophia Antipolis (France), Munich (Germany), Oulu (Finland), Bangalore (India), Israel, Taiwan, Singapore…
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. 15 Creativity • Why do we value innovation, creativity and originality? • The history of human civilization is about removing the unpredictable from both the environment and society • Humans are genetically programmed to break the rules from a very young age • The biggest reservoirs of creativity are to be found in the slums and villages of the Third World
  16. 16. 16 Creativity • Creativity's peaks often correspond with periods of great instability: classical Athens (at war 60% of the time), 12th-13th century Venice (built on a mosquito-infected lagoon by homeless refugees), the Renaissance (Italy split in dozens of small states and engulfed in endemic warfare), the 20th century (two World Wars and a Cold War).
  17. 17. 17 Creativity • Peaks in the humanities often coincide with peaks in the sciences, and vice versa • Wealth is not a cause or precondition, but an effect of the creative boom
  18. 18. 18
  19. 19. 19 What is unique about humans? • Animals live the same life of their parents • Humans are the only species whose life style changes from generation to generation
  20. 20. 20 What is unique about humans? • Children disobey, teenagers are rebels
  21. 21. 21 What is unique about humans? • Animals only “innovate” when there is a genetic mutation • Humans innovate all the time Beaver civilization over the millennia Human civilization over the millennia
  22. 22. 22 What is unique about humans? • Art is pervasive in nature (eg birds make nests and sing, bees dance, spiderwebs, humpback whale songs, etc) • Each animal has the same aesthetic, generation after generation • Human aesthetic changes from generation to generation
  23. 23. 23 What is unique about humans? ……. Human aesthetic over the centuries Spider aesthetic over the centuries
  24. 24. 24 What is unique about humans? • Being creative is the natural state of the human mind • Creativity is what truly sets humans apart from other living beings • It is unnatural for the human race to be creative only in one field
  25. 25. 25 Welcome to the 21st Century • CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” (1959) – a widening gap between the two cultures of contemporary society: sciences and humanities • The age of hyper-specialization – “What do you want to be when you grow up”? • The age of accelerating progress… • …or not?
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. 27 Accelerating progress • The Silicon Valley dogma: – Progress has never accelerated so fast – Change is progress
  28. 28. 28 Accelerating progress? • One century ago, within a relatively short period of time, the world adopted: – the car, – the airplane, – the telephone, – the radio – the record – cinema • while at the same time the visual arts went through – Impressionism, – Cubism – Expressionism
  29. 29. 29 Accelerating progress? • while at the same time science came up with – Quantum Mechanics – Relativity • while at the same time the office was revolutionized by – cash registers, – adding machines, – typewriters • while at the same time the home was revolutionized by – dishwasher, – refrigerator, – air conditioning
  30. 30. 30 Accelerating progress? • while at the same time cities adopted high-rise buildings
  31. 31. 31 Accelerating progress? • There were only 5 radio stations in 1921 but already 525 in 1923 • The USA produced 11,200 cars in 1903, but already 1.5 million in 1916 • By 1917 a whopping 40% of households had a telephone in the USA up from 5% in 1900. • The Wright brothers flew the first plane in 1903: during World War I (1915-18) more than 200,000 planes were built
  32. 32. 32 Accelerating progress? • On the other hand today: – 44 years after the Moon landing we still haven't sent a human being to any planet – The only supersonic plane (the Concorde) has been retired – We still drive cars, fly on planes, talk in phones, use the same kitchen appliances
  33. 33. 33 Accelerating progress? • We chronically underestimate progress in previous centuries because most of us are ignorant about those eras.
  34. 34. 34 Accelerating progress? • Accelerating progress happened simultaneously in the sciences and the arts Monet Stravinsky Einstein Gaudi Edison
  35. 35. 35 Decelerating progress? • Today there is a lot of change • But change is not necessarily progress Insert here a picture of a notice from your bank that the policy for your account has been “upgraded”, resulting in additional charges Insert here a picture of the “new improved” release of the software application that you have been using for years with no problems and that now causes a system crash
  36. 36. 36 Decelerating progress? • Progress in phone/internet: – Developed world: you have to carry your own device with you for phone and internet (i.e. buy the device, buy a contract or card) and quality depends on location – Developing world: you don’t need to carry your own device for phone/internet because there are phone booths and internet cafes everywhere and, being land lines, the quality does not depend on location
  37. 37. 37 Decelerating progress? • Progress in customer support – Until the 1970s: a man with a toolbox – 1980s (touch-tone phones): “Press 1 for English” etc – 2010s: Google it and see if anyone has had the same problem and found a solution for it
  38. 38. 38 Decelerating progress? • Progress in encyclopedia – Since the Enlightenment: lots of encyclopedia created by the most knowledgeable scholars – After Wikipedia: only one encyclopedia created by anonymous editors and heavily driven by government agencies, special-interest groups, celebrities’ marketing agencies, corporate PR offices, etc
  39. 39. 39 Decelerating progress? • Accelerating change is a why, not a what piero scaruffi www.scaruffi.com
  40. 40. 40 Decelerating progress? • Hyper-specialization in every field • Practitioners do not interact • Their audiences do not interact
  41. 41. 41 Decelerating progress? • Scientific memes are understood only by science world • Artistic memes are understood only by the art world • Not CP Snow’s “two cultures” but the “two gaps”
  42. 42. 42 Decelerating progress? • Science is often slave to an agenda of self-replicating research • Technology is often slave to marketing, profit, fashion • Art is slave to critics, museums and galleries
  43. 43. 43 Decelerating intelligence? • The Turing Test was asking “when can machines be said to be as intelligent as humans?” • This “Turing point” can be achieved by 1. Making machines smarter, or 2. Making humans dumber HOMO MACHINE IQ HOMO MACHINE IQ 1. 2.
  44. 44. 44 Decelerating intelligence? • Humans want to build machines that think like humans while machines are already building humans who think like machines
  45. 45. 45 Decelerating intelligence? (MIT Forrester Institute, 2012)

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