I’m fascinated with the creative process and I’m always trying to stretch myself in terms of imagination, innovation, organization and output.
So, in that vein I’ve found a video from Beau Lotto at Big Think who explains why creativity and uncertainty go hand in hand.
Below is the transcript of Beau’s talk on Creativity and Uncertainty…
Every behavior that we do, we do to reduce uncertainty. We do to increase certainty.
When you go down below in a boat and your eyes are moving in registry of boats and your eyes are saying, oh, we’re standing still, but your inner ears are saying, no, no, we’re moving, and your brain cannot deal with that conflict so it gets ill.
The stress resulting from uncertainty is tremendous in our society.
It increases brain cell death, it decreases plasticity, it makes you a more extreme version of yourself.
We do almost everything to avoid uncertainty.
And yet the irony is that that’s the only place we can go if we’re ever going to see differently.
And that’s why creativity, seeing differently, always begins in the same way.
It begins with a question…. a not knowing… a why, if you will.
It begins with a what if.
And I should also say that these assumptions are essential for your survival.
Every time you take a step your brain has hundreds of assumptions that the floor is not going to give way, that your legs aren’t going to give way, that that’s not a hole, it’s a surface.
So, these assumptions keep us alive.
But they can also get in the way because what was once useful may no longer be useful.
So your brain evolved to evolved. It’s adapted to adapt.
So a deep question is how is it possible to ever see differently if everything you see is a reflex grounded in your history of assumptions?
Our assumptions and the process of vision is both our constraint and our savior at the same time.
Because our brain evolved to take what is meaningless and make it meaningful.
If you’re not sure that was a predator it was too late.
So your brain evolved to take this meaningless data and make meaning from it and that’s the process of creating perception.
And then we hold on to those assumptions.
They create attractor states in your brain and they become very stable.
So how could we see differently? It’s by engaging the process of creating perception.
Well, the first step in that is to not just admit, but embody the fact that everything you do right now is grounded in your assumptions, not sometimes, but all the time.
Because if you don’t accept that then you’ll never create the possibility of seeing differently.
*I’m not sure I agree with Lotto on this, but it’s worth thinking about…*
If people walk away with anything it’s knowing the process of perception.
In some sense I want them to know less at the end than they think they know now because nothing interesting begins with knowing.
It begins with not knowing.
Because the next step is to then identify your assumptions because most of everything that we do we don’t know why we do what we do.
And then the final step is to question those assumptions.
But questioning assumptions is incredibly difficult…
Because to question assumptions, to doubt what you assume to be true already, especially if that assumption defines who you are, is to do the one thing that our brain evolved to avoid which is uncertainty.
In fact, uncertainty is such a difficult, dangerous thing that evolution has created a brain that tries to avoid it altogether to the extent that we have things like conformational bias.
**Be careful Beau… it almost sounds like you’re trying to implant your own opinions on to us…*
We’ll start looking for evidence to confirm what we assume to be true already.
That we would rather hold onto assumptions that we know don’t work because that is safer we think than questioning them and stepping into a place that we don’t actually know.
Even though that other place might be a great deal better than where we are.
This actually exists all the time within politics.
*OK, that I get.*
It exists within the concept of the negative view of U-turns where we ridicule politicians for changing their mind because they got new evidence.
We want them to hold onto the same path despite the evidence which actually shifts them to more towards a belief as opposed to anything that’s evidence driven.
So, this also then leads on to the idea of whether or not the brain ever does big jumps or doesn’t only do small steps.
And the answer is that the brain only ever does small steps.
I can only get from here to the other side of the room by passing through the space in between.
I can’t teleport myself to the other side.
Similarly, your brain only ever makes small steps in its ideas.
So, whenever you’re in a moment it can only actually shift itself to the next most likely possible.
And the next most likely possible is determined by its assumptions.
We call it the space of possibility.
You can’t do just anything.
Some things are just impossible for you in terms of your perception or in terms of your conception of the world.
What’s possible is based on your history.
So what that means is where does that leave us with creativity, which we have this concept that you’re linking two things that are very far apart.
But, if the brain never does big jumps what’s really happening?
And the idea is that for the person being creative all they’re doing is making a small step to the next most likely possibility based on their assumptions.
But when someone on the outside sees them doing that they think, wow, how did they put those two things that are far apart together?
And the reason why it seems that way is because for the observer they are far apart.
They have a different space of possibility. And in their space of possibility they exist way over here.
So, creativity in this sense is only created from the outside not from the inside.
For the person being creative they’re making a logical next step.
The difference is that their space of possibility is different.
They have different assumptions, different biases.
In fact they might have a more complex space of possibility because they have more complex biases and assumptions.
Maybe they had a more open attitude to when they experienced other cultures, et cetera, and they assimilated more complex assumptions.
So, they have more directions in which they can move within their space of possibility.
So, we interpret that as them being creative by linking things together.
As them being creative by linking things that are far apart.
But in fact it’s a logical process of making small steps, changing your space of possibility by identifying and then questioning your assumptions.
Watch Beau Lotto Below Talk About Creativity and Uncertainty…
Check out these Creative Warrior Blog Posts…
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Thanks for reading. I wish you much imagination. Renee
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