Creativity always requires a bit of improvisation, making something fit with something else in order to get some sort of combination of the two. Sometimes its a mental device or an idea, sometimes a physical device or tool, sometimes a combination of both such as using a tool for something other than its intended purpose. When we have a creative process, we always have lots of ideas that we try to insert into our plans. Giving each thought a moment or two to make itself logically useful to us gives us a mental image consisting of many ideas and networks of images which combine to form our projected end result. This is how we generally create anything, either in the head or on paper.
One of our greatest creative minds, Leo Tolstoy, once wrote “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth”. This is why streamlining our ideas is important if we want them to be truly effective. Finding simplicity among our complicated network of ideas and attachments is as difficult as coming up with the initial plan. Sometimes, it's more difficult than the original creative process. Part of being creative means creating the best way, honing, focusing, bringing everything together. Doing this requires a technique and method which we all have to learn for ourselves.
Just like with music, when we improvise a song with a band, if everyone does exactly what they want to, showing off their best abilities, we end up with a cacophony. True musicians know to keep it simple, allow room for the whole band to do something solid. If there is a true team element to the group then they'll know to make way for each member to shine at the right moment, and only for the right amount of time. No one player steals the show, and although it's being creatively composed on the spot, holding back and keeping things steady is a large part of the experiment.
We can translate this into any kind of creativity, and our minds can contain all the band members. By not allowing the moment to seize you and drag you into creative bedlam, we can stay focussed on delivering the end result people actually want. We know simple doesn't mean great, some simple things are useless. The clever bit really is finding a way to put as much value and purpose as possible into the smallest package doable. Whether its a piece of music which we know becomes boring if its too repetitive, or if the progression is too slow, or if its a comic book that tells a story, we want it to keep moving at a decent pace regardless of the skill in the artist. Balancing effectiveness to purpose with manageable simplicity makes the best possible end result. This is where true creativity lies, in the process of marrying simplicity to value in the best possible way.
The book, The Laws Of Simplicity by John Maeda from 2006 (Amazon) (Amazon UK) goes into great depth as to how creative and inventive thinkers define their products and information by simple and effective rules which ensure the most value in the least possible effort.
When it comes to technological advancement, we can either be a Luddite or an Embracer. What does that mean? Luddites were a group of people in the first industrial revolution who were angry that their trades were being replaced by machines. The many jobs required in order to complete one product were learned by one skilled artisan. A mechanical process eventually replaced every procedure, leaving the high grade skills redundant in favour of low skills button pressing. It's understandable that this is highly frustrating, maybe even hurtful.
This is human, however the Luddites took things one step further. They acted on their bad emotions and destroyed machines and factories. Those entrepreneurs who had invested in big manufacturing plants and employed hundreds of people were suddenly left with a huge bill. Communities suffered.
To embrace technology, we do first need to make peace with the idea that what we can do, a machine can do better. Yes it's a kick in the teeth and if we're already on the floor or struggling to make ends meet, it's a kick in the teeth while you're down. Even the mob would flinch at that level of disrespect. To make peace with progress requires a degree of guts and nerve.
Even the arts are touched by AI and robotics, see this list of modern advancements. Now we have people doing their thesis in teaching computers to think in very human ways. A modern AI machine is a bit like a small hyper intelligent baby. We can teach them all kinds of things and give them feedback on their thoughts. When we validate right answers, we teach them how the information they know relates in proper ways. We're not able to teach children exactly like this, people take a lot more time and have much more room for personal thought. Children tend to learn from being exposed to wisdom, they input and output and validate for themselves.
An AI mind is still an input and output machine, only the things that it knows have the power to be related in highly detailed and complex ways to give the illusion of personal wisdom. If we treat the device as a conscious being, we'd find it seems very much like it, until we trip it up. As soon as the logic that it is trained to work with breaks down, we uncover the computerised processes that cause it to work. An AI gaff is usually obvious where as humans tend to miss the mark by lesser amounts.
We must learn how to use these technologies and tools for our own benefits. We can either look at them as something bad or something good. Understanding the ways in which something is good and bad helps us to use them properly. Only with education can we make the right choice. There is little point in burying heads in the sand, we will still get swallowed up by progress. The best way to approach change is with an adaptive attitude.
With AI being a digital system, certain limitations are naturally inherent. When we understand what computers can do better than us, we are able to see what we do better than them. These poetry writing robots and art creating machines that rely on AI programming to operate have still been programmed. They're doing strict scientific and mechanical processes in their digital mind. There's no creativity, only the illusion of it.
Think about those clever headlines that make you press like and share before you've even read the piece. With clever insertions of emotion and with exaggerated claims, a well written headline can work harder than the journalist who wrote it. AI couldn't do this properly, as it doesn't know how to exaggerate without lying and it won't know which words to insert in order to give the right level of emotional kick. We could give it a huge database of previously written headlines that it can cannibalise but that's not really the same. It still won't know the best ones to choose, it will just choose one according to what best matches the figures. Line of best fit responses don't stand out.
Anything that requires several minutes or more of deep thought is probably out of reach for an AI device. Anything that requires us to think of something new or change our perception on something will not be able to be mechanised. Truly human operations such as imagination, dreaming, telling jokes, feeling empathy, sympathising, and many more like these are essential parts of most jobs. Most jobs require a level of human thought and no machine could replicate it properly. They can only imitate. This recent article about why humanities are important can help clarify what this really means. It's easy to tell when a doctor isn't actually listening with their human self, and they're in machine mode. It doesn't feel nice. The holistic role humans play in the work place will always be of great benefit.
Anything that can be done by a quick response from a person can likely be automated. Those jobs that don't require us to think for ourselves will be the first to go, and one day only jobs that require us to think for ourselves will be the ones left. So let's bear this in mind when we decide if progress is a good thing or not. We can't escape it, like taxes, change is something that no-one on Earth is immune from.
Things like music, art, language, and history tend to suffer in favour of the all powerful STEM subjects. Science, Technology, Engineering (or sometimes English), and Mathematics are the subjects that according to popular thought, most enable people in their adult lives. Perhaps it's true, we do live in a world dominated by science, technology, engineering, and maths. However, we also live in a world full of culture. We live among thousands of years of human thought in motion and if we choose to, we can surf that wave. We can offer creative or new ideas and thoughts ourselves. This matters, when we understand a thing to its deepest potential, we can communicate with it to a much higher degree of clarity. We can use these things as our tools to communicate with each other, offering what we know and perceive through the lens of the analogies and metaphors we draw on. Knowing what to analogise is imperative.
The non-humanity subjects that help us to get on in a practical and input output based society give us a certain perception of the world which is culturally dry and sterile. We suffer as communities when our stories and songs are forgotten. If we only focus on practical subjects, only the few who actively pursue humanitarian avenues will ever gain the insights that can be gleamed from them. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, after-all. We can gain a lot of wisdom from classic literature, world history, obscure cliques, and traditions even if their primary knowledge has no use in daily life. When we learn to think humanitarian thoughts about how something relates in secondary or even in tertiary ways, when we can use our culture to draw on new and creative thinking in ways that others have inspired us to do, we have much more than a mathematical formula to describe a mechanical device. We will have a unique human insight.
The conformist nature of science puts the cork on the part of our mind that wants to think outside of the box. Because we learn that something is the way it is due to universal laws and nothing we can do will ever change that, about everything, it doesn't allow us to use and exercise the part of our mind that doesn't think that way. We are more than capable of dreaming up abstract mental tools which help us to progress in life that do not rely on the material world. Think about how many stories you have read that helped you to make your mind up when concerning the right thing to do in your situation. How many lessons have you learned about life from looking at art, literature, and listening to music? How have you been assisted by the lessons learned from those in the past, whose lives are written about for us to recount? None of these lessons that are vital for a free-thinking individual are technical or scientific. The Fables written by Aesop, for example, are world famous stories about non-real situations which never-the-less contain incredibly powerful wisdom. This is the humanities in their purest form.
The humanities for everyone means that everyone is given the opportunity to develop their mind in the ways necessary to become a free-thinking individual. When we see that through-out history, those who make a real difference to their world are those who try new things, break from tradition, and tell their stories about the world from a fresh perspective, it may help us to realise that it's okay to not conform. When we realise that our differences make us unique, and its our uniqueness that gives us a selling-point that no-one on Earth can compete with, there suddenly is room for everyone to thrive in their own way.
What's the best way to get a culture fix? The theatre! Browse plays, musicals, and performances in London and beyond.
Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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