The imaginary science of creativity

in thoughts •  9 months ago 

My daughter and I were just outside playing in "Neighbour Park", which is the kids playground belonging to the apartment building next to us. There is also "Meow Meow Park" and "Big Park" and of course "Our Park", which is outside our own apartment. Parents tend to travel around the neighbourhood with their kids to add variety so their children don't get bored, even though some residents (generally the older ones) don't like "foreign" guests in their gardens.

I think children need to be bored.

Boredom is a hugely beneficial state for creativity and innovation and rivals "necessity" as the mother of invention as it forces active pursuit of interest, rather than passive consumption of whatever is around. Being able to gap fill space with creative activities is a skill that can be developed.

These days I think that it is so easy to get on-demand service to fill "nothing space" that instead of developing creative skills, people are continuously avoiding the "work" of it by always being able to find something of interest, even though there may be little of utility or actual interest inherent in what they consume.

Sometimes I wonder how many audiophiles who spend their life consuming music would be more satisfied being able to actually play an instrument or, how many gamers would get more enjoyment out of being able to code a game. This is the difference between being a user and creator isn't it? A user consumes the creations of others, whereas a creator develops for consumption.

Of course, there is space for being both as one is unlikely able to create everything one needs to use, but I feel that the creative skills that have made us so successful as a species are slowly being "weeded out" and replaced by consumptive skills. These days, a "high-status" person in a community could be one who listens to the latest music, plays the latest games and knows about the latest shows, yet creates nothing.

While not an evolutionary biologist, I do think that the skills that have made us most successful as a species have been our ability to create well, not consume well. People think it is our ability to use tools that have helped us, but I think that is the wrong order of business and it is - our ability to create tools - that has been the largest driver of our species.

Of course, no individual has this ability to fill all needs in the current world - just like no one on earth has all the skills necessary to make a ballpoint pen from scratch - and therefore most will be users of some kind. This is where the "tool user" skill comes into it where we have the ability to learn how to use tools created by others, even though we weren't part of the creative process ourselves. I can write with a pen without having any understanding of the mining and metallurgy involved for the metal, the chemistry for the plastics or the skills of machining and casting for the manufacturing processes - I can't make a keyboard either.

But, where do these skills come from and how do they develop?

 
I believe that the creative skills are mental skills that need to be exercised in the same way that muscles do and therefore can be hampered by inactivity and disuse. These days, it is so common to use passive space fillers like tablets and phones, or toys that do nothing but feed stimuli to the senses that children no longer need to stretch and work the creative areas of the brain.

The brain has a structure that develops from soon after conception and is influenced by all environmental factors real and imaginary to change the way it operates. Imaginary environmental factors? Absolutely.

One example that I was reminded of recently was the idea of counterfactuals where one imagines what would have happened instead of what actually happened. You know, what would have happened if Hitler never existed or if Diego Maradona was penalized for a handball at the World Cup?

Thinking about these things is a creative force because the alternatives never happened and therefore we have to close gaps and use our imaginations to make considerations, not only that - we have to both include and ignore what actually happened in the aftermath of these events. An artist with a plan can do something similar to this as they imagine something and then gap close to actually create a representation of it in the real world, even though it may be an impossibility and "normal" circumstances.

What are normal circumstances though when we have the ability to create tools that can change the environment of normal? Again, this is the benefit of being human and also a drawback as we are incentived to create but, not always incentivized to create well enough that it is in our best interest.

An example might be air pollution from industry and vehicles. I do not think that anyone on earth had the end-goal of polluting the air with their creations, that just happened to be a negative by-product of what they were trying to do, which is eventually mostly the same, monetizing their creativity in some way. But, even these unintended byproducts of creativity can spurn counteracts of creative results where there are people who are working to create minimizing and reversing effects of the outcomes thus far.

Too little too late?

 
It doesn't matter in my opinion even if it is too late to save humanity from itself as the living action of creating to do so is what I would consider a life well spent. While on the other hand, a life of consumption is something that is completely foreign to our species when looking at what makes us uniquely human.

While some people might disagree with my opinion and say that it is our self-awareness of our place in the world that differentiates us from the animals, I think that this is again putting the order of business in the wrong position. I think it is our creativity and ability to use it to build tools that continually gives us insight into our position in the universe and the byproduct of our creative pursuit is self-awareness. Through the tools we create, we can see our own reflection.

This is also something that we can see through the content we create where our thoughts are directed from the past we have experienced and the knowledge we hold. We can see those who are creative forces as being able to develop an idea into a public representation of their mind, and those who are not rehashing the thoughts of others to fill space.

I find that too often in the society we have created the rehash is more rewarded than the creative force, even though it adds nothing to the pathway of discussion, conversation and negotiation of what we are and, what our place is in this universe - a uniquely human experience as far as we know.

Our natural instinct is intellectual stimulation to create sensory experience

 
And through our imagination, we are able to shape our own mental development. Ever thought about that? If you hear a a growling sound as you walk through a darkened forest, you will likely experience sensory alertness. However, if you imagine there being the sound instead, your body will become alert in much the same way. Our bodies do not seem to be able to always differentiate fact from fiction, which is also likely why so many people are "outraged" by senseless information on social media.

The way we think about the world changes the way we experience the world and what we focus on within our environment. When my daughter and I are playing in the neighbour's park and getting dirty looks from the residents, what are they actually imagining - Are they seeing a father with a sweet and conscientious daughter enjoying the day - or invaders looking to destroy their equipment?

The world they have created to experience and the factual world are different.

 
But, due to their imagination and therefore external focus, they are creating a world of monsters in their head and act accordingly to the feedback their intellect is giving them, not the reality.

Our own senses are directed by our thoughts and this has been shown in experiments like changing the name of a color makes people think the color changes. Our concepts affect our experience and because we feel the feedback we get from the world is accurate, seeing is believing, even though it is our thoughts about what we see that builds our understanding of it.

As said at the start, if necessity is the mother of invention, what happens when we give children full sensory experience without the need to imagine anything other? In my opinion, the brain won't need to exercise, it won't need to build the creative tools necessary to close the gaps and make sense of the world and therefore - it won't need to evolve its own structure.

Our imaginations build our brain structure because it creates experience that is outside of what it can get in the immediate environment. People imagines going to space before the moon landing, they predicted ways to fly before a plane, they imagined a character profile before Sonic the Hedgehog ever collected coins.

Some might ask what came first the chicken or the egg and believe that the answer is scientific but, that is not where science starts. Science starts in the ability to create the question itself and due to its "unreal" nature for it is an unknown at the point of asking, that makes science a creative pursuit. What happens to science when large swarths of the generations today have lost the creative ability to ask questions of depth other than what is the next tool they can buy to take away their fear of boredom?

The world we create is a direct result of our ability to not only create but continually ask questions and predict where things may lead and these are creative skills developed in the minds of babies and toddlers, not adults. The scientist nor the artist is born, they are created through the exploration of their own mind and the development of skills to take what they discover there, and make it some kind of reality.

Once the questions stop, so does humanities ability to evolve itself and then we are mere animals once again, and the stars are no more than lights in the sky.

But hey - I don't know how to science properly because observations and questions of the environment in which we operate have little value and consequence in what we create for the future.

Taraz
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Interesting article.
I like your idea of inducing the creativity skills of your daughter. :)

It could be that in 'modern' societies it's just not necessary anymore to be creative for surviving as individual and passing one's genes to the next generation. Skills which aren't necessary to survive normally get lost in the process of evolution (because maintaining them would be an uneconomic waste of precious energy).
Actually, since a while IQ rates are dropping in many developped countries.

... I do think that the skills that have made us most successful as a species ...

Are we actually that successful? :)
How to measure the 'success' of a species?
OK, we are many in numbers with a high altogether biomass, we are changing the surface of our planet and its climate ... but what if we define 'success' as the ability to survive as long as possible as a species? For instance the dinosaurs (who often are used as - wrong - example for being unadaptable to environmental changes) survived more than hundred millions of years, let alone the insects! We didn't reach one million and already are threatening ourselves with distinction. :)

... when looking at what makes us uniquely human.

I think the differences concerning cognitive capabilities between the mammal species Homo sapiens and other animals is only of gradual nature. In other words we are an evolutionary intermediate product which is overestimating itself. :)

I hope that's not too off-topic, but maybe you are interested in some of my articles about intelligence in other species than Homo sapiens:

(Unfortunately this article is not loading right now ... because of HF 21 testing?!? It would be a really big loss for me ...)

It is okay, there is some issue going on the last few days but you can still get them from busy and other places: https://busy.org/@jaki01/the-mirror-self-recognition-test-which-animals-are-self-aware

Ever thought that the IQ rates are dropping because of environmental factors like food and toxins? It could be that in places where there is a higher chance of things like excess sugar or bad nutrition, it may affect. There are so many synthetic chemicals out there and we have very little idea what they do on a macro level other than, they do something.

How to measure the 'success' of a species?

Farm animals are highly successful during the times of domestication as they have proliferated in numbers and improved their chance of avoiding extinction. For humans, we are successful in how far we have managed to develop in such a short time frame - when it comes to longevity, that is another story :D However, we are likely the first species on earth that could potentially (eventually) deal with a meteorite headed for impact with earth.

In other words we are an evolutionary intermediate product which is overestimating itself.

It is very possible that at some point some kind of interruption to our bio system flicked a switch of some kind of awareness in a minority of the population. What happens if the next switch flicked did something like give 10% of the population an IQ around 300? I find it interesting to think about.

I will read through the articles over the next days as I have time :)

Good to know that my article is still available ...

Concerning the decrease of the IQ in developed countries, several different factors may play a role. As environmental toxins are one of the reasons for increasing infertility, of course one cannot exclude an influence on cognitive abilities, as well.

Farm animals are highly successful during the times of domestication as they have proliferated in numbers and improved their chance of avoiding extinction.

Interesting topic. Here one could say on the one hand, yes, they are successful, but on the other hand they are depending on us. If we fail to survive, domestic/farm animals will have a hard time as well.
There is a somehow similar thought concerning the decreasing importance of human intelligence: as long as societies are more or less functioning, a single individual doesn't need much inteligence to survive and reproduce himself (and that's the evolutional definiton of 'success'). :) However, in the long term it could be dangerous for human kind as a whole, if not enough people are able anymore to understand and solve complex problems.

However, we are likely the first species on earth that could potentially (eventually) deal with a meteorite headed for impact with earth.

As far as I know - for example - ants (I admit being an insect fan) could handle the last meteorite impact rather well. :)
But I know what you mean ... at least in theory we could try to even leave the planet one day in future if necessary ...

If we fail to survive, domestic/farm animals will have a hard time as well.

I guess they can always go back to doing what they did earlier :D

However, in the long term it could be dangerous for human kind as a whole, if not enough people are able anymore to understand and solve complex problems.

I feel that the more we rely on algorithms to feed and suggest content incentivized by profits, the narrower the diversity of information gets which means that eventually, we all end up thinking similarly. That is great to reduce conflict, not great for solving complex problems. We are some time off that now.

Someone said to me that this is incorrect because they see so many young people "inventing" suff but, there is an availability bias due to the internet as we are able to cherry pick the best and worst of the world. What about the average? Well, we know that the average fat % is increasing despite us having all the knowledge that it is unhealthy and, what we have to do to be healthy. Again, misaligned incentives drive the information we consume.

I guess they can always go back to doing what they did earlier :D

Here I disagree. :)
The differences between wolves and domestic dogs are a good example for how different individuals of the same species develop in different environments.

In many cases domestic animals have smaller brains than their wild counterparts. Cattle show no real flight behavior anymore. Many domestic animals are bred to produce as much as possible milk/meat/fat but not to survive without us ...

Some can (and sometimes do) "go back", but most of them couldn't.

Yea, I don't think they probably could, however something like the 400k brumbies or the 1.2 million camels in Australia (I am Australian) show that domesticated animals can survive and even thrive in under the right conditions. There are over 25 million head of cattle there so the chances that some would survive is quite high, especially since there (at this time) aren't many natural predators, which is how the horses and camels have survived.

But, yes, most will die. Except cats who will be the dominant species and make all others bow down to them, like their human subjects do now. :P

Hola @tarazkp, tienes mucha razón el aburrimiento hace que salte nuestra creatividad para inventar cosas, sobre todo juegos, que muchas veces no funcionan como esperamos pero igual nos quitan el aburrimiento.

alegria.jpg

Hello @tarazkp, you're very right boredom makes us skip our creativity to invent things, especially games, which often do not work as we hope but still remove the boredom.

Playing games is all this world really is however, some play games to learn about, and some play games to avoid the world around them.

Always interesting to read your perspectives as I have seen the same from my daughter and being an only child provides for some interesting creativity as well. I have also seen how she takes thing she sees on tv or her ipad and goes her way with it as it inspires imagination as well. It seems as though it broadens the attention over time with every around them.

Posted using Partiko iOS

I have also seen how she takes thing she sees on tv or her ipad and goes her way with it as it inspires imagination as well.

This requires the input and then the space to use the resource to build with. These days I feel that most consume without creating that canvas to paint upon. When kids can't work out that a ball can be kicked, caught or thrown - it is a grave issue :D

Great post! Children need time away from electronic gadgets in order to be creative!! Sure, most have a little time to play. But what would happen if they all had lots of time to play? I believe children are given too much homework too. That also stifles creativity!!

The homework given is to make good employees by developing the "success model of life" by doing what is told and expected of them on a schedule. "Remember what I told you and I will give you a good job."

I feel sad for little kids who have so much homework that they have no time to play after school. I can understand perhaps older kids having some homework, but the little ones should be free to be just kids!

I agree but I think what they are trying to do is sort the winners from the losers (for their purposes) early so that they don't have to invest into the losers for too long. The education system requires workers to maintain it and with AI and automation, the employment pool is shrinking.

I don’t think ‘they” have thought too deeply about it. Schools are funded based on their performance and the only way they can prove how well they are doing is to have kids score high on their standardized tests. And so little kids are taught to learn things by rote. Creativity has gone out the window. My first career was in teaching back in the UK, and the one important thing that I learned during my teacher education back in Scotland. was that the arts are extremely important in shaping successful children. Kids who are allowed to develop their creativity are learning how to be creative in business and life. I think that’s why Scotland produced so many great thinkers and inventors in the 18th and 19th century in spite of her tiny population. John Napier, Alexander Graham Bell, James Watt and Alexander Fleming to name a few, changed the world. And of course there was Andrew Carnegie and John Paul Jones!

Creativity is a broad subject. I agree with you in the part of the parents taking an active role in sparking our children's creativity. A large part of that is setting the time and environment for opportunities of exploration. I have been able to spend more time with my own child lately (working from home) and I am constanly amazed.
My experience has been that creativity is a lot like a muscle. In order to use it, you have to set environments and dedicate time to develop it.
Have a good day!

My experience has been that creativity is a lot like a muscle. In order to use it, you have to set environments and dedicate time to develop it.

Yes and sitting in front of a TV watching exercises programs isn't the same as going to the gym. Parenting via convenience is rarely what is best for children, yet it is what many do these days. Not sure where it will end up, but I predict that there will be more than a pay gap between them as adults.

"create before you consume"
I saw that qoute somewhere. (probably while I was off consuming) I think this is good advice for everyone. Usually in the mornings when our mental energies are at their peak.

Its amazing what a bored child can come up with. and how fast they can switch from "I'm bored, and there's noting to do" to creating new worlds right in front of our own eyes.

it's a skill that is so easily squashed when not encouraged or when told by adults to not bother them ect...

just the other day when meeting with my brothers new girlfriend, my son, full of excitement and energy, walked up to her and said "did you know that a giant human could hold a lot of small humans in his hand." 😀 - I love how they pull random thoughts out of the air for all of us.

I am a night creator naturally, but due to time constraints I create something whenever I have the space.

Children rarely have the space anymore as they live lives with curated activities by parents who want to spend time doing their own things. Mental space is something we no longer allow ourselves and rather than stare from the window of the bus to see what the world has to offer, we bury ourselves into a screen and consume something created by someone else. There is a balance point, but we are off kilter.

I have two children and I guess I have forced them to do other things than just watching Netflix and playing games... so they both have quite a few skills when it comes to creating (my eldest daughter (@scarlet-rain) is drawing like her father, the little one is a dancer).

But even so it is a constant battle for them. Just reading a book, which was what we used asa entertainment when I was a kid, is now a chore. The easy McArty meal, games and tv-series takes so much of their time that they have to be disciplined to create something for themselves.

We made music, roleplaying games, comics, scale models, paintings, programming and food etc. Probably because Denmark only had one TV-channel back then :)

The passive experiences are so compelling as they give the psychological feedback triggers of advancement without actually having to pick up a skill.

I used as an example the other day the idea of a console game where one can feel like being able to drive a car, shoot a gun and kick a soccer ball -but the actual skill is singular and that is use a controller. The feedback makes us feel like we are progressing including the gamified experience of it yet, not many of the "skills" we acquire translate into anything else we practically do.

Probably because Denmark only had one TV-channel back then :)

This is why @denmarkguy can write ;D

↥ Robert Crumb

When @denmarkguy left Denmark for America there wasn't even one channel ;) But he can indeed write!

My Granddad always called it the Idiot Box.

In Denmark we call the TV itself, Tossen. The Moron.

What a coincidence in language because I call people who rely on the TV for their information, Tossers ;D

Boredom is a hugely beneficial state for creativity and innovation and rivals "necessity" as the mother of invention as it forces active pursuit of interest, rather than passive consumption of whatever is around.

Besides Boredom, Leisure & Necessity, never disdain the almighty power of a good restful sleep time to actually find the true muses who will introduce you to the real mother of invention.

But, where do these skills come from and how do they develop?

In my opinion, few things reach the level of hugely beneficial states for creativity and innovation than those provided from the disruptive fountains in the realms of Morpheus after a highly invigorating and strong hug by him. :)

Way more inventions are born out from 'dreams when sleeping' than we are willing to recognize and we'd like to accept.

Way more inventions are born out from 'dreams when sleeping' than we are willing to recognize and we'd like to accept.

I think dreams are driven by the things that way on our minds, a cleansing process for the brain. Necessity is a driver again and sometimes a fitful sleep brings answers.

Necessity is a driver again and sometimes a fitful sleep brings answers.

Yeah! I can agree about that. But never forget that most of those 'aha!' & 'Eureka' moments tend to take place unconsciously.

According my own experience, from the deepest stillness stages of REM sleep. :)

This is why I don't have any Aha moments, no memory of my dreams ;D

Dude. If you're going to write 100,000 words on boredom, put in some more photos.
Maybe some flashing lights and a link to a fitting soundtrack on youtube.

:D I was thinking about it after posting but yeah, it got away from me and ended up out near 2000 I think. But, some people read it at least.

I think I would have put in the "Run lola Run" soundtrack

I didn’t even notice that photos were missing. You did a good job getting us to read and imagine!!

Normally I would agree. But in this post, we did not need visuals!! Old fashioned books did not need them. We were left to make the pictures in our heads! That’s what creativity is, and I think @tarazcp made his point well!! Plenty room for photos in travel and photography blogs!!


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