Creativity is a why not a what

1,767 views

Published on

Lecture given by piero scaruffi at University of San Francisco on February 4, 2014

Published in: Education, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
1,767
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
25
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
26
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Creativity is a why not a what

  1. 1. creativity is a why not a what history, biology and thermodynamics of innovative processes february 2014, usf piero scaruffi thinker www.scaruffi.com
  2. 2. Student Snapshots • Definition of creativity: • • • • • • • • Most: unique/ original/ new/ innovative (most of you) Thinking outside the box (Louise, Katrina, Carla) Different (Andy) Something that has core value for others (Guo) Bridging Art and Science (Erica) Makes people interested (Lyudmyla) Makes the impossible possible (Youxi) Turns imagination into something concrete2(Alicia)
  3. 3. piero • Why do painters paint sunsets but not dawns? • Why does it get colder as you climb a mountain (i.e. as you get closer to the Sun)? 3
  4. 4. piero • My definition of creativity: – Creativity is about asking the questions not just finding the answers – Paradigm shifts 4
  5. 5. Student Snapshots • Most creative thing: • • • • Flash mobs (Maren) Building things (Emily, Andy) My father coming to America (Melina) Gandhi’s nonviolence (Yiuxi) 5
  6. 6. piero • Most creative thing: – Life in the slums and rural villages of poor countries An express bus in Zambia 6 Ordinary life in Bangladesh
  7. 7. piero • Most creative thing: – Life in the slums and rural villages of poor countries 7 A market in Haiti
  8. 8. piero • Preamble: let me give you an example of why creativity matters… • Why are we here? 8
  9. 9. 9
  10. 10. Why did it happen here? • The technology, the money and the brains were on the East Coast and in Europe (the transistor, the computer, 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, Internet, WWW, smartphone, etc all invented elsewhere 10
  11. 11. Why Silicon Valley? • Until the 1950s the Bay Area was mainly famous for – Eccentric artists/writers (the “beats”) • Student protests of 1964 • Hippies of 1966 • Black Panther Party (1966) • Monterey’s rock festival (1967) • Stewart Brand’s "Whole Earth Catalog“ (1968) • The first “Earth Day” (1970) • Gay Pride Parade (1970) 11
  12. 12. 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”) 12
  13. 13. 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 • The Bay Area recasts both Unix and the Internet as idealistic grass-roots movements • Young educated people wanted to change the world • They did 13
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. Creativity • We value change, innovation, creativity and originality, e.g. the genius • The history of human civilization is about removing the unpredictable from both the environment and society, e.g. we create states to enact/enforce laws 15
  16. 16. Creativity • 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
  17. 17. Creativity • Creativity's peaks seem to correspond with periods of great instability: – classical Athens (at war 60% of the time), – the Renaissance (Italy split in dozens of small states and engulfed in endemic warfare), – Paris at the turn of end of the 19th century (France lost one war after the other and almost got civil war) – the 20th century (two World Wars and a Cold War) 17
  18. 18. 18
  19. 19. What is unique about humans? • Animals live the same life of their parents • Humans are the only species whose life changes from generation to generation 19
  20. 20. What is unique about humans? • Children disobey, teenagers are rebels 20
  21. 21. What is unique about humans? • Animals only “innovate” when there is a genetic mistake • Humans innovate all the time Beaver civilization over the millennia Human civilization over the millennia 21
  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 22
  23. 23. What is unique about humans? Spider aesthetic over the centuries ……. Human aesthetic over the centuries 23
  24. 24. What is unique about humans? • The human brain is a machine to create problems: the human brain is a problem solving machine that creates the very problems that it will spend a lifetime to try and solve Pollution, traffic, crime, global warming… 24
  25. 25. What is unique about humans? Humans are not the smartest species on the planet (they keep trying to self-destroy) but they are the most creative If they self-destroy, it will be the most creative self-destruction ever 25
  26. 26. Unfortunately, that was only the teaser. Now let’s get serious… 26
  27. 27. Meditations on ArT, ScIeNcE & CrEaTiViTy • Biological origins of creativity • Imitation vs Innovation • Interplay of order and chaos 27
  28. 28. Origins of Creativity • Play – Children play. – Children are genetically programmed to play, and playing might be a way to learn the environment and to be creative about it. 28
  29. 29. Origins of Creativity • Play – Being creative about interacting with the environment yields several evolutionary advantages: • you learn more about the environment • you simulate a variety of strategies • you are better prepared to cope with frequently changing conditions 29
  30. 30. Origins of Creativity • Play – Over the centuries this continuous training in interacting with the environment has led to the creation of entire civilizations • Art • Science • Technology • Philosophy • This class • Your life… 30
  31. 31. Origins of Creativity • Rebellion – Teenagers are rebels. – Parents have accrued experience/wisdom and Darwinian theory would predict that their children should be eager to absorb that experience in order to maximize their chances of survival. – Quite the contrary: doing the exact opposite is cool. – We need to do something to outrage our parents 31
  32. 32. Origins of Creativity • Rebellion – Humans are genetically programmed to break the rules and question authority from a very young age, which contrasts sharply with the behavior of other animals. – This might in fact be the fundamental behavioral difference between humans and other animals that set the human species on a course of unbridled technological progress. 32
  33. 33. Origins of Creativity • Nature of Life – Creativity is a property of life: the behavior of any living being is unpredictable. – Living beings are nonlinear systems: they change as they live. Therefore they are never the same twice. – “We" change all the time: we are never the same again. – Your brain changes all the time: you are creative and unpredictable because your brain is governed by a nonlinear equation. – You cannot possibly be non-creative for as long as you are alive 33
  34. 34. Imitation vs Innovation • Two instincts at work in nature. – “Imitation": each living being tends to imitate what other individuals of the same species are doing (the fundamental "social instinct“) – A consequence of sharing the same genes? – People who imitate are considered "nice". They behave in a way that conforms to what society expects from its members. 34
  35. 35. Imitation vs Innovation • Two instincts at work in nature. – “Innovation” is not pervasive in nature. – Innovation is a risk. – Animals "innovate" when there is a genetic mistake. – In most cases those animals die. – If they survive, they cause instability in the existing ecosystem. – Innovation is rare and, when it survives, often catastrophic (“disruptive”). – "Innovation" in the planet's climate causes the extinction of thousands of species. 35
  36. 36. Imitation vs Innovation • Two instincts at work in nature. – Innovation in human society is rarely welcome. – It is most often met with skepticism, hostility and plain accusations of heresy or madness. – It is correctly perceived as a threat to the established order. – In a sense, society is right to put innovators in madhouses: innovation is the social equivalent of a genetic mistake. 36
  37. 37. Imitation vs Innovation • Two instincts at work in nature. – Innovation changes the established order and creates a new order. – People recognize it as "innovation" (as opposed to madness or terrorism) when they start imitating it. – The paradox of innovation is that it is accepted as an innovation when it has become imitation. 37
  38. 38. Order vs Chaos • Civilizations and creativity – Civilization is very much about making our life easier. – Civilization is about structuring our life so that it is no longer a continuous struggle. – A structured life, though, is not creative, by definition. – The more structured our daily life is, the less creative we have to be in our daily life. – We even structure entertainment (gyms, dance classes, movie theaters). – Civilization is about routine 38
  39. 39. Order vs Chaos • Civilizations and creativity – Civilization is about routine, structure, order – Emotions are an impediment to order and structure – Society tends to suppress our emotions and turn us into disciplined robots 39
  40. 40. Order vs Chaos • Civilizations and creativity – Creativity's peaks seem to correspond with periods of great instability: classical Athens (at war 60% of the time), the Renaissance (Italy split in dozens of small states and engulfed in endemic warfare), the 20th century (two World Wars and a Cold War). – Peace and wealth seem to yield structured, monotonous, predictable lives that depress creativity. 40
  41. 41. Creativity • The dance of logic and madness, reality and hallucination, peace and war, order and chaos, stability and instability, censorship and virality… 41
  42. 42. Creativity • What is the relationship between creativity and progress? – Technology does not exist in a vacuum. – A society that does not encourage poetry, music, painting, sculpture and so forth does not encourage discovery and invention. 42
  43. 43. Creativity • What is the relationship between creativity and success? – Not a direct one: most creative people died poor! – Creativity sets in motion in system that leads people in that system to be successful – Creativity is not about the individual genius but about the collective subconscious 43
  44. 44. Almost the end… 44
  45. 45. How do you increase your creativity? • Strengthen the Mind’s Immune System – Education/learning – Avoid customized news/ads that only increase your hyper-specialization and your routine – E.g. demystifying machine intelligence 45
  46. 46. How do you increase your creativity? • Strengthen the Mind’s Immune System – Education/learning: the more you know the less spectacular your creativity looks like (e.g. the more you know the past, the less spectacular the present looks like) 46
  47. 47. • • • • • • • • • San Francisco: since Jan 2008 (SFSU, then USF) Silicon Valley: Feb 2009 (SETI Inst, then Stanford) Washington: Mar 2011 (National Academy of Science) New York: Sep 2011 UCLA: Jan 2013 Berkeley: Jun 2013 Santa Cruz: October 2013 Davis: October 2013 London: February 2014 47
  48. 48. www.lasertalks.com 48
  49. 49. The Age of Customization • The Internet tries to understand who you are, what you do and what you like to “customize” your experience online • “Customizing” (ads, news) is a way to make you even more hyper-specialized • Customization is the enemy of creativity www.lasertalks.com 49
  50. 50. 50
  51. 51. 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 • while at the same time the visual arts went through – Impressionism, – Cubism – Expressionism 51
  52. 52. 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 52
  53. 53. 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 53
  54. 54. Accelerating progress? • On the other hand – 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, etc… 54
  55. 55. Don’t answer, ask questions • Answer: we live in an age of accelerating progress • Question: do we truly live in an age of accelerating progress? 55
  56. 56. piero scaruffi www.scaruffi.com 56
  57. 57. Appendix: Art and Science 57
  58. 58. Art and Science • Why did we separate art and science? – The separation of art from technology/ engineering/ science is a recent phenomenon. – Art and science are so distant in the 21st century because we live in the age of hyper-specialization. – Specialization started in the Middle Ages and picked up speed with the Industrial Revolution. – Specialization is, quite simply, a very efficient way to organize society. 58
  59. 59. Art and Science • What caused the separation of art and science? – It was part of a broader trend away from unification and towards specialization. – A continuum of knowledge and of human activity was broken down into a set of discrete units, each neatly separated from its neighbors. – Humans were able to build large-scale societies thanks to the partitioning of labor and of knowledge. 59
  60. 60. Art and Science • What caused the separation of art and science? – As knowledge grew, it would have been impossible to maintain the same continuum of knowledge. – Knowledge was broken down into discrete units and handed down to "specialists". – The gap between art and science kept increasing for the simple reason that the discrete space of specialized disciplines was more manageable than the old continuum of total knowledge. 60
  61. 61. Art and Science • What are the consequences of the separation of art and science? – The language of science has become more and more difficult to understand. – The language of art has become more and more difficult to understand 61
  62. 62. Art and Science • What are the benefits for science of an integration with the arts? – Art educates people to be creative. – A lack of creativity is a handicap for science. – Science creates new paradigms of thought. – Art can help usher in a paradigm shift. – Major scientific revolutions have usually coincided with major artistic periods. 62
  63. 63. Art and Science • Today most science is evolution, not revolution, perhaps because it has been decoupled from the arts. 63
  64. 64. Art and Science • What is the impediment to art/science integration today? – Dogmas: if we don't comply with the ruling dogmas, we are not accepted. – A history of jazz music written by a rock historian is accepted neither by the rock establishment nor by the jazz establishment. It doesn't exist. – The 20th century disliked multifaceted ("renaissance") artists/scientists. 64
  65. 65. Art and Science • Restoring the continuum – The digital age is providing us with an opportunity to rebuild the continuum – Unprecedented degree of exchange, interaction, integration, convergence and blending 65
  66. 66. Art and Science • Restoring the continuum – The new continuum, though, bears little resemblance to the old one, in that its context is a knowledge-intensive society that is the exact opposite of the knowledgedeprived society of the ancient continuum. 66

×