What is genius? In my breadth of study and research, all I’ve done is learn what other people do. I understand many things, perhaps better than most, but does that go so far as to make me a genius? I don’t feel like a genius in any way… I’m just a guy who is insatiably curious and driven to satisfy that curiosity. The geniuses in the world are the people who are creative.
If you judge creativity based on what popular music, movies, or books are produced, you may well believe it is dead. The writers of Avatar basically took the Native American story and culture, added in a spice of African culture, the concept of anti-grav rocks, futuristic tech, and special bodies and let the story write itself. It’s almost like the writer watched Independence Day and asked themselves what it would look like if we were the attacking aliens and then thought of the Native American story? And pop music? Anyone who has listened to much of that knows that with auto-tune, anyone can sing well enough if they are physically attractive. There aren’t that many progressions (one of a few combinations of I V II IV) so modern pop basically sounds the same and says the same as it always has? Lady GaGa is basically Britney Spears 8 years ago with some effects on the vocals. The title of this post itself lacks creativity because it basically repeats a popular slashdot meme.
Creativity spans far more than the most popular music or movies. Creativity is anything that hasn’t been done before. Einstein was very creative when thinking about the nature of the universe and the interactions of matter and energy. Newton’s thinking about gravity and calculus is similarly creative. I have a hard enough time learning calculus. Can you imagine inventing it? Wow. What about the guy who had the idea that you could use a surfboard to go down a ski run? What about the use of cameras and CGI in The Matrix to get bullet-time and the rotating in-air camera shots?
[quote]Making adults laugh is one of the hardest things to do on earth, and any good comic is one of the most creative people on earth. We’ve seen it all, and we’re jaded. A little slapstick isn’t going to do it. We’ve even grown beyond the fart jokes. On top of that, even the comedic genius of “Who’s on First” no longer is that funny because we’ve heard it so much.
Revisiting Avatar, there is a ton of creativity in that movie. The facial motion capture and animation is very creative. We’ve done motion capture before, but it was only skeletal, and the rest of the expressions were done by artists and animators. Someone came up with the idea of putting dots all over people’s faces and mapping that to animated faces. Not only that, but the idea of filming and animating everything in 3D in such a way as to not get in the way of the movie but enhance it is very creative. The 3D tech itself is quite creative — taking advantage of our ability to polarize light and use polarized lenses to filter out light to a given eye. That’s especially impressive because they are bouncing that light off of a surface, which changes the equation.
Think about Intel or ARM. It’s inconceivable how many transistors they are cramming into modern chips. They now have the ability to put a billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail. A single transistor is only a few atoms in size. The collective creativity of the engineers and designers that came up with the design and development process to do that is phenomenal.
As a programmer, the hardest parts of my job are figuring out new solutions to problems. The first thing I do when encountering any problem is to search the Internet to see if the problem has already been solved. If it hasn’t, then that means I have to figure out how to solve it. Many of the intermediary steps have already been solved, but in many cases, I have to figure out how to do some things that possibly no one else has figured out in the same way. And when I do, it’s a more awesome feeling than anything else I do with my time.
Creativity and Creative Genius is far more than art. God created everything including us in his image. So do what you were created to do. Create something.