After watching a movie recently I had an interesting thought: When does creativity end? We all have thought something uncreative before, so where is the line that all creativity and originality end?
First off, we know that despite the occasional time something seems uncreative to us most of the time we perceive things to be some form of new. In actuality though whatever you have seen may or may not be new and creative, only new and creative to YOU. Stretch that out across the entirety of humanity and you have a collective memory. This is an ever changing sea of media that permeates society. Someone who is born 50 years ago for instance will see the original Star Wars movies as original instead of the many Sci-Fi shows before it that inspired the movies. To them every movie that is space based or has medieval weaponry in a Sci-Fi plot will be a “ripoff” of Star Wars. Contrast this to a man of 70 years who saw the birth of modern tv programming. That man would have seen Star Trek and other shows as his first introduction to Sci-Fi. To him, Star Wars is unoriginal! This happens at a population level and can be best described as the collective memory. People of the same generation will see all the media of their day as original and any media that comes along as uncreative.
With that in mind a few interesting details begin to emerge. The first is that collective memory is ever changing. As people grow old and die so do the media forms they had at the time, along with what that generation perceived to be original. Since that generation has passed the work loses advocates, and with enough time that means the work either becomes obscure or ceases to exist entirely. This is the way humanity has worked for thousands of years. The greatest of the great writers surviving to the modern times, with almost all other works being left in the dust of history. However, what if this weren’t the case?
Enter modern technology. With the advent of computers and (later on) digital mass storage, suddenly works no longer have to “die”. Indeed, even with the laughably privative state of hard drives today it is possible for quite literally anyone to store and preserve massive swaths of the internet. It’s truly remarkable, and as time goes on technology will only improve the resilience and longevity of digital preservation. So now we face a remarkable elimination of our first key variable: time. Granted the entirety of the internet is not likely to be preserved or accessible to everyone forever, but it’s safe to assume everything reasonably worth saving will be preserved and accessible to virtually everyone from this point in time onwards.
Okay, so let’s experiment with this idea some. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that as of 2010 everything is preserved and accessible to all, and I do mean everything. What changes from the past? Well, nothing at first. The first generation born with the internet will see shows and see them as original. They will have kids. Then…. since the media they grew up with as a kid is readily available AND they already have a bias towards that media one can assume they would show it to their kids. See what just happened? Now their kids get to see the old shows and they will also believe them to be original. They may watch other shows growing up, even enjoying them, but now they have the same bias as their parents and will forever believe the movies made from around 2010 to be the “originals”. This pattern will play out generation over generation, effectively breaking the wheel of time.
While this may seem irrelevant to a viewer of media, this would leave a creator in quite the predicament. As the years tick by media becomes abundant. Given enough years of this every idea would feel uncreative. Sure you could make any tiny variation to a classic and call it a new show, but even then you begin to hit a wall as time goes on. Someone who creates would never really feel like they created anything. The old would always be new, and the new would always be old. It is in this scenario creativity and creating as a job would become quite niche. Few people would try it, and even fewer would succeed. Add on to that current copyright laws and creating literally anything would be risking a boatload of lawsuits. Combine the both and you have the date in the future we can reasonably call the day creativity died. This is realistically what society is headed towards in the next 40 or so years.
Let’s take this yet another step farther: As an extreme situation (read purely theoretical now not actual like above), what would happen if everyone continued to make content nonstop? No duplicates of content, just every story imaginable. Such a scenario would set civilization on a collision course with what I like to call the Creative Singularity. Simply put, the Singularity is the point at which all possible combinations for creativity have been devised. Once you have hit the singularity there are no more stories to tell. There are no more movies to be made. It’s all been thought up already. Every last word. Even this post now will have been unoriginal past the Singularity. It’s a black hole of passion, vision, and imagination. It would eat at the soul of anyone past it. In fact it could even reasonably cause a society to collapse as people would go insane or realize that every creative idea that could or will ever exist could be held in their hand on a tablet. It would be a truly remarkable time to witness. However the probability of this happening are almost nonexistent. It does make for a good theoretical though. Also important to note: The Creative Singularity is specific to works of major art categories and not all forms of everything. That would be the Information Singularity, where literally all information about all dimensions of everything is recorded (though we already know how to reach this singularity).
In conclusion, there truly is nothing new under the Sun. However, while all is not original, anything can be creative. Humans are amazing creatures in the fact that they can create. No other creature nor beast of Earth can create art, compose songs that tug at the soul, pen an entire world into existence, and capture so perfectly the essence of something in a form unlike its own. Theoretical scenarios are just that: theories. Go out. Use your talents to the best of your abilities. Learn, create, and strive to improve. The theory world is a faraway land, the real world is at your fingertips and waiting for you to make your creative mark on history.