Mind Webinar - Q & A

1. What is pushing individuals to become deep thinkers, to discover a new conceptual system, and to overcome contradicting and differing issues in encountering them? Some individuals can do, and others cannot.  What is an element/factor that enables some individuals to become more creative?

William Byers: First of all creativity is not so much something that you decide to do consciously in order to become rich or famous or get promoted. On the contrary it is something that the individual is compelled to do pushed along by a motivation that the person may not even be conscious of.  I would say that being creative is an expression of our deepest nature.  So I would turn the question around and ask why it is that not everyone is creative.  This may be because most of us are too comfortable with who we are, what we have, and what we believe uncritically to be the case.  We live in a bubble within which we are quite at home.  Disturbing that comfortable world takes courage because you must be prepared to live with unpleasant tension and cognitive dissonance.  It is disorienting and a kind of suffering.


2. You mentioned that a new conceptual system is emerging among the digital natives along with technological innovation. How would you describe this new conceptual system? Are new technologies enabling young people to be more creative?

William Byers:  No, I said that each major technological change brings about a new (technological) conceptual system.  Does it help young people to be more creative?  Remember that I associated creativity with changing CSs.  Having a new CS surely means that you look at things in a way that is different than previous generations do but that does not necessarily make you creative.  In fact people today tend to be the slaves of their technologies and so may not have the time for the concentrated immersion in a problem that is a prerequisite for creativity.


3. Deep thinking – in contrast to analytical thinking, is it more like an experiential and embodied knowledge?  Anthropologists conduct fieldwork to understand culture and human behaviors of the topic of interest from informants’ point of view.  In design field, researchers observe and interview people to find insights into a product/service that they are developing.  In both instances, researchers are trying to obtain the perspectives of the insiders to gain a deeper understanding of the topic/object of research.

William Byers: DT often is generated by an ambiguous situation in which there are two different points of view (c.f. Koestler on Creativity) that conflict with one another.  In the situations you have described there are clearly these two different viewpoints—insiders and researchers— so the problem is not only understanding the other point of view but developing a point of view that includes the culture of the insiders but is expressible in the language and culture of the researcher.  To bridge that gap requires a creative response.


4. IT industry is looking into human’s biological and physiological data using sensors to investigate human conditions and their interactions with the environment. All the data will be converted into numbers, and sent to a digital and analytical system. In that sense, these data may not be able to enhance deep thinking and creativity. To make these inventions (Virtual Reality, auto-driving cars, AI, etc. ) more creative, what is necessary in addition to algorithm, a conceptual system based on rationality?

William Byers:  I think of the inventions you mention as extensions of our society's present conceptual system.  A self-driving car is interesting and new but it is not a very creative idea.  You wouldn't say, "Wow! I've never thought of it that way."  It's easy to imagine a self-driving car.  The problems are technical and complicated but not radical.  We know we can do it and will do it sooner or later.  

As I said I think that the title AI is a misnomer.  I don't see how an AI program can be creative when it is necessarily embedded in an analytic paradigm and creativity, real creativity, requires one to step outside of the analytic mind.  

Nevertheless there can be creativity within a CS.  Writing a paper in mathematics or science should involve creativity within these Ss.  But even here the research must be based on an original idea.  Where does that idea come from?  Often from finding a new way to look at the situation, i.e. reframing.  Getting a new idea does not come from a logical analysis or by crunching data alone.  It comes from absorbing yourself in the problem for a long period of time and then stepping back from the problem, going for a walk, or taking a nap.  Then the promising idea pops into your head sometimes crystallized by a random event that has no obvious connection to your problem.  This is thinking outside the box.  You can't force it to happen but it does often happen when the mind is ripe and open.