To Foster Your Creativity, Don’t Learn To Code; Learn To Paint

December 27, 2013 5:01 pm Comments Off on To Foster Your Creativity, Don’t Learn To Code; Learn To Paint Views: 2734

300px-Albert_Einstein_violin

Earlier this month, Samuel Arbesman argued in Wired that the world needs more generalists, dabblers and polymaths. He notes (and he’s certainly not the first to note) that the body of scientific and technical knowledge has grown so large that no one person can know everything. And as a consequence, people tend to specialize in one field or another. This is a problem, he writes, because “the most exciting inventions occur at the boundaries of disciplines, among those who can bring different ideas from different fields together.”

To foster polymaths, Arbesman argues that more people should “embrace the machines.” In particular, by learning to code. Arbesman argues that “through code, and the recognition that algorithmic similarity occurs over and over, we can see the similarities between different spheres of knowledge.”

 

While I certainly appreciate Arbesman’s argument, his approach to creativity is fundamentally flawed. Learning to code is certainly a useful skill, if your profession is coding. It can also be a rewarding hobby – I’ve learned several different languages over the years. But for most people, learning to code just isn’t worth it. Technology changes so fast that to stay on top of coding means being focused on coding – thus opening yourself up to being caught in the very specialization rut that Arbesman is worried about.

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