In a world where everyone is suddenly a writer or a photographer, someone needs to lead the revolution. But only creatives are suited to the tip of the spear, asserted Oliver Freeman, writer, publisher, self-described futurist, and the first speaker For Is Data Killing Creativity?
Creatives have the skills required to pave the road ahead, successfully adapting to the unpredictable events and developments that make the future so exciting. While we can analyse data and trends, they are not futuristic and do not help us prepare for the unpredictable. Trends are retrospective. They are ways of looking backward to where we’ve come from, rather than looking forward to the future. And if we rely on them we will be caught off guard by world-changing events.
There are numerous examples of events that the analysis of trends had no way of predicting. The rise of the internet
The rise of the internet is an example of a world-changing event that could not be predicted by trends. We had no inkling in the mid-‘90s that just five to ten years around the corner was the whole world of social media, and we’ve moved from the information super highway to the relationship super highway. That journey has been devastatingly powerful.
Our lives are full of these events, which suddenly occur disruptively out of nowhere. Further examples include the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Centre, and the demise of the Soviet Union, while the more personal unpredictability of Freeman having spent 30 years living in Australia, after a childhood and young adulthood in the UK demonstrates that our lives are full of unpredictable turns.
Similarly, in the early days of his publishing career, Freeman received the proof of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. He read it in one sitting, starting at four o’clock in the afternoon and going home six hours later. Despite the books devastating impact on him, he had trouble persuading his colleagues that it was going to be a big book. The book’s opening print run of 2,500 was far fewer than the 10,000 Freeman had wanted, but several million copies later he feels vindicated.
The uncertainty that relates to stories such as these is what makes up creativity.
Data is impacting this creativity by raising the common denominator, but it has also caused the top line to become fixed. We are losing the ability to go above the numerator and get to somewhere new.
Commodification is everywhere at the moment. Performance is all that people are concerned about. When everyone is a writer or a photographer, who is leading the revolution? The only people who can are creatives, and this is a call for creative to take charge.
Oliver Freeman is writer, publisher, and futurist. You can follow him on Twitter @OliverNFreeman.