In a word: computers. Machines can now do what you could call IQ-style thinking – covering what ‘multiple intelligences’ theorist Howard Gardner would call visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence – pretty darn well. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here and it’s getting more sophisticated every day. But AC – Artificial Creativity – doesn’t exist.
It’s becoming one of those taken-for-granted principles that to be creative, to free your mind, you have to adopt a playful, even childlike attitude. Brainstorming sessions and other kinds of creative workshop now routinely get people horsing around in order to throw off the shackles of normalcy and convention and come up with creative ideas.
Anthropologists like me have rarely contributed to debates on creativity in the modern world. The reason is that traditionally, we studied two kinds of “old” society. Biological or evolutionary anthropologists try to understand how and why we became human over the last few millions of years. Social or cultural anthropologists, until recently, specialised in so-called “primitive” cultures – indigenous groups of the Americas, the Arctic, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
Creativity is all about overturning assumptions. And because I like to be creative when discussing creativity, I often challenge commonly held ideas about it. One is that creativity and art are synonymous, and that artists are by definition creative. Let me show you why this simply isn’t true, and why that’s important for the rest of us to understand.
Call me an iconoclast, a rabble-rousing, game-changing, Copernicus-level revolutionary if you will (wait you didn’t? Well please do, it makes me feel cool), but the convention among a great many creativity specialists that really everyone is creative is just what we all know it to be. A pile of crap. An alternative version has it that we’re all naturally super creative but horrible old society has stamped it out of us by the time we reach adulthood.