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Creativity is a Property of Poverty not of Wealth

  • The top of creativity is encountered in the slums and villages of the world. It is in the very poor neighborhoods that humans have to use their brain every single minute of heir life to come up with creative and non-orthodox solutions, solutions that nobody taught them to problems that nobody studied before. People manage to run businesses in places where there is no infrastructure, where at any time something unpredictable can (and will) happen. They manage to sell food without a store. They manage to trade without transportation. When they obtain a tool, they often use it not for the purpose for which it was originally designed but for some other purpose. They devise ever new ways to steal water, electricity, cable television and cellular phone service from public and private networks. They find ways to multiply and overlap the functions of structures (for example, a railway track also becomes a market and a police road-block becomes a snack stop). They help each other with informal safety networks that rival state bureaucracies (not in size or budget, but in effectiveness).
  • The slums are veritable laboratories where almost every single individual (of a population of millions) is a living experiment (in finding new ways of surviving and prospering). There is no mercy for those who fail to create a new life every day: they stand no chance to "survive". This colossal "black" economy still employs the majority of the adult inhabitants of the planet. The slums of Mumbai cover a mere 6% of the city's territory, but they are home to 60% of the city's population.
  • These highly creative people yearn for jobs in the "white" economy, the economy of the elite that lives outside the slums. For that "white" economy they perform trivial repetitive jobs (chaffeur, cashier, window washer); which means that they have to leave their creativity at home. The "white" economy has organized daily life in such a way ("routines") that everybody is guaranteed to at least "survive". This process results in a colossal waste of brainpower. The people of the slums use their brains only when they live and work in the slums. When they live or just work outside the slums, they are required to stop being creative and merely follow procedures (procedures devised by vastly less creative people who would probably not survive one day in the slums).
  • Routines maximize productivity precisely by reducing human creativity. Someone else has created, and the worker only has to perform a series of predefined steps. The routine "amplifies" the effect of the innovation. The innovation can be very small and very infrequent, but the effect of the routine performed by many workers is to make that small innovation relevant for millions of individuals.
  • The creativity of slums and villages, on the other hand, is constant, but, lacking the infrastructure to turn it into routine, ends up solving only a small problem for a few individuals.
  • 1% of the world's population owns 40% of the world's wealth. But who owns 40% of the world's creativity?
  • And who owns 40% of the world's happiness? And who owns 40% of the world's morality? I have the hunch these are the same question.
  • The slums are a colossal reservoir of creative energies that the world is wasting.