Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Creativity, Erasure, and Altruism

In class, we are often asked to question the idea of creativity and originality: to be liberal in this definition, to look at what limits it, and to commit to it as a lifelong habit. Claiming originality defines it as something that chance alone could not produce; the creator is the only party capable of doing what has been done (sounds similar to using God to explain what evolution does). There is beauty produced by the human hand (and heart)--don't get me wrong. Recognizing how incalculably small of chance there was for such an alignment of parts only heightens this beauty. Yet the most important part of creating anything is recognizing that it can be done, by anybody.

What I mean by this is that events, miraculous events, can be reproduced and explained with the rules of probability. I like best the "Infinite Monkey Theorem" which describes a circumstance where random typing on a keyboard by another primate could produce a line from Shakespeare. Repeated often enough over a hilariously long stretch of time would reproduce his entire life's work. At first, this is disheartening (and kind of funny). But then you think about how limitless putting a limit can be; there is essentially an available set of combinations to bring to life anything that can be thought, or was already thought.

There are those who take this realization and use it as terrain to explore playing with other's work; if everything is unified as unowned under such probability laws, then each hand has a right to what's been made. Philosophies similar to this--though perhaps they do not overtly state it--support the concept of a public domain, open source technology, and other free resources that allow for unbiased, accessible information flow on and offline. Where does an attitude of ownership come in, and when are we infringing on another's right to originality? Would people be as driven to create were their accomplishments not promised to be tagged with their name? Does rejecting ownership--and authorship--lead to altruistic creation? It could boil down to a simple generational question: is a model like 4chan and Reddit better than Facebook?

1 comment:

  1. Huge proponent of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. I feel that anarchistic websites like 4chan and Reddit are subordinate to sites like Facebook and Twitter because they are as reliable as guerrilla warriors and more prone to societal decadence. Open source technology is good for generating ideas, but individual efforts are necessary for direction, purpose, and management.