Constant stimulation and society’s woes (with poll)

by Scott Adams

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and frequent Wall Street Journal contributor, thinks the world is too occupied to be creative. It is an interesting argument. While I can see where he is coming from — the need to entertain oneself will almost certainly produce new forms of entertainment eventually — I don’t know that the so-called problem reaches as far as he indicates.

Adams essentially argues that boredom is valuable — that society is losing something when people whip out electronic devices to communicate, read or kill pigs with diving birds instead of staring into space on the bus. How much is the world losing when it opts for easy entertainment? An excerpt:

Now let’s suppose that the people who are leaders and innovators around the world are experiencing a similar lack of boredom. I think it’s fair to say they are. What change would you expect to see in a world that has declining levels of boredom and therefore declining creativity? Allow me to describe that world. See if you recognize it.

For starters, you might see people acting more dogmatic than usual. If you don’t have the option of thinking creatively, the easiest path is to adopt the default position of your political party, religion or culture. Yup, we see that.

You might see more movies that seem derivative or are sequels. Check.

You might see more reality shows and fewer scripted shows. Right.

You might see the best-seller lists dominated by fiction “factories” in which ghostwriters churn out familiar-feeling work under the brands of famous authors. Got it.

You might see the economy flat-line for lack of industry-changing innovation. Uh-oh.

You might see the headlines start to repeat, like the movie “Groundhog Day,” with nothing but the names changed. We’re there.

You might find that bloggers are spending most of their energy writing about other bloggers. OK, maybe I do that. Shut up.

You might find that people seem almost incapable of even understanding new ideas. Yes.

What starts as a worry over a loss of creativity gradually morphs into a worry over loss of innovation. Those are very different things in today’s world. A constant stream of information from around the world, which is what many are getting when they pull out those electronic devices, would seem to promote innovation by spreading ideas.

Certainly too much information is not at the root of political or cultural tunnel vision. Choosing to ignore readily available information could cause those maladies. Education has seemingly always been the prime driver of innovation. While certainly not everyone uses their various new forms of stimulation for educational purposes, there are a whopping number of people sitting on the subway with Kindles or iPads reading the news or books instead of staring blankly ahead. For that, the world would appear to be better off, and innovation is certainly happening, especially when it comes to those forms of stimulation.

So even as Hollywood churns out shallow sequels and a ghost writer cranks out Jason Bourne novels, innovation continues. You don’t have to create a new world to add value to the real one.

I will say this story got me thinking. I want to find out more about when you get creative, when your best ideas strike you. Please do elaborate in the comments if you can.


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