Should the market define our values?

'Moral principles' highlighted in green

Should the market define our values?


As we continue forth into an economy based more and more on market principles, interesting questions arise. Part of the issue is technology.  Technological innovations have enabled the market to invade every part of our lives like never before. But another part of the issue is that many believe the market to be amoral. True market interactions are between two consulting parties. But is that really true?

In my mind, the creative people moving the market and technology forward should be asking the big, philosophical questions shaping our society as we advance into a more market based morality.

A couple of years back, Michael Sandel wrote, What Markets Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. It’s a fascinating look into what can actually be bought and sold today. As a consequence of market based pressures, many of the morays of old seem to be fading into the past. Thusly, a lot of interesting ethical questions arise. Here are a few.

  • Should we teach our children to break in line? The market believes line-breaking is moral. First class flyers go straight to the front of the line at airports, past all the poor folk. Most amusement parks offer fastpass tickets.
  • Should we profit from the deaths of others? The market believes yes and no on this one. Companies now carry life insurance on low level employees. Essentially, they think blue collar workers won’t live that long. Oh, the beneficiary is the company, not the employee’s families. In a failed attempt, the defense department once proposed a website to for gambling on which world leaders would be killed first. Dubbed the “terrorism futures market,” it would have essentially crowdsourced certain analytics pertaining to world stability. This could have saved money and improved global insight.
  • Should justice be equal for the rich and poor? We all know that has never been the case.

And how invasive should we allow our technology to become? According to Clark Howard, Microsoft’s Bing app agreement allows the following.

  • Record audio from your phone at any time without your prior knowledge
  • Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without your knowledge
  • Add, remove, or change events
  • Read stuff that’s on your phone in many different ways

So as we look to the future, we should have this conversation. And those creating the innovations of tomorrow should be thinking about how invasive we want market mechanisms and technology. What should we monitor and what is off limits. I’d bet nothing will be off limits in the future.

So when does technology make a person not themselves—after a heart transplant, arm transplant, brain transplant, or head transplant? Do cyborgs have rights, and what about robots? I’ve shown this video of the Big Dog robot to a lot of people. Often times they express empathy for the robot, especially when it is kicked.

The matrix always seemed like a Sci-Fi fantasy. But really, it’s not that far away. Ask the big questions now.



The Ocean Exchange, A Great Event For Novel Solutions To Improve Our Environment

The Ocean Exchange, A Great Event For Novel Solutions To Improve Our Environment

If you live in the Southeastern part of the U.S., The Ocean Exchange Event is a great place to see novel solutions to help our environment. I was one of the preliminary judges narrowing the field to ten finalists. The entries ranged from high-tech bio fuel products to ocean cleanup inventions. The event is from Oct. 5 – 7, in Savannah, GA. Two winners will be chosen at the end of the event with $100,000 going to each. For more, visit the Ocean Exchange website, or here to see the list of registered solutions.

Those in task oriented jobs beware—even honey bees

Those in task oriented jobs beware—even honey bees

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, technology has been steadily displacing certain types of workers. The more physical and task oriented jobs have been going the way of John Henry. The good news during past centuries was that even though some jobs were being eliminated, technology was actually creating more jobs than it rendered extinct. Telephone operators for example, didn’t exist before the telephone. Today, it’s hard to tell if technology is creating new jobs or just lessening the need for humans altogether. Hopefully, that trend of technology creating more jobs will continue.

If you are looking to inoculate your career against the technological invasion, you may want to be more creative. The skills that creative people possess are more difficult to automate. They include: empathy, flexibility, storytelling, synthesizing ability and the ability to conceptualize abstract problems. Additionally, jobs in general are certain to be more cognitive in the future. And the jobs focused on physical tasks, like digging ditches, will be in very limited supply.

A couple of innovations showing in the news this week demonstrate all too well where the future of jobs isn’t. Walmart just began promoting new designs for its fleet of 18-wheelers that Jennifer Booton from Fox Business aptly called a “Fleet of Transformers.” Her article, Walmart’s Future Fleet of Transformers, is both exciting and a little scary. They are sleek and futuristic, using the latest in all technologies. But the real innovation seems to be coming in the way in which they travel. Walmart wants to enable “platooning” with these vehicles. That means they ride bumper to bumper down the highway. To do this, they need to be automated and to communicate with one another. You don’t have to think long to imagine that Walmart is looking to get rid of drivers.

Those in task oriented jobs beware—even honey bees

Platooning Transformers is on the large end of the spectrum, but what about small things? Even honey bees might be out of a job soon. With the declining populating of pollinators due to mysterious causes, scientists have been working on micro-drones as substitutes. Dina Spector’s article, Tiny Flying Robots are Being Built to Pollinate Crops Instead of Real Bees, demonstrates that automation is coming to all domains, even the tiny ones. Micro-drones have huge implications because now even the tiniest of tasks can be automated.

The New Instagram for Doctors Targets the Innovation Gap

The New Instagram for Doctors is an Exemplar of Opportunistic (Creative) Thinking


Dr. Josh Landy saw an opportunity when he noticed Doctors sharing images in a collaborative effort to learn from one another. What has now become dubbed the Instagram for Doctors” is a file sharing app that exploits the gap between new and old social media offerings. For the most part, doctors were sending images to each other to share case studies and ask questions. But there was always a privacy issue and the collective images weren’t being stored for future use. Now, using the newly established model of an Instagram-like app, doctors have a new repository for learning and sharing.

Figure 1, available at the app store or Google Play, is a perfect example of the opportunistic style of thinking I described in a previous post, To Be More Creative Find Opportunities, Not Problems. To find opportunity, look to recent innovations. There is always a gap between what exists and what could exist. Now the gap for opportunity is on both sides of Figure 1. How about an Instagram for other domains? Or, how about a more specific way for surgeons in the ER to communicate through a secure form of social media that doesn’t tramp on patient rights? I don’t know about you, but I’d like for my physician to get help from others if he/she were unsure.

Creative Strategies: Using Fishbone Diagrams

Creative Strategies: Using Fishbone Diagrams

Yesterday, I received a question about one of the creative tools listed in my blog, the Fishbone Diagram. I maintain a list of the tools within it for student use. You can use them too. The original reason for my blog was to serve as a resource for my students. As we all know, we forget almost as much as we learn. Being no different, my students lose and forget most of the info I give them in class. When my students get jobs, they often ask for these strategies to meet the pressures of creating ideas every day. Over the next few posts, I’ll discuss different visualization methods for ideation. Yesterday’s question was about the Fishbone Diagram. So I’ll start with that one.

There are a slew of reasons to write down your thoughts. To me, the most important reason is that I can’t remember them. If I don’t write down what I’m thinking about, it eventually goes away. Making lists, creating diagrams or jotting words are all ways to help you remember all those great ideas. The added value of having words on a page is that you can compare them. Studies say that if you have more than seven words in your mind, you can’t analyze them; you can only try to keep remembering them.

The most widely touted of the word diagrams is probably the mind map. Mind maps are those brainstorming things you’ve seen with words and arrows all over the page. You start with a concept and then fill the page with any words that come to mind. Cloud-like diagrams of related concepts result. Personally, I think “mind map” is a misnomer. They don’t map our minds; they map words. Therefore, I refer to them as word maps. I’ll discuss the benefits and limitations of these in a later post.

Creative Strategies: Using Fishbone Diagrams

So, let’s talk Fishbone diagrams. In terms of ideation, they work slightly different from other idea visualization tools. Their focus is more cause and effect, and they work to solve problems. Also called Ishikawa Diagrams after Kaoru Ishikawa, the original creator, they were designed for quality management in shipyards. But they are great for finding solutions to any problem.

Fishbone Diagram are used to flesh-out causes. To start one, write problem statement on the right side of this Fishbone Diagram. It looks like the skeleton of a fish. Then, on the top of each rib bone (each major branch) write a major category for a cause of the problem. These can be things like, technology or people. Under each of those, create smaller branches that are reasons “why” those causes exist. The goal here is to keep asking how or why until you dissect the whole thing. In the end, you have a visualization of causal relationships related to the larger problem.

After filling in the diagram, analyze the results and you have a much better understanding of why that problem exists. Then you turn it around into solution statements. If the problem is that the widget breaks when kids eat it, design it to be larger than a kid’s mouth.

I mostly use Fishbone Diagrams to change the problem at hand. Instead of solving the overall problem that started the diagram, I instruct students to identify smaller problems within the diagram that can be more easily solved. Many times, by solving a few smaller problems, the larger ones go away.

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Creativity and Complexity: The Solution is Often a Product of How You See the Problem

An interesting experiment is to put your laptop next to a friend’s and Google a bunch of highly charged political terms at the same time. The results may surprise you. Your results will differ from your friend’s. It’s a fun demonstration of how there doesn’t seem to be a correct answer for anything these days. Now, imagine that for all these years, we’ve all been reading different answers for the same searches. Then, consider that we haven’t even been watching the same news sources during that time. So who’s right in stating their opinion? It’s hard to say. Our societies are incredibly complex. They’ve always been, but now it’s more apparent.

Creativity and Complexity: The Solution is Often a Product of How You See the Problem

Complexity is a part of life. And it should be understood. Take for instance something simple like measuring a coastline. That should be easy. Not so fast. In 1967, Benoit Mandelbrot, published a paper called, “How long is the coast of Britain?” that disputed the coastline of Great Britain having a fixed measurement. In that paper, he showed how the resulting measurement is highly effected by the tool being used to measure. Recording the coast with a very long stick will result in a much shorter measurement than a short stick. In his words the short stick would get into the little crevices to measure the full “wiggliness” of the coast. To see how different agencies see that same distance, visit the CIA’s World Factbook. It lists the U.K.’s coastline as 12,429 km. In contrast, the World Resources Institute records that same oceanfront as 19,717 km.

Complexity is something creative people should use as a strategy for success. Knowing that our surroundings are complex can help us solve problems.

The cement industry is a frustrating one. Building sites often fall behind on deadlines or run out of funds. These setbacks are costly when a bunch of cement trucks sit idle with hardening cement inside. Cemex (one of the largest cement companies in the world), found a way around this. They decided to embrace the complexity of their industry and go with the flow. They stopped filling trucks to order and sending those to specific destinations. Now, they fill a fleet of trucks and send them out to wander the streets. When orders come in, they reroute trucks to fill the need. When empty, the trucks return home for more. During the day, they maintain a flexible pattern of coverage for the whole city. The nearest truck delivers the cement. In doing so, their trucks roam the streets like a colony of ants. The result though, is they became so fast and dependable, they guarantee cement anywhere in two hours. They are almost as fast as pizza delivery.

In not seeing the full complexity of situations, we fail to design the best solutions. Complexity is just that; it’s complex. When you look at the parts, it’s doesn’t make sense. But when you look at the trends, it does. More on this in my upcoming book, A Curious Path: Creativity in an Age of Abundance.

Creativity and Innovation: Technology is the medium, and the message is clear

Creative destruction is a Marxist term adapted to our modern era. At the core, it is about the effects of capitalism and how it affects the distribution of wealth. Used in a similar way in more recent times by people like Alan Greenspan, it has become a fairly well know term related to economics. More commonly now though, it gets thrown around when describing the nature of competition in contemporary creative fields. Each time something is improved, something else falls to the waste side.

Almost every day, I come across a new video filmed from a drone. What’s most interesting to me is how this technology is quickly changing the way see. The fluidity in how they  transition from one area to the next is mesmerizing.

Flying with a drone into an incredibly huge ice abyss in Alaska

Here’s another one.

This Drone Footage of an Erupting Volcano Is Absolutely Nuts

It’s not only how we view things that’s changing, it’s also what we are able to view. This is all very interesting, especially if you are a grip on a film crew. Why, because drones don’t need anyone to hold a boom. Also, the expectation that everyone films in this manner will soon pervade the film industry. Just like linear perspective did to Giotto, drones will do to films created by someone holding a camera. The new aesthetic will be accepted by the public as being good, and thus we’ll get more of it.

In the early Renaissance, Giotto was the deal. But as soon as Massacio used linear perspective in his Holy Trinnity, the game changed. As the space in the new style of painting was so convincingly receding, people became immediately aware that Giotto’s paintings were flat. Giotto’s painting is on the left.

Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-36-_-_Lamentation_(The_Mourning_of_Christ)   Masaccio-Trinity

Competition is good, but it has casualties. To maintain your edge, be sure that you aren’t holding on to proven methods for nostalgic reasons.

Creativity and Innovation: Where’s technology going and what’s it going to do to us

This is my first post linked to Facebook. For those seeing my blog for the first time via Facebook, I’m a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design specializing in creativity. My book, “A Curious Path: Creativity in an age of abundance,” should be published in the fall. Additionally, I’m slowly becoming an art reviewer with articles to come out soon in Art Pulse Magazine. I’ll also be published this spring in an anthology on art critique called, “The Art of Critique.” My essay in that book is titled, “You’ve Got Talent.”

My goal as a blogger is to create interest in all things related to creativity and innovation – and of course to sell the book when it’s published. But the larger affair is to make more people aware that we live in an era in which you need to think to be competitive. Things change rapidly these days and those who aren’t effective at finding and solving problems will have a tough time. So the larger goal is to make people more curious. And that’s because curiosity is the fuel for creative behavior. It starts that easily.

If you appreciate any of these posts, please share them. As a blogger, I’m a curator of sorts. I scour blogs and websites to find interesting articles that related to each other and are associated with creativity and innovation. I make a few short comments, and that’s it.

Today’s Post:

The main reason we live in an age of abundance is technology. And it’s also the reason we need to be creative to survive. The brute force things that once kept us employed will soon be automated. The curve of innovation since the industrial revolution is on an exponential rise. It’s hard to fathom what life will be like in even the near future, but we can guess. Michio Kaku’s new book does just that.


The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku, review

And the internet is pretty much everywhere now, so why can’t it be everywhere in the future.


The Internet Will Be Everywhere In 2025, For Better Or Worse

Infographics and Creativity: We believe what we see, not read

The onslaught of infographics is on us like a virus. And like viruses, there are good ones and bad ones. The power of influence is strong in representing data visually. So, designers owe it to their audience to get it right.


The Good and Evil of Infographics


Oliver Uberti gets it right. Take some time to look through this one. He has some great new projects on the horizon too.

And here are some designers that didn’t get it right.

Imagine A Pie Chart Stomping On An Infographic Forever

Misleading Graphs: Figures Not Drawn to Scale

Creativity and Ethics: If you had super-powers, then what?

If you had super-powers, then what? This question is strangely becoming a practical one. The ways in which we have woven the restless power of technology into every part of our lives means that we can do all kinds of crazy things. But our new powers have consequences. With the nature of creative destruction (when something new comes along, something else gets left behind), how do we feel about those who get kicked to the curb and left behind?

In the creative economy, we innovate all the time. Some of the most obvious paradigm changes are related to the physical ability to create objects. The link below discusses how 3D printers can change what we chose to build.


This next link leads to a kind of Sci-fi scenario of questions about how are creative activity may affect human rights. When we create new, better ways of living, we open new doors that we might want to keep shut.


But those scenarios aren’t as far off as you might think. The next link is to a blog post on Neil Harbisson; he is a cyborg rights activist. Yes, that’s correct—a cyborg activist.


Back to regular technology, the internet of things is the new way technology is creeping into our lives. We often don’t think about how far it has already crept. If you enable an appliance to be smart, then what? If we are low on milk, we should get a notification on our phone. But is there a tradeoff, how much of that info goes the other way? IFTTT is a start-up trying to give us more control of our everyday things. It doesn’t seem like we are in the matrix, yet.


Finally, for the big questions. Michael Sandel is a famous ethics teacher at Harvard. If you want to ponder the big questions, click here. Particularly interesting is episode one.

If you had to choose between (1) killing one person to save the lives of five others and (2) doing nothing, even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing—what would you do? What would be the right thing to do?”

Creative people should regularly engage in conversations like these because change is upon us and we need to know if there still remains right and wrong.