Negative Creativity — Creativity is Value-Neutral

“What’s the Devil?”
William shrugged his shoulders. “Some invention of Christianity, best I can figure.”
“Witch Hunt” by Devin O’Branagan

One frequent search term is “disadvantages of creativity”. I have written a little bit about some of these disadvantages. I think my position can be best summed up by a quote about science by Richard Dawkins:

Scientific and technological progress themselves are value-neutral. They are just very good at doing what they do. If you want to do selfish, greedy, intolerant and violent things, scientific technology will provide you with by far the most efficient way of doing so. But if you want to do good, to solve the world’s problems, to progress in the best value-laden sense, once again, there is no better means to those ends than the scientific way.
Richard Dawkins

Creativity is like that — which is no wonder, given that it is part of the scientific progress (or rather: any progress). There is nothing that limits creativity (e.g., generating ideas) to “good” causes, and — well, in most cases, even the most destructive acts are good for someone, albeit not a very nice someone.

There is also no shortage in identifying ‘creative works’ which are negative by the standards of the majority of people. The worst example I have ever heard about

  • isn’t using planes as human-guided rockets by noticing that they are essentially metal objects containing an explosive playload,
  • nor booby-trapping an image in a house in a soon-to-be-enemy-occupied village by putting the frame slightly askew and triggering it when it is aligned horizontally (in the knowledge that usually better educated, higher ranking officers of enemy troops have a problem with an image on the wall that is askew),
  • and even using the example of Fukushima in Japan and producing something like this deliberately (e.g., by detonating a retaining dam) wouldn’t faze me, it’s just an analogy to Heracles’s Fifth Labor, cleaning the Augean stables.

No, the worst example I’ve read about, was done by a group of teenage girls. They invented a pop band they ostensibly listened to and talked about how great the music was. Why? To exclude another girl and to see whether she would lie about knowing this band and their music. Well, little angels my ass.

Personally I have decided a long time ago never to use creative works to hurt another person intentionally. Not that I wouldn’t have more than enough ideas and enough information about the world around me to know where a hit really sinks deep and cuts the threads that hold the person together. But I’m not willing to soil my creativity for that purpose.

And of course, creativity and an understanding of how it works, combined with knowledge about the world and skill, is often a good approach to prevent or reduce damage from negative creativity. Or to quote Griswold about censorship: “The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” The damage negative creativity inflicts sets a tough challenge that needs knowledge and skill combined with a good idea to solve the situation, which can mean to catch someone who was hurt or to reduce the damage that was caused.

Because creativity can’t help if it’s being misused.

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