Thursday, August 30, 2012

Creativity: A Metaphor For A Missing Moment

According to over 7 billion people we (humans) are alive. We're not quite sure exactly how long we have been doing this thing called life nor how long we have been conscious that it has been happening. However, the great majority of us believe that something different from absolutely nothing has been occurring in the universe for quite some time now. One day a shift occurred in the dark abyss and whether it was God or a God particle we have been detecting life ever since.

I liken the entirety of our lives to a blip on a CD. Wait, I suppose that reference is a little antiquated....allow me to try again. I liken the entirety of our lives to a blip on a poorly copied Ipod file. Imagine that the Ipod track is called "Complete Silence" and the track is put on repeat. There would be no way to determine when the track begins or ends because the silence would have no ending. However, if there was the tiniest imperfection in the track then you would hear a tiny audible distortion once every time that the track is played. This original Ipod flaw is representative of human creativity. Our mere existence implies a lack of perfection We are that little break in the silence. No matter how well we compensate we will always register as something different from the norm.

How is this relevant you ask? I think that individual human creativity is based around this same concept. While I do believe that we have original impulses the majority of our creativity is in fact based in error. Most of the great inventions that exist today are variations or extensions of a preexisting theme. Many of the great original ideas have been by accident or through observing a naturally occurring act and mimicking it.

When I speak of creativity though I am doing so with an emphasis toward artistic creativity. I think that technology is the natural enemy of true creativity because of its ability to produce predictable results. There is no better example than the internet era to articulate this argument.

Long before a million monkeys were typing on a million typewriters information traveled very slowly. Like the game of telephone that we all played as kids ideas took a long time to get from one side of the country to the other and when it did it was usually vastly different from what it began as. Someone may have been hard of hearing, someone else might have had a speech impediment while another person might have just been an asshole who wanted to watch the world burn. Whatever the reason, it was rare for a string of 8 to 10 words to be able to survive a trek of a million minds without being messed with.

The invention of the record player allowed us the unique experience of being able to hear a song at our leisure over and over again. This afforded any child who fancied themselves a musician the a chance to annoy their parents by loudly singing along with their favorite songs for hours. Some other kids might have got stung by the six string bug and bought themselves a guitar in order to duplicate some of their favorite riffs. Invariably while trying to decipher lyrics or the solo from Comfortably Numb a few errors occurred. Sometimes those misheard lyrics were better than the original and sometimes those discovered guitar notes were more interesting than mere duplication. The next thing you know those same kids who were listening to lyrics were now writing their own and those kids playing covers poorly were writing their own music. In essence their inability to seamlessly duplicate gave them the means to create.

Certainly Hollywood with its penchant for solely releasing reboots, remakes and sequels has a little to do with  influencing the world's lack of creativity. Certainly Hollywood with its penchant for releasing copycat reality shows and singing competitions that encourage kids to sing karaoke has a little something to do with it as well  but, a void in creativity has often in the past been the impetus for creation. So what then is the greatest reason for the slowing down of all creation? The Internet.

It is true that the internet has been instrumental in changing the pace at which we live our lives and that it has greatly reduced the time it takes to find an answer due to millions of minds working on a common problem.  However, in terms of originality the internet has stifled us in many ways. 

In order to create there needs to be that gap in time when we reflect on what we have learned and add our own little bit or variation. Sites like Youtube have given us access to all the information that we need whenever we need it. This means that any song you want to learn has been tabbed out and videotaped so that you can watch it on an endless loop until you get it right. You no longer have to wait for your favorite song to come on the radio and imagine what your favorite singer is saying. Anticipation is all but dead and has instead been replaced by an endless supply of white noise. Generally speaking what is funny or interesting is instantly reposted and immediately becomes a dominant thread of conversation. No details are lost in translation, everyone ends up getting their news from the same pool of information. As a result everyone makes the same observations about the same things and are only look as deeply as the most recent update on their Tumblr account into any issue/topic. Whatever buzz words you feel like you have discovered will be used by all of your peers within minutes. If someone should take the time to develop a well articulated thought by the time it comes out of the oven it is passe. Plugging in keeps us in tune with society but the song we're singing is Friday by Rebecca Black and we aren't singing it ironically.