Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Alleged Creativity Crisis

There are several explanations for the alleged creativity crisis. I've already mentioned the possibility that it's due to routine use of day care. There's the possibility it might be due to the Roe effect (although I suspect that the less creative women might be more likely to assume there's no solution to alleged overpopulation other than prenatal infanticide). It might be due to the increasing numbers of children of people who were stoned in college. (Pot has a reputation for enhancing creativity but there are reasons to think it stifles creativity instead.)

This might even be due to “teaching to the test.” I'm usually reluctant to blame testing. Blaming testing is similar to the defense of parapsychology (against scientists who insisted on better experimental controls) in Analog back when John Campbell was editing it. “Things were just fine until you ruined it by insisting on looking closely…” On the other hand, most tests will measure the ability to find the one right answer but creativity tests measure the ability to devise more than one answer. Just as the Flynn effect might be due to people being better briefed on IQ tests, this alleged decline might be due to people being more badly briefed on creativity tests.

We must also bear in mind the possibility that the decline is imaginary. The original article said that creativity “inched downward.” Maybe the decline is trivial. The decline might even be due to some of the questions being about items that are no longer common.

And now to swat a fly that buzzes around nearly any discussion of creativity: the claim that memorization is the enemy of creativity (sometimes combined with the claim that memorization is not needed when we can supposedly look up any fact). I doubt that very much. A large part of creativity is a matter of noticing connections between disparate fields. You might be able to look up facts in one field but it's hard to look up facts in two fields at the same time. For example, you can look up facts on line noise but you won't notice its resemblance to Cantor sets (which is how Benoît Mandelbrot came up with fractals) unless you already know what Cantor sets are.


Anonymous Vader said...

How much creativity does it take to play a video game? Compared, say, with breaking out G.I. Joe and imagining him turning back the Nazi hordes?

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Vadar said...

Oh, and if your last paragraph is correct, then lack of creativity may correlate with overspecialization. There is some interesting food for thought there.

2:36 PM  

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