By Dirk Dobiey and Thomas Köplin
The second part of our five-part series. Read the first part here.
Part 2: Efficiency and Variety
Technological progress is often equated with efficiency gains. For example, machines, especially those that get ascribed more and more certain intelligence, can often do things many times more efficiently than humans can. They relieve us of tasks and decisions and thus also reduce the wealth of personal experiences quite casually. In the world of work, this is reflected in a specialization that makes it difficult for us to connect with other areas or to recognize connections. In social media, we talk about echo chambers, which reinforce our point of view and keep irritations away from us. A greater or lesser extent of our experience is curated by algorithms in the manner of a Discover Weekly, as we know it from Spotify, for example. The pursuit of efficiency is deeply rooted in us and easy to understand. Why take detours? Why slow down? Why produce more expensive?
If it takes over it eliminates the extravagant in our thinking and the diversity in our experiences. This loss not only weakens our intuition, which is based on such a diversity and represents an essential basis of our creativity. It also reduces our chance for coincidences and dwarfs our perceptive abilities. We sense that we are restricted by our excessive pursuit of efficiency without being able to oppose this pursuit seriously. Symptomatic for this helplessness is the susceptibility to tips that propagate the deviation from the rule such as: Take a different route to work every day, choose something random from the menu, ask five times in meetings Why – all just a shadow of artistic curiosity and human joy of exploration, which want to fathom things in their depths and still have enough capacity to pick up the essential from the roadside.
In art, curiosity is not restricted but promoted. The artistic attitude is characterized by a curiosity that is not always efficient, but also extravagant. It leaves room for coincidences, which do not provide quick answers but in which one question leads to the next and thus helps to clarify things bit by bit. It is never aimless and yet always dissipated. Even if you pursue a specific topic, everything else is potentially interesting, also if it is only remotely or not at all related. In short, artistic curiosity describes the fundamental willingness to perceive, receive and learn without prejudice. The result of such a pursuit is variety – a variety of questions and answers; a variety of impressions, experiences, and insights; a variety of possibilities – and ultimately a variety of relationships if you understand curiosity as what artist and author Johannes Stüttgen sees in it (as he told us): “My mode of operation is especially characterized by curiosity, because I long to find out what another person actually wants and how this compares to my experiences. Essentially, it is a fabrication of relationships.” Especially in the interplay of humans and machines, it will become even more important promoting such a variety and such a fabrication of relationships. Organisations that want to shape a benefit out of this interaction must make greater use of their gain in efficiency to invest in the perceptions of their employees and the organisational sensorium.
In the next part of our series, we explore the question of why it is helpful and problematic when machines take our decisions from us.
About this Text:
This essay is based on our research over the past four years. What makes our findings true-to-life and applicable is that we have conducted more than 100 interviews with artists of all genres to date, but also with scientists of various disciplines and with numerous business representatives. We report on this in detail in our book “Creative Company” (https://creativecompany.ageofartists.de).
Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech