What is creativity?

September 8, 2022 on Eric Bower's blog

standing on the shoulders of giants “standing on the shoulders of giants” generated by Midjourney

FROM: Steve Jobs
TO: Steve Jobs
DATE: 2010-09-02 at 11:08PM

I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little
I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent of refine.

I did not discover the mathematics I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of
or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention,  I was helpless
to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor,
object oriented programming, or most of the technology
I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am
totally dependent on them for my life and well being.

Sent from my iPad

source

Sometimes inspiration hits me and I feel compelled to write. There is something moving about this email that Steve Jobs wrote to himself.

The contents of this message seem obvious – that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. At this point we think of Jobs as a giant in tech and his admiration for his predecessors moved me.

I resonate with the tone of helplessness in this email. It’s the vulnerability from a giant that inspires me.

Recently I’ve been thinking about building yet another view library for the web. From react, svelte, solid, qwik, to alpine I’m having a hard time coming up with anything that hasn’t already been covered by these excellent libraries. Powerless in the wake of these giants, how can I create something better than what already exists?

Coming up with new ideas is so difficult, it’s one reason why I admire comedians. They have to take their experiences, abstract it so many people can relate, and then twist it to make us laugh. When you hear them talk about how they come up with jokes, it’s clear that creativity is wrought. Through sheer will to power they make their words resound in a laugh.

Human creativity is on fire right now with the recent creation of dall-e and the derivatives (e.g. stable diffusion). We created a machine that manifests images from a text prompt by combining tagged images in interesting ways. Through a generative adversarial network we have created something truly revolutionary. This revolution is not focused on artists, but creativity.

What is creativity? I think this machine will help us understand it better than ever. It’s hard for us to investigate the mind because we have to use the mind to do it. There’s an inherent bias that is unavoidable.

The human mind cannot realize the human mind because we cannot break free from the recursive loop. Until now.

Creativity requires time, space, and experience. Creativity is an idea. An idea (seed) has a goal (result). Through a combination of previous ideas, goals, and chaos we create something new. The goal of the idea is tested against other successful goals. Success and failure of an idea is defined by whether the goal was realized. Iterate. Test. Iterate.

This is a trend we are going to see more and more. We are building machines that can intimately help us understand ourselves better than ever before. Machines are going to revolutionize psychology.


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