Today's post is about the urge to create, not religion. Although I will come back to the headline later and explain what I mean.
My premise today is this: I've come to think the creative urge in humans is so strong that it could be our defining feature. And also our distinguishing feature, which sets us apart from all others.
When I go looking for it, I see the creative urge expressed almost everywhere. But that's not how I used to think about creativity or human nature.
Until recently, I thought creative types were rare and special and different from most of us. After all, it's only a relative handful of people who make their living in a creative profession:
I am sure you can think of other creative jobs, but you'll be able to think of many more that we don't traditionally consider creative.
Creativity is Everywhere, Once You Start Looking
I used to spend 12 hours a day in an office. I interacted with people at work, both in person and virtually all over the world.
Something interesting happened when I gave up my office job and started observing people more carefully.
I noticed that a lot of people are in fact tremendously creative in all sorts of unexpected settings. And there are many more outlets for creativity than I ever realized.
Let me briefly describe both points.
First, you don't need to be in a "creative" job to apply your creativity on a regular basis. From baristas to baseball players, mechanics, marketers, and just about every job you can think of, people express themselves through their work.
It is in fact difficult to suppress the instinct to infuse one's personality into one's endeavors. I didn't notice it before now because I wasn't looking and I wasn't paying attention. Now that I've slowed down, I see things I previously missed.
On the second point (the many outlets for creativity), the Internet has made it possible for individuals to show their creativity in unprecedented ways.
For example, I am sure many people kept diaries in years past. Now though, they can share their thoughts with the whole world via YouTube or TikTok videos, blog posts and newsletters, podcasts, and more.
And people do share, profligately:
- Of an estimated 1.9 billion web pages, almost a third, or some 600 million are personal blogs.
- Creators upload more than 150,000 YouTube videos every minute, adding to the over 800 million existing videos.
- People view more than a billion TikTok videos a day.
- We've uploaded more than 250 billion pictures to Facebook, and are adding 350 million more every day.
The combination of these two points makes me think there is something fundamental about the human desire to create.
In fact, rather than creativity being something special and rare, I now lean towards thinking it's much rarer for people to stifle their instinct to create.
Religions May Be Simply One More Creation of Humankind
Now let's consider why it is that most of the thousands of human religions that developed over millennia of human existence contemplate one or more creators. Creators of the world and everything in it, and of humanity itself.
Well, one reason surely could be that humans have an insight into the divine, and we intuitively recognize there must be a creator. Another simpler reason is that our religions reflect human nature: humans create, and thus we fashion divinities that create.
If every religion humanity comes to favor gives prominence to an all-powerful creator, that deity is just as likely to reflect our own image as the idea that we reflect the image of a creator.
Technology (AI) also creates new questions for humanity
What prompted my musings about religion? Incongruously, I was considering the significance of ChatGPT and recent AI developments. Our progress in creating tools that are humanlike in their responses is remarkable and marks a milestone in human ingenuity.
Have we reached a point where we can say AI is approaching humanity in any respect? I say we have not.
AI is presently far from human, never mind whether ChatGPT can pass a college entrance exam or even pass the Turing test. One reason, at least for now, is that AI lacks the urge to create that is fundamental to humanity.
True, our AI tools already seem to be superior to humans in searching troves of data to surface the bits relevant to answering specific questions.
But I am not aware of any AI system that is creating output of its own volition. That is, it will answer a question when prompted, and then only the question that was asked. Nothing could be further from the outpouring of human creativity that we see all around us.
What is the Takeaway?
The conditions for human flourishing have never been better. Thanks to our ingenuity, we have more ways of sharing our creative urges than ever before.
Also incongruously, however, humanity has never been under greater threat:
- Political disharmony may deepen, causing the collapse of democratic societies.
- War may escalate to more countries or involve even more terrible weapons.
- Climate conditions may deteriorate so as to make portions of the earth uninhabitable.
What this makes clear is the urge to create is closely related to the power to destroy.
How will you make use of your creative powers?
PS – In addition to observing the world, I have been adding my voice to it. Whether you are a long-time reader or brand new, I recently organized my content to make it easy for you to find what you're looking for. Check out Welcome to Klugne! for the overview.
The Klugne newsletter is an important part. I am also creating on Medium, in my weekly column at the ACC Docket, and in a new podcast (Passionately Wrong) that I am hosting with my friend Randy Surles.
Hit reply to tell me what's on your mind or write a comment directly on Klugne. If you received this mail from a friend and would like to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, click here.