Friday 30 August 2013

The unfortunate (but necessary) negativity of young genius


Because creativity is bound-up with character (specifically, the personality trait of high Psychoticism), it comes in a package. And some aspects of the creativity package are annoying for other people - understandably so.

William Wordsworth is generally ranked as one of the three greatest English poets writing in modern English (along with Shakespeare and Milton) - he also has a reputation as being a rather dull and quiet kind of person.

On the whole, this reputation is broadly correct; but Wordsworth showed unmistable traits of high Psychoticism, including selfishness/ autonomy - but especially in his early life.


In the biographies of highly creative people, including geniuses, there is often a prolonged period when they do very little - they display pronounced negativity: that is to say they know what they do not want to do, but they have not discovered what they do want to do.

This happened in Wordsworth's life. From his second year at Cambridge University he more or less 'gave up' on studying, on preparing himself for making a living, on indeed on pursuing any kind of long term strategy: but he didn't do anything else much.

He wasted quite a lot of money given by his relatives (for example the fees and living expenses of three years at Cambridge, from his Uncle), he mooched around London, he did some travelling in search of something to stimulate him (including fathering an illegitimate child in France when absorbing the revolutionary fervour) and so on.

Even as a grown up, living quietly in Dove Cottage with his sister, Wordsworth took the brightest and warmest room for his poetry writing, and the whole household was organized around his poetic requirements.


(Tut tut, poor Dorothy, consigned to the gloomy parlour. Yet if William had not been selfish, and had not nurtured his genius, then we would not be talking about Dove Cottage and Dorothy at all!)   


Only after many years of this did Wordsworth find his vocation as A Poet, and worked very productively at this.

Now, Wordsworth was one of the most sober and industrious of The Romantics, and there are far more extreme examples of negativity including his great friend Coleridge - who exaggerated these traits by deliberate, then addicted, alchohol and opium abuse.

But the point I wish to make is that even Wordsworth showed clear signs of the cluster of high Psychoticism traits, which meant that he could (and did) work hard and long at what he wanted to work hard at; but could not work at anything else.


As a young man, when creativity is at its highest, Wordsworth would not and could not and did not work at what other people wanted him to work at, and this is the negativity. 

It is easy to imagine Wordsworth dying before he wrote any great poetry, or failing to find and develop his vocation, and being considered nothing but a selfish waster.

Of course, being a high negativity selfish  waster does not, not, NOT make anybody a creative genius; but being a creative genius almost always did entail going through a period of being a selfish waster and looking for The Thing that would stimulate you to hard and prolonged work - and during this period of looking perhaps being derailed by other stimuli such as women and drugs - and with no guarantee of ever coming out of the other side and achieving work of genius which is highly valued. 


A creative genius almost always comes with a price tag, the cost of which is mostly paid by those around him.

If nobody pays the price, the genius does not eventuate.

Harsh - but that's life, I'm afraid.


Monday 19 August 2013

Shamans and creativity


About a decade ago I was reading everything I could find on the subject of shamans - scholarship, ethnography, memoirs and journals, literary theory, criticism, archeology, history, new age spirituality, self-help and do-it-yourself manuals...

My conclusion was that, roughly - a shaman is a specialist - usually male - figure found in hunter-gatherer and some other nomadic and simple agricultural societies.

The 'ideal type' of a shaman is characterized by having experiences of contact with the spirit world, or some other unseen world, in states of altered consciousness. Shamans have various functions such as healing ('medicine men'), and providing advice, judgement, understanding.

Shamans seem to be a clear prototype of the creative person and his role in society.


The way that shamans are seemingly marked-out from an early age - chosen-by their nature for their particular role - may provide confirmation that creativity is part of a package of personality traits; such that creativity is something like an innate disposition, a way of relating to the world - and not a thing chosen or deliberately adopted.

Thus a person is a shaman, and shamanism is his destiny; by analogy a person is creative, and creativity is his destiny - and the shamanism/ creativity is a fact: true or not true; although of course each person can choose, and may choose differently, what they do about their nature and destiny.


Now, the category of shaman is a modern, Western conceptualization which unifies disparate figures found in a wide range of tribal situations and from different historical times.

The term was originally Siberian and this may link culturally to Amerindian examples (including among Eskimos/ Inuits, through classic 'Red Indians'/ Native Americans; to Amazonians and Patagonians); but shamans are also instanced among the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert in Africa and Aborigines in Australia; and indeed wherever there is an animistic, or simple totemistic, religion.


However, despite the many fair points made by revisions which tend to suggest that the whole area of shamans is so vague and confused that it would be better to dispense with the term; I believe it does have value.

The key point is that shamans were unexpected figures for anthropologists - found in some types of simple society; but apparently either completely absent from Western societies - or else hidden so deeply as to be undetectable by official investigators.

So anthropologists might expect to find priests, analogous to the already known priests of the Western, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern societies - but shamans are not priests. A new category was needed.


What do shamans do?

My overall impression is that they are called upon to deal with exceptional situations - situations where there is no traditional guidance, or where the traditional guidance has been tried and found to be ineffective.

Such situations could include some types of illness, when and where to move for better hunting, what to do about threats from predators or other tribes, 'legal' judgement in difficult cases - many types of advice and guidance, interpretation and prophecy.

To do this, shamans use altered states of consciousness - trance states of various types or visionary dreams - during which shamans contact the underlying spirit world for information and prediction, or to intervene and change things.

In a nutshell, shamans are believed to be able to come into contact with a deeper level of reality than the everyday - and that is the source of their abilities - and their societal role.


So, the impression from reading many accounts is that shamans are highly creative persons - and therefore I would expect that they would show the Psychoticism-like traits of high creativity; and this seems to be confirmed.

Shamans usually emerge from an early age of life - either childhood or teens; the shaman is either marked from an early age as being different, or else goes through a (typically) traumatic experience of illness, accident or some other stress, which changes them permanently. Thus shamans are flawed, damaged people who also (because of this, not despite it) have special gifts.

The shaman is usually a man - usually not socially integrated, usually lives somewhat apart, may be unfriendly -  a person feared and respected rather than loved and cherished.

Often unmarried, without known children - someone who hands on his social role by apprenticeship rather than founding a lineage.

Someone who does not work, but is supported by payments for services and charity/ protection money - at least he does not do work as it applies to the rest of the tribe - hunting gathering, agriculture, warfare, child care... 


It would obviously help if the shaman was more-than-usually intelligent as well as more-than-usually creative - but it is probable that these hunter gatherer, nomadic, simple hunter-gatherer societies have not been selected for higher intelligence over hundreds of years - as have some of the more stable and more complex agricultural societies.

So the actual intelligence of real life shamans may have been considerably below what we would consider average - just as the creativity of the average person in the societies they inhabit would be considerably above our average.

By this logic the creativity of a great shaman might have been something quite extraordinary - off the map of our modern, Western understasnding of the possibilities of creativity.


But it is not the exceptional intelligence that sets the shaman apart - rather it is the different cognitive style: the shaman approaches problems differently, or creatively as we would say - he does not apply the usual, traditional, high status or socially sanctioned rules or practices; but instead generates his unpredictable answers using quite different processes and procedures.

And this is something that the shaman cannot help doing: he is made that way, he is called to a role. Most of the time he is not wanted, scary, chaotic, nasty, a nuisance, a parasite - but there are situations when he is needed. and it is for these situations that the shaman is protected by the rest of the tribe.


Saturday 17 August 2013

Thinking about thinking creatively


Creativity is about abstraction of function from the social situation - this is a necessary preliminary to being creative about something.

The basic situation, then, is for a human to be embedded in the social context - being sensitive to the nature of the social context, sensitive and responsive to the feelings and wishes of others.

The basic situation is that humans are set-up to be embedded in this context - with various aims: keeping other people happy, aiming to have high status within the context, hoping for power over others and so on...

Creativity entails detachment from this whole social context - and instead focusing upon 'the problem', the function, the goal. That is the basic situation.

This is the basic set-up of creativity. Creativity is a basic set-up in which the creative person is intrinsically detached from social context - and whose interests are external to himself; where the self is bound-up with objective, non-social externals.

So creativity is a disposition, a way of approaching the world, a focus, an emotional concern with the non-social doings of the world.


Wednesday 14 August 2013

Genius, creativity and breakthrough innovations


It is necessary to be clear about the relationship between creativity and genius - and the relationship between genius and breakthroughs.

The following are some of my definitions and assumptions:

1. Genius is creative - it is a mixture of creativity and high ability (mostly intelligence).

2. Creativity is an aspect of personality - creativity is indeed part of the cluster of personality traits discovered by HJ Eysenck and called Psychoticism. The Psychoticism trait-cluster also tends to include various 'antisocial' or socially disvalued personality traits such as lower than average conscientiousness, lower than average empathy/ agreeableness, impulsiveness, arrogance etc. - these are, in fact, necessary components of creativity.

3. Because intelligence and personality are mostly hereditary, so are the components of genius - but the necessary particular combination is rare.

4. Because intelligence and personality averages and distributions are different between human groups, so is the incidence of genius - some societies have a much higher percentage of geniuses than others; but this incidence is never very high, and may be zero.


5. Because genius has been defined in terms of psychological attributes, the assumption is that these attributes will tend to lead to the achievements which are associated with genius - but not necessarily. A person may be a genius, but for various reasons (bad luck, inhospitable society, underdeveloped culture, illness, persecution etc) fail to make a major achievement.

5. On the other hand, I assume that ALL major achievement (all major breakthroughs) are made by a genius - whether correctly attributed to a specific genius person, or not. Apparent counter examples, e.g. when major breakthroughs are apparently made by people of high intelligence but low creativity (or to 'teams'), will (I believe) almost-always be found to depend on the work of an unattributed creative genius (or pair, or very small number) - and if that person cannot be identified, I assume that they nonetheless existed.

6. Therefore, without major geniuses, there are no major breakthroughs.


But genius is relative - in the sense that creative people of lower ability, and less luck, may make important breakthroughs at a smaller societal scale, and perform as 'local geniuses' uniquely able to solve local problems (whether credited for doing so, or not).

I have (provisionally) termed these 'local geniuses' Patagonian Shakespeares.


Tuesday 13 August 2013

Is creativity random? An intrinsic ability? No: ultimately it is a matter of sensitivity to external inspiration


Most scientific accounts of creativity converge onto the idea that creativity is one half of a kind of natural selection process by which creativity produces an undirected spectrum of undirected 'random' variations, and intelligence selects plausibly true or useful variants from this spectrum by testing the variants against established knowledge.

(High intelligence being necessary - or at least very useful- to make these large numbers of comparisons that are testing random variants against knowledge with sufficient rapidity; and a large knowledge base being facilitated by that rapid learning which is characteristic of high intelligence).


But, this convergence of scientific theories upon creativity being random is not a discovery of science, rather it is simply a consequence of the metaphysical assumptions of science.

Science as a metaphysical system excludes teleology, excludes there being any direction for functionality whereby a system might 'know in advance' what was closer to reality. Indeed, science denies the possibility of comparing theories and experiments with reality to estimate how close they come - because if reality was known outwith science, then there would be no need to do science - it would merely be a long-cut to reality, a resource-consuming and indirect method of doing-philosophy .


So, the basic set-up of science excludes the possibility of creativity being directed toward discovery of the nature of reality.

This exclusion of teleology has not and never could be discovered by science - it is built-into science, and emerges with inevitability (when it is sometimes - often! - naively mistaken for a discovery!).

Yet, in practice teleology is almost always smuggled into science covertly - and this seems to be inevitable considering that the number of possible random variations which could be generated is open-ended ('infinite') and there is no possibility of sorting among them.


However, the idea that creativity is random leads to some important - but false conclusions: for example the idea that there is 'something wrong' with the brains/ thought processes of creative people.

This idea is indeed in the background of Eysenck's work on creativity, and is a flaw - but it is a flaw shared with all the other psychologists I have read on the topic. Eysenck sees creativity in terms of a fuzziness of the thought processes, a widening of the association-field of thinking - which generates more random variation in the associational-chain of reasoning; this wider-variation/ imprecision then being sifted and selected-from by the extra powers of an extra-high intelligence.

In sum, according to this prevalent view, the creative genius is one who produces more randomly-generated garbage from his thinking, but who is also much better than average at sorting the garbage - and consequently finds the occasional nugget of usefulness among the garbage.


As I say, this conclusion is not a discovery but in fact a necessary consequence of the metaphysical assumptions brought to the field. And it is a conclusion which - although not impossible in principle - may be impossible in practice due to the likelihood that randomness generates an impossibly high ratio of wrong/ useless variation compared with the rarity of correct/ useful variation.

I think this view also fails to correspond with common sense ideas about creative genius, or even everyday creativity; and also fails to match the 'phenomenology' or introspective psychology of successful creation (so far as this can be ascertained) - which has teleological (goal-seeking) features, and a sense of sureness and truth very much a part of it.


Nonetheless, regarding creativity as random has fed into (or at least supports) the prevalent modern Western secular account of creativity as being about novelty, and the distortion of evaluation which sees novelty as merely something different - and which reject the possibility of evaluating novelties.

I mean the view that puts 'modern art' (post Picasso) on a level with the great art of the past, and the latest critic-approved examples of 'artistic genius' into galleries alongside Rembrandt.

And the view (the prevalent, mainstream view among professional psychologists) with argues that this novelty-creativity comes from the (incoherent) personality trait called Openness to Experience -

- which more or less reduces to the personality trait of being high IQ with Left wing views.

This modern 'creativity' is essentially definable as high status novelty; derived from almost-randomly-generated novelty (in practice, novelty generated by rote procedures of extrapolation from or selection and recombination of the products of past-creativity derived form social and political studies) - upon which are conferred high social status by the prevalent dominant secular Left wing intelligentsia.


But, but but...

The traditionally, in previous non-secular cultures; the underlying reality of creativity, above and beyond science, is that creativity is primarily from outwith the creative person.

That the creative person is one who has some gift conferred from outwith himself - from inspiration - the muses, gods or evil spirits.

So the creative person is not - in the final bottom-line analysis - someone with a particular ability, but someone with a particular sensitivity.

Namely, a particular sensitivity to these sources of external inspiration - inspirations which may be benign/ useful, or indeed malign and destructive. 


Monday 12 August 2013

In an evil society, most creativity will be evil: most creatives will be engaged in destruction of The Good


Although I argue for the importance of creativity in human affairs, and therefore of the importance of the creatives who do the primary work of creativity; it should not be forgotten that creativity is a means to an end - and when the end is evil, so is creative activity.

Modern society has become more and more evil - which is to say organized in pursuit of destruction of The Good - the Good being (roughly) truth, beauty and virtue.

Thus modern leadership is engaged in destruction of truth, beauty and virtue; and in promotion of dishonesty, ugliness and sin - especially sexual sins.


That is, modern leadership embodies and enforces a morality which takes reality and inverts it - so that good becomes evil and vice versa.

This Nietzschian project of 'the transvaluation of all values' is incompletely realized, and indeed cannot be fully realized - but 'progress' towards its realization continues incrementally.

In such a context, it is unsurprising that most creativity is harnessed in pursuit of evil.


In the first place, much of this distinctively modern form of evil by inversion is a product of highly creative persons, such as Nietzsche himself, and lesser emulators who not only extrapolated his ideas, but creatively enhanced them.

Secondly, due the the fact of creativity being part of the personality type of 'psychoticism' - creatives tend to be vulnerable to the consequences of impulsivity and less restrained by social ethics: they are lone wolves with a potentially predatory attitude which is relatively easily corrupted by short-term and selfish incentives.

Thirdly, creatives - who might in principle exercise their creativity on anything - will find but may not notice that they have themselves been pointed-at traditional institutions and values; in a context where creativity is akin to subversion, and where successful subversion of approved targets is applauded, and accorded high status and material support.


In sum, modern creatives are highly likely to be amateur or professional destroyers of the good - in their net effect if not wholly.

That would, indeed, be my characterization of my own creativity as a writer through most of my life. While I worked on some good causes - such as supporting real science - overall I surely did more harm than good in terms of both direct and indirect subversions of The Good.

This is one of the horrors of our uniquely nihilistic world. Humans have always failed to attain The Good due to our own weaknesses and those of mankind - but we are now in the situation where it is normal actively to attack The Good, by many means and on many fronts - so that both creative ability and hard-working conscientiousness do not merely fail of their promise and their ideals - but are harnessed to work against The Good.


(For example, I suspect many creatives work in the world of public relations, the mass media, hype and spin generally - most excercise their creativity in tactically re-framing reality to serve the short-term and selfish needs of their employers; while the best creatives are engaged in long-term and strategic PR for the ruling Leftist ideology of political correctness.)  


In sum, most modern creatives are of evil intent; and the more effective their creativity, the greater the harm they inflict.


Ordinary genius? Is it real genius? No - only the 'magicians' are real geniuses


No ordinary genius is the title of a photographic biography of Richard Feynman.

The term comes from a quotation from Mark Kac which states:

In science, as well as in other fields of human endeavor, there are two kinds of geniuses: the “ordinary” and the “magicians.”

An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what he has done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it.

It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark.

They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician’s mind works. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber. Hans Bethe, whom [Freeman] Dyson considers to be his teacher, is an “ordinary genius,”


So, Kac says there are ordinary geniuses and magicians; which would respond to high psychoticism, high creativity geniuses - and those who are highly intelligent but conscientious in personality and who are not primarily creative - but who instead extrapolate from previous work.

(Magicians correspond to high Psychoticism creatives - who deploy primary process thinking, which cannot be captured by logic.)  


I would say that only magicians are true creative geniuses, and Kac's 'ordinary geniuses' are not actually geniuses, but are in a sense parasitic upon true geniuses.

(At best OGs are symbiotic with magicians, in practice they are often exploitative.)

In other words, I suggest that the primary innovations 'always' come from the 'magicians' - but in a domain where there are magicians at work, then un-creative and highly able people are able to make major contributions by taking the results of the magicians, and taking them further.

BUT - in a world where there are only 'ordinary geniuses' (that is, only intelligent and conscientious people who lack creativity) - innovations soon dry-up.


So 'ordinary' or un-creative geniuses are extremely useful in amplifying the productions of wizards/ creative geniuses; and may indeed be difficult to differentiate from the true geniuses (since the creative source of the original ideas may not be apparent, and the creative underpinning may be unappreciated, unacknowledged or appropriated).

But 'ordinary genius' is deceptive. Institutions love 'ordinary geniuses' because they have much easier, friendlier, more sociable and obedient personalities - and 'ordinary geniuses' therefore tend, over time, to dominate career structures and gather power to themselves and bureaucratize the domain - and thereby to exclude the difficult misfit high psychoticism magicians - and indirectly kill-off major innovation in that field.


Sunday 11 August 2013

Fake creativity versus real creativity


In discussing creativity, a decision must be made as to whether we are going to give primacy to process or outcome.

(Not neglecting the other of the pair: but one or the other must come first).

I put process first - and therefore discuss creativity and how it leads to what are generally regarded as creative results - so if the work leading to a science Nobel Prize is regarded as a creative outcome, then I would say that some science Nobel Prizewinners were highly creative persons, but some were not. The same would apply to great composers, great writers, great artists etc.


If creativity is process, a mode of thinking; then this means that many or most of the people who produce work which is generally regarded as extremely useful, beautiful or true are not creative. 

Furthermore, most creative people ('creatives') do not achieve anything that is generally regarded as useful, beautiful or true.

So it is not a compliment to call somebody creative or 'a creative' - it is simply a description of a personality type. 

(A personality type which is very poorly understood, hence the reason for my writing about it.)


In previous eras, there was not a special status given to novelty or originality as an aspect of high quality work - but since about 1800 in the West there has been: greatness is supposedly innovative.

Therefore we have an incentive system in place to generate fake creativity: an incentive system in which there are un-creative people who dishonestly strive to be regarded as original because they want to appropriate the label of creative.

In sum, under modernity creativity has been reduced to novelty - and novelty can be faked.


But it is easy to generate mere novelty, therefore the discriminative test applied to novelties is whether they are approved by the social systems that allocate high status.

When novelty is socially approved, then the person who generated it gets to be called creative - maybe even a creative genius.

Thus:  Novelty of outcome + Social Approval of that outcome = Fake creativity


And fake creativity is an attribute bestowed upon an outcome or person; bestowed by the social systems for generating status - in other words the mass media (primarily), politics, civil administration, the legal system, education... in a nutshell the Leftist establishment.

So, as you would expect, political correctness has captured creativity - and replaced real creativity with a fake creativity which is controlled by the arbiters of modernity: that is, mostly the mass media.

This to claim to be a 'creative' person has been changed from being the mere observation of a psychological fact; to an arrogant claim of deserving high social status for having achieved something which is approved by social arbiters.


This matter of being able to define/ bestow the accolade of creativity is of extreme importance to the Leftist intellectual establishment - indeed, fake creativity stands close to the heart of the Leftist project - because the Left works mainly via manipulations of esteem, including self-esteem.


How to be more creative - gratuitous advice


Increasing the proportion of unstructured time alone is the key - as Glenn Gould once said:

GOULD: I don't know what the effective ratio would be, but I've always had some sort of intuition that for every hour you spend in the company of other human beings, you need "x" number of hours alone. Now, what "x" represents I don't really know; it might be two and seven-eighths or seven and two-eighths, but it is a substantial ratio.

Secondly, you may need to find whether you are an evening or a morning person - an owl or a lark: I am a lark, so I get up at 05.00 hours and do my best thinking/ creative stuff before 11.00. But most creatives are owls.

Thirdly - you need to get enough sleep of sufficiently high quality: a lot of creativity happens during sleep.


So the following need to be got right: 

1. Unstructured time
2. Diurnal rhythm
3. Sleep


Thursday 8 August 2013

The rarity of creativity


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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....


Wednesday 7 August 2013

Why Concientiousness, Agreeableness/ Empathizing are anti-creative


The positive correlation between creativity and Eysenck's Psychoticism trait, also implies a positive correlation with the more specific Schizotypy trait, and a negative (inverse) correlation with Big Five traits of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness (and Agreeableness is essentially identical with Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing trait).

The inverse correlation of Creativity in terms of C and A is understandable, and necessary - once C and A are properly understood.


Creativity implies a strong ego, a person who looks at a situation and comes up with something different because he believes it possible - even probable - that he knows better than other people, and is (to some extent) indifferent to the opinions of others on this matter.

Conscientiousness is sometimes conceptualized in terms of delayed gratification - the ability to put-off gratification now, in return for greater gratification in the future. For example, to defer the pleasure of playing and instead study academic subjects - forgoing current pleasure of play, and suffering the tedium of work, for a (hoped for) greater pleasure in the future.

But this is an error - because it is not the way the mind is motivated. The mind actually works by maximizing current gratification - by doing what is positively rewarding, and avoiding what yields negative emotions.


Therefore the proper way to conceptualize Conscientiousness is that a high C person gets more gratification here and now by doing what they feel is best to do, or necessary to do, or which they have been told to do by an authority, or what they are supposed to do according to peer pressure.

Therefore, high C implies a high degree of concern for internalized social norms - a tendency to feel good (here and now) when conforming to these social norms/ values - and/or a tendency to feel bad (e.g. guilty, ashamed, afraid) when transgressing or failing to follow these social norms.

This is what links Conscientiousness to Agreeableness or Empathizing - a dominating concern with the views of other people - attention to knowing the emotions and wishes of others, a calibrations of one's own (observed or perceived) behaviours to stay in line with the expectations or desires of others.


So, it can be seen that Conscientiousness and Agreeableness are two side of the same coin (and the inverse of Psychoticism) - which is that a person high in Conscientiousness and also Agreeableness is one who - here and now, and in the present moment - derives the greatest satisfaction from his conformity to the social group, and is attentive to cues of social group values: and (more important) who has aversive feelings if transgresses or he fails to follow social norms, such as would happen if creativity thinking was in play.

And such a person is not creative - because he is focused on learning and doing what the social group wants him to do, and is dominated by such concerns.


Note: As described elsewhere, and in line with Gregory Clark's description in A Farewell to Alms - I believe that higher-C, higher-A were positively selected-for in the context of complex agricultural societies - where high-C, high A (and also high general intelligence) were economically useful; and where individuals with high-P traits would have tended to die from starvation or disease - or were differentially killed as being vagabonds, criminals and outlaws.  

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Creative is not what you *do*, but who you *are*: the phenomenology of creativity


Creative people are made that way: it is personality.

But why? What do creatives get out of being creative?

What, on other words, is the phenomenology of creativity

(Phenomenology = first-person, inner, subjective experience).


People could only be creative by disposition if creativity were supported with positive/ rewarding emotions and/or provided relief from negative/ aversive emotions.

I think this works in about three stages:

Discontent -> Delight -> Satisfaction

Corresponding to:

Perceiving a Problem -> Having an Insight -> Generating a Solution 


Therefore, creativity is driven by a negative or Dysphoric feeling - that some state of affairs produces an emotion of dissatisfaction.

The creative then turns their attention to this 'problem' - and may come up with an Insight which leads to a Euphoric feeling of delight. So the creative is rewarded up-front for generating insights - whether or not these turn-out to be answers.

Therefore, the creative will tend to generate insights for the sheer fun of it - and even if they turn out to be useless, or harmful.


Finally, with luck, the creative comes up with a Solution to the Problem, a Solution which makes him feel Satisfied.

So a state of Discontent has been replaced by a state of Satisfaction - and this can be termed a Euthymic state - that is a state of 'normal' good mood - not Euphoria (which is short term and unsustainable) but a long term gratification.

So, in terms of phenomenology, it goes:

Dysphoria ->  Euphoria - > Euthymia


Therefore, for the creative person, being creative is rewarding; and such a person will be creative; spontaneously, whether asked or not, whether useful or not; whether they are sufficiently knowledgeable and competent, or not...

Therefore, if creativity is wanted or needed, then the job requires a creative person.

And if you have a creative person in place, and they are sufficiently interested in what you want them to do, then they will be creative.

Whether this creativity is actually useful in the real world will depend on the degree of correspondence between the creative's internal subjectivity state, and external objectivity.