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  • Writer's pictureShannon Gerrity

Art Up for the (Fourth Industrial) Revolution

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

How to bring creative practice into your everyday life to benefit from robots and heighten humanity.

It’s true: the robots are upon us. “How marvelous!” you exclaim. With robots, menial tasks can be expedited and automized. Innovation is accelerated and 3D printers can now make you a fibula. Communication between machines is becoming more independent, freeing up time to go fly a kite, or something like that

"There's got to be a catch to making life easier and better," you say. "If robots are upon us, what does this mean for me (and my livelihood)?" Fear not! We now have the opportunity (and the time) to meet needs that reach beyond what a robot can muster. Why not hone the skills that differentiate us from the machines? When we build a regular creative practice, we choose to un-bot ourselves. With creative practice, we strengthen our thinking (and well-being) to imagine, and create, and evolve on pace with our machine friends. 

Creativity is a muscle that robots don’t have (yet).  

“That’s all! Well, sign me up!” you exclaim with only a hint of sarcasm. Right? Right. It’s true: even the most optimistic Candy Land has a crush. Creating and evolving is messy, triggering, unearthing work; it’s not all gingersnaps and lollipops. When we venture into dark forests to serve a need that wants to be met, we grapple with the unknown - the very variable that systems of power seek to shape. We not only push up against our animalistic fears for survival, but also the messages that power propagates - messages about good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure. To create, to innovate, takes courage and resilience - qualities even the best robot can’t offer.  

If we believe that our pressing mission is to out pace - I mean, make friends with and then use to our benefit - the robots, we must build a regular creative practice. But what happens if you don’t have time, money, or insert valid reason, to join a pottery class, cut out magazine clippings for your vision board, or learn how to accurately draw a hand?

How do you Art Up for the Revolution?

Two steps: learn about the Revolution. And then, hack it.

Step One: Strengthen skills that robots need - the skills that only humans have. Simply put, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking technology from the Third Industrial Revolution, iterating its learning, pressing the boundaries, and making it better. Technology is now communicating across systems, breeding machines to make decisions independently, and producing products that are rapidly advancing our health and lifestyle. This Revolution is also predicted to wedge greater divides between those who have the capital to invest in and create these products, and those who do not have the gains - financial or otherwise - to play in the rapidly advancing arena. With automation and AI influencing our lives, and working humans out of jobs, it is our job to imagine and create what machines cannot. As the head of the World Economic Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, notes “We need leaders who are emotionally intelligent, and able to model and champion co-operative working. They’ll coach, rather than command; they’ll be driven by empathy, not ego. The digital revolution needs a different, more human kind of leadership.” Impactful leadership comes from synthesis of many unique, moving parts. And what is a tool that addresses many unique, moving parts? Creativity. Also known as...ART!    

Step Two: Tune your artist eye and your brain to creative thought. Training your brain to think creatively doesn’t necessarily mean changing your lifestyle or contorting who you are to become what you are not. Arting Up for the Revolution can simply mean noticing the world around you through a creative lens. The creative lens is an active choice that not only begets mindfulness (an influential tool for stress reduction), but also feeds your brain with wonder, curiosity, and imagination - the most tasty candy around! If you are to use the robots as friends, stay on pace with the Revolution, and keep your own motherboard healthy and strong, you’ve got to get creative. 

But how?  

Try one option at a time, over the course of a day, a week, or a month: you decide. Strengthen your creative thinking, hone your artist eye, and crush the Revolution. 

Collect and Create: Decide on a specific color or object. Give yourself a timeline (a day, a week, an hour). As you go about your everyday, regular life, collect the colors/objects by writing them down, or taking a picture, or literally collecting them. Decide how you will combine your findings and share them with another human being. Post your findings on social media, display or sell the product you created, or form a creative group/partnership - much like a book club - and share your findings. The key is to not change anything about your normal day, but to simply integrate looking, noticing, and collecting. Creating some sort of product with this process pushes your brain to synthesize your higher-order thinking. This process is an extra level of creativity that is likely to initiate a state of flow, and a greater confidence in the creative process.

The key is to not change anything about your normal day, but to simply integrate looking, noticing, and collecting.

Build and Beget: Set a timer for one minute. While the timer is ticking, without preconceived ideas or notions, choose three to five objects in your surroundings. After choosing your objects, ask an open-ended question like you would to a therapist, an expert, or even a Magic 8 Ball. (Yes, this seems wacky; what’s equally wacky are robots taking over the world; so, stick with me, kid.) Write down your question for continuity and clarity. Then, build a sculpture (using tape or a safe adherent) with your chosen objects; this sculpture should seek to explore or answer your question. Of course your sculpture doesn’t actually have to solve your question; but perhaps with a suspension of reality and a bit of imagination, it could. Title your sculpture. Take a picture and/or show the sculpture, title, and question to someone in your life that could connect with this exercise in creativity.   

Of course your sculpture doesn’t actually have to solve your question; but perhaps with a suspension of reality and a bit of imagination, it could.

Notice and Needle: Choose one piece of functional art (a pencil, a chair, a piece of equipment, an item of clothing). Study the functional art, closely. Notice the design decisions and ponder them: observe the choices of color, material, size, construction. Think about how and why these choices might have been made. Would you enhance or change any of them? How does this art impact your life? Take a close picture of a part of the art that you especially appreciate or would change. Write about your appreciation or suggestion to the manufacturer, or share your ideas with a person in your life (via social media or from human to human). Take one step beyond and iterate the functional art, yourself.   

How does this art impact your life?

It's possible to seize the Revolution for your personal and professional gain. Art Up! Get creative! Strengthen what robots will never have on you: your humanity.

Shannon Gerrity is the founder of Creative Flow. Creative Flow brings curated art making experiences to organizations and individuals that value creativity as a tool for well-being. Shannon is a California licensed art educator, a 200-hour Kripalu certified yoga instructor, and an active artist showing work in the Bay Area#makeart #findcreativeflow #creativeflow

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