It is impossible for technology to kill creativity. Creativity always precedes technology. The notion that technology can kill creativity is like worrying that a tree can kill the sun. Creativity is the force that drives technology.

What is creativity?

Common definition: ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. If you can’t digest all that easily, don’t worry. I couldn’t either. There are many definitions of creativity and they are all complex and wordy but I think Einstein said it best. “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.” That’s creativity in a nutshell. (Einstein, quoted inĀ Creativity, Design and Business Performance.)

Perceptions of the creative type

The term creative, when applied to a human usually provokes the image of the artistic type: the writer, the musician, and the painter among others. And conversely, it is often assumed that the engineer, businessman, or scientist is not creative, but it can be quite the opposite. In my observation it is more often than not the successful person who is creative, not a particular type of person. When looking at the definition of creativity you can see that creativity is not the ability to draw well, or have long hair, but the ability to produce something new whether it be a song or a better business model or a safer car. All of these advances come from creative minds.

Creativity is the ability to solve problems in a unique way and is not limited to the arts. The fine arts are more about self-expression and not necessarily problem solving. In any case, creativity in expression and problem solving has been greatly enhanced and unleashed by technology.

Creativity always precedes technology

When man first observed that a sharp stick could kill an animal or be used to pick his teeth he was making that leap from observing to being creative. Someone had to have the idea of using a log as a roller before they actually used it that way. Then came the Roller 2.0 or Wheel 1.0 depending on who you ask. The point is that the wheel didn’t stop creativity, creativity gave us the wooden wheel, then the wagon wheel, then the bicycle tire, then the car tire…

Apparent loss of Creativity

You may hear people lamenting the loss of creativity, but that is only a perceived loss of creativity. People love citing the abundance of bad books, unoriginal art, crappy videos, and terrible songs found on the Internet but they are wrong. There are more people expressing creativity today than ever before in history. Don’t confuse quantity and creative expression with quality. Furthermore, while it may appear that the quality of creative output has suffered a serious decline, it hasn’t. There are just so many people expressing themselves creatively, and we have access to it all, so it seems that there is nothing out there but a mountain of crap. In my experience there is significantly more quality creative output available than ever before.

Creativity needs inspiration

We have a lot of that available now. 24 hours a day we can find inspiration in the form of books, blogs, images, movies, music, art, photographs, you name it. Inspiration is very important to creativity and despite the wealth of electronic inspiration available, this is one area where I can see the danger of creativity being stunted by technology.

Hands on experience is vital to creativity. You can’t adequately describe a pounding jungle rain, or the feeling of walking past an abandoned house alone at night, or the smell of a bathroom at a gas station, unless you’ve experienced them. There are so many smells, feelings, sensations, etc. which make you a much better creator that you just can’t get from sitting in front of a screen. The fuel of artistic creativity is inspiration and the ingredients for inspiration are knowledge and experience. We have a vast amount of knowledge at our fingertips. We just have to make sure we have plenty of real-life experience. The loss of inspiration can diminish creativity but that is a case of technology distracting us from tactile sources of inspiration, not replacing or destroying creativity.

Will technology replace the artist?

Technology will not replace the artist (at least not in the near future) or creative types; it in fact requires more of us. A programmer can write more complex and refined code that will do many mundane functions, even mimicking creativity, but that ability to mimic is nothing more than coded instructions and there is a limit to what they can do. Real human creativity can make leaps and jumps and associations that a program can’t.