Thursday, 8 August 2013

Why I believe creativity is rare - and why it is rare

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I believe creativity is rare, because creative people are rare - and by rare I mean a small minority, the size of which varies between societies.

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Evidence?

Well I am impressed by the long periods of stasis which are detected in human technology in some periods and places - periods of many, many generations when flint axes and other tools are (apparently) produced to exactly the same patterns, when 'art' (or decorations) are stereotyped and so on.

Some cultures change rapidly (in terms of the evidence they left us) others not so - my interpretation is that change is underpinned by rare creative individuals - which are seldom or never found in other societies.

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And I agree with HJ Eysenck who argued that creativity is an aspect of the high 'Psychoticism' personality trait - which is typically found in only a small minority of population samples. These samples are typically taken from among college students - so the finding emphasizes that there are only a small minority of college students who are creative.

That the distribution of Psychoticism has a strongly 'positive skew'

in most samples is taken as evidence against its usefulness - but I regard this as simply how things are: there - there is only a small proportion of high-P people, and therefore an even smaller proportion of creative people; since the high P category also contains people who are suffering psychotic illness, are selfish psychopaths, and who are so chaotic and impulsive as to be incapable of sustained purposive action.

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Everyday experience and the implications of cultural observation. My observations suggest that most people are incapable of creative thinking, and cannot understand it. They accept that somebody or something is creative only because the fact is asserted by those they regard as authoritative - this is merely obedience, not recognition.

In mainstream culture, some fields of activity - e.g. being a poet or a visual artist or a musician - are assigned to the category of creative (as in the phrase creative arts) when there is typically zero creativity involved in these endeavors - conversely it is regarded as fanciful to regard tradesmen or entrepreneurs or the unemployed as creative.

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Aside, I do not mean to imply a dichotomy of creative good, un-creative bad. I suspect that - perhaps because primary roles are closed to them - most of the few successful creatives in the modern West are currently engaged in evil-tending activities in the mass media, advertizing, public relations, politics, spin and hype. Whereas in the past, creatives were engaged in solving real world problems, creatives are nowadays mostly engaged in denying and distracting from real world problems - and in manufacturing imaginary problems to draw attention away from reality.

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Furthermore, I have theoretical grounds for suspecting that natural selection cannot generate a high proportion of highly creative people; because I think that genetic/ reproductive benefits of creativity generally accrue very equally to the group - successful creativity makes most of a creative-containing-group successful at increasing its reproduction compared with other groups - and does not much or at all increase the reproductive success of the specific creative person who made the 'breakthrough'.

I think this is strongly suggested by the history of breakthroughs, as well as the biographies of known successful creatives, who have increased the reproductive success of their group - the creatives typically do not seem to be 'rewarded' by raising large families.

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So creativity = creative individuals seem to arise in particular times and places, as a low proportion of the population, and created and sustained by somewhat indirect and fragile mechanisms - easily subverted by short-termism and selfishness; which is why modern society is in practice so hostile to genuine creativity - except when creativity serves short-termist and selfish goals....

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