Technology moves forward much faster than biology. Biology tends to meander all over the place before coming upon solutions that work whereas technology is designed with purpose and with arrow-like exactness. However, we love technology and actively embrace it, even before we understand the full extent of its effects. This is why one of the things I’ve come to thinking about in relation to this blog is the relation between the internet and creativity. Why the internet? Why not video games and creativity? Or cell phones and creativity? Because nothing provides the sheer amount of data and offers more possible extractable data than the internet itself. A cell phone is a limited thing with a limited number of functions. Even if it’s a smart phone, without wi-fi or 3G, it’s still limited. Same for computers. Without an internet, a computer is capable of a finite set of functions. And video games are under the same limitations. Even tv is limited by comparison to the internet. So what do I think about the internet and creativity?
No matter how I spin it, the internet and creativity are not exactly compatible. With the average person spending more and more time wired in, slipping endlessly through glossy websites, creativity is getting lost in the sprawling mansion of the internet. This may seem like really counterproductive advice for a blogger to be giving since I like to see my traffic numbers go up and not down, but one of the best things you can do for your creativity is to get the hell off the computer. Do something else. Watch a good movie or tv show or read a book or go outside or anything. But seriously, get off the internet. I have a theory why the internet is so deleterious to creativity and I think you’ll find it quite sensible.
Our future potential relies more and more heavily on data. Data is now the chief resource traded and sought in the global market. And unlike petroleum or gold, there is a potentially endless stream of data. However, the human mind does in fact have a limited processing capacity. This creates quite a quandary in which the amount of potentially accessed data skyrockets while our capacity to process it remains static. What’s more, the means to access this information makes it ever easier to trawl vast amounts of information. While we can go and congratulate ourselves, the end result is a lot less satisfactory than it might originally appear. Just because the average amount of information the average person can and does go through has increased exponentially does not mean we have become any smarter. If anything, we have become a generation of shallow thinkers precisely because of this information age. This is bad all around but it definitely has a negative impact on creativity which depends very greatly on the ability to think about something for more than three seconds before clicking to the next page.
The problem with the internet lies in its ability to distract and distract for long periods of time. You can start on one article or on one page then, because of hyperlinks, you end up on a completely different page or even a different topic. But the brain needs time to store and deal with new information. By moving nonstop to new topics, constantly pushing more information into your brain, you exceed the brain’s ability to properly deal with the information. The end result is that even though a lot of new information has been run through, not much, if any of it has been learned. Why is that a bad thing? Creativity depends on taking bits and pieces from here and there and melting them together into something new. But when all we are left with after scanning and scanning the internet is a dim recollection of disjointed facts, we’re not left with much to work with. Not only that, but we move too fast through the material, denying ourselves the time to make connections and ponder. Creativity depends on playing and experimenting and these things can only be done if we take time to do them. In other words, heavy internet use is not conducive to optimal creativity. Am I saying that the internet has no use in the creative process? Not at all. But what I am saying is that one needs to be careful of how long one spends soaking his or her brain in the internet. As is usually the case, the middle path proves to be the optimal way to go and excess can lead to a negative impact on a person’s creative abilities.