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Inspired by Peter Bazalgette’s article Financial Times 03Jul24
“Britain could make so much more of its creative industries”

What is creativity and how important is it in the era of AI?

These seemingly innocuous questions are at the heart of humankind’s future and our species’ development in the technologically dominated world. While I think the definition of creativity is still best as “the ability to perceive relationships” we need to review it and all our attitudes to what human brains must do for the future of the race. Personal needs change and human personality requires steering in a different direction from heading for annihilation.

Creativity is rare. We use the word to embrace much innovation that is simply assembly of all past discoveries and achievements. Nothing wrong with that – it is how most people work.  The relationship between a glass and the water in it is so simple that no creativity is needed to explain it. The relationship between power and personal development is more complicated and we do not seem either to have defined it properly or to be able to control it.

We should do so without delay if we are to avoid a succession of Trumps.

Our creativity is not new. A cave drawing in Indonesia made 51,200 years ago has recently been discovered. It depicts two people herding a pig. As a farmer I know how they felt. Their contribution to creativity was to capture an event and a feeling for posterity. They seem to have succeeded. The human / pig relationship has been through many phases since – and may be going through yet another transformation as our understanding of animals develops.

Even more certain is that creativity is now needed to enable us to decide what a human being is to become. AI will soon be able to remove most of the drudge work in life. It is already doing so in the office and increasingly in the home. We will then have much what we mistakenly call ‘free’ time. Time is never free, it is a precious part of our valuable existence. We have so far made our essential work somewhat personally rewarding. Soon there will be little work.

Don’t underestimate the value of drudge. Physical and mental exhaustion are rewarding states in moderation, and stimulating for creative thought. The new AI order will demand that we define whether we want to become robots or to take charge of what a future human is to be. If the latter, we must prepare ourselves to be more creative than AI.  We need this to avoid AI deciding our future and to fashion ourselves into who we decide to be. The human mind is not yet collectively cooperative enough to have a realistic view of paradise on earth.

Our investment behaviour is, more than ever, dedicated to making money, regardless of what the process does to our personalities. While most people agree that a balance between wealth and wonderment is necessary, very few accept the financial consequences of it. As Peter Bazalgette* said in his excellent article we are ignoring even the special financial rewards for investing in the things of the mind – particularly creativity and the arts.

Growth of wealth and polishment of personality can develop hand in hand when the purpose is more than this week’s profit. As a race we have been quickening the pace at the very time when we can afford to steady it. Length of life is growing and our objective must be to enjoy it, not only for ourselves but for our heirs and successors, too. The fundamental question of who we want to be requires an answer sooner than most people think.

Creativity is not acquired by just throwing money at it but without investment it remains an accidental discovery by itinerant seekers. Today’s investment in it will be a big part of tomorrow’s wealth generation.

Without it we would miss a new and fruitful source of wealth.

With it our species will be able to survive.

Good morning

John Bittleston

*Sir Peter Bazalgette – Co-Chair of the Creative Industries Council, board member of Creative UK and Chair of Council, RCA

Your views – as always – very welcome at [email protected].

05 Jul 2024