17 Mar 2008

Creativity and society

Just today, I found this article called Why is there Anti-Intellectualism?. Steven Dutch uses Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel as a base in his inquiry into what it means to be truly creative. It's very thought-provoking and, well, creative!

Some questions that arise in my mind are:
  • Might we say that 'tinkering' is a prerequisite to 'true creativity' even if the latter is not the inevitable result of the former? Hence: tinkering > true creativity.
  • In such a curiosity hierarchy that we may infer from this, might curiosity be in part connected to Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Afterall, I can't imagine people stuck in survival mode having the time or energy to expand their minds beyond the immediate here and now, even if they are capable and willing of higher thought under better circumstances.
  • And extending now far beyond this immediate topic, might this pyramid of thought already be instinctively understood by power-hungry dictators who seem to always manage to reduce the governed population to abject poverty in order to make mindControl and groupThink more effective? Who has time to think about government corruption when one's home is being seized because of a housing bubble and one's job is being exported overseas by way of out-of-control globalization?
  • Finally, could the latest surge of anti-intellectualism in the past decade (albeit based on my own subjective perception drawn from the increasingly influential internet culture which is replete with cowardly anonymous trolls that exploit logical fallacies at every turn and often attack people like me who are just innocently blogging my thoughts) be just the pretext to establish a modern tyrannical regime by brainwashing the population to blindly ridicule anyone who dares exhibit signs of enjoying scholarly pursuits? Quite frankly, if I were a dictator, corrupting the will of the people through poverty and anti-logical political rhetoric is a deliciously evil way to establish systematic censorship of thought in all levels of society without needing to enforce oppressive rules by myself.


  1. Are you familiar with Hanlon's Razor? "Don't attribute malice to that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". The Internet started out as a academic/goverment institution, and the so-called Eternal September is a much simpler explanation on increasing numbers of trolls and dropping quality of debate online than a King of the Internet out to enslave us all.

  2. Tropylium: "[...] and the so-called Eternal September is a much simpler explanation on increasing numbers of trolls and dropping quality of debate online than a King of the Internet out to enslave us all."

    Are you honestly claiming that governments can be perfect and eternal? If you can concede that all governments are imperfect and temporary, then your precious Hanlon's Razor is just an irrational distraction on your part that ignores human psychology and all of human history.

    Hanlon's Razor is actually not a logical principle, for your information.

  3. As for society itself and its hypothethical malice, by parroting this principle, you assume without proof that "toxic societies" are not possible. Can you please prove that malice somehow cannot become prevalent in a human society?

  4. I see Hanlon's Razor in this case as a fairly simple extension of Occam's. It is a simple fact that Internet has been ever since its conception becoming increasingly populated by the masses. An assumption of a malicious conspiracy to explain dropping quality of online debate is not necessary because dropping levels of education of the average netizen is a far simpler explanation.

    (Unless you meant that "a tyrannical regime" simply emerges at some point to take use of the situation, in which case I apologize for the confusion.)

  5. Tropylium: "I see Hanlon's Razor in this case as a fairly simple extension of Occam's."

    Yes, I figured you might, but the principle is not a logical one because it's ridiculously absolute. If followed blindly, malice will not be recognized even when it is a logical explanation of someone's actions. For example, a man runs into the streets cursing and slashes someone's tires. Is it stupidity? Indeed it is. But is it malice? Well, surely this isn't normally to be the product of love or mere indifference. Malice indeed provides sufficient motive for some acts and Occam's Razor isn't applied well in matters of human psychology for the simple fact that most human beings don't devote themselves to the discipline of Logic.

    In a greater context, just as an individual can become toxic (i.e. anti-productive), an entire society may conceivably become anti-productive, for example, if limited resources push a majority of the population into desperation, jealousy and anger as extreme forms of global capitalism are currently doing as they create a larger and larger rift between those that have and those that have not. Trolling is one way, anti-productive as it is, to relieve individual anger temporarily, as we all know and it is indeed a form of malice.

    The prevalence of trolling can be seen on Wikipedia and Youtube and as such we can see the prevalence of trolling on the internet and therefore the large amount of malice on the internet.

  6. If by extreme forms of capitalism, you mean "corporatism", I agree. Are you familiar with Laird Wilcox's "Ritual Defamation"? I have experienced this in the field of "academia" in precise sequence on more than one occasion, and it's a rather fine method of control over a group. It can either give to already existing authority within a group or create an authoritative individual. Very interesting stuff.

  7. Nate: "If by extreme forms of capitalism, you mean 'corporatism', I agree."

    Considering the sage warning behind the Landlord's Game (aka Monopoly), I just accept as did Elizabeth Magie back in the 1900s that capitalism leads unavoidably to financial tyranny, and thus to state-controlled corporatism.

    Truth be told, this is a tough pill to swallow, particularly when we mistake it to justify the validity of socialism or communism. There are however alternative market models (eg. participatory economies) that do not lead us down that already trodden and already disappointing path.

    "Are you familiar with Laird Wilcox's 'Ritual Defamation'?"

    I don't think I came across it yet, thanks. Here's the link for other readers. Perhaps this sort of defamation appears all the more common nowadays because of the mass erosion of traditional, centrally organized institutions with the rise of the internet medium which systematically promotes decentralization and group involvement at the expense of any authority.

  8. Hmmmm... I can't say I agree with you on the first bit. Capitalism doesn't have to lead to state-controlled corporatism and the financial tyranny therein as long as the population is paying close attention to politics. How you get them to do that is a good question. In reference to the United States and Canada, I believe that both of these countries have been in a state of bliss for so long that the people seem to think that they needn't worry while their freedoms disappear rapidly under corporatist government models that are feigning more socialist approaches (these days).

    Still, I didn't post to debate politics because I'm sure we see things very differently.

    I'm not sure what you mean on the second note though? This kind of defamation appears commonly amongst "traditional, centrally organized institutions". In my own experience, it's these institutions that are the perpetrators, utilizing their authority to influence a group to defame an individual. Such was my experience when I tried to present a Palestinian perspective on Israel in my history class last semester. My teacher followed the steps on the list to a T, and got the students to follow suit.

  9. "[...] as long as the population is paying close attention to politics."

    In Emergence of the Rank-5 society, I realize that systems of balance are superior to systems of control. In your statement above, you use "control language" (ie. with good intentions, you seek to "push" people into an interest in politics despite genuine reasons for distrust). However one should try accepting diverse opinion for what it is and incorporate it into any decent economic design. Apathy and iconoclasty are an important part of democracy, don't forget.

    "This kind of defamation appears commonly amongst 'traditional, centrally organized institutions'."

    We agree precisely. The traditional institutions, unable to adapt, quite simply feel threatened by change. So they become increasingly entrenched in stubborn status quo and "fundamentalism", as it were. In academia, increasing open-source mentality threatens everything. Libraries are threatened by the openness internet. Academics who rest on their laurels are threatened by independent scholars who take advantage of the wealth of information online. The relevance of journals is waning as the new medium has made the cost of publishing completely free and immediate. On a related note, Youtube contributors are constantly being bullied by corporations armed with copyright law because they're threatened by the fact that collective social media has already displaced their centralized counterpart.