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1.4 | Could We Ever See Creativity Become Dangerous?

1.4 | Could We Ever See Creativity Become Dangerous?

We recording? Okay. Welcome to Could We Ever, part of the….[mumbles]
part of the column okay [Danyelle]
Welcome to Could We Ever, part of the UT
Dallas CometCast network. [Ricardo]
Could WeEver shines a light on our experts and ask
them to tackle questions you never knew you needed answered. [Danylle]
From science to art
and more. [Jeff Goldblum]
Yeah, but your scientists were so
preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. [Ricardo]
You might recognize that quote by actor Jeff Goldblum in the 90s classic
“Jurassic Park.”It presents an interesting thought about the negative side of
creativity. So we wanted to know, could we ever see creativity become dangerous? [Danyelle]
To learn more on creativity we met with Dr. Magdalena Grohman, who is the associate
director of the Center for Values here at UT Dallas. Magda also teaches a class on the psychology of creativity her research
focuses on the cognitive aspects of creative thinking and creative problem
solving. So first we wanted to ask Magda the basics. What makes something creative? [Magda] I can give you a definition but there is a plethora of definitions of creativity
within psychology. It depends on what people look at, what they research, and
some definitions are very broad and fuzzy and you know the people in natural
science will cringe at them. And some definitions are very fine and well and
and the defined phenomenon really well. So I can give you one of the definitions.
So most often people look at creatively from two perspectives. So this will be
either from your individual perspective — so what is going on in your mind and
what the response means in reference to your behavioral repertoire — and you can
look at creative from social perspective. So this is where others people’s
judgment is necessary to, to say or to appraise whatever you, your idea is. Right?
So from the individual perspective I think that the most frequently used
definition is that creativity is the process of combining ideas in a kind of
unexpected way and you express that idea somehow. Right? So it’s not sitting in
your head. It’s somehow expressed on the paper, in your craft, whatever you do,
whatever you like to do. Now the social perspective on creativity would say that
creativity is a combination of someone’s abilities
and skills and the process, the creative process and the environment in which
creativity happens and that results in a product. In a tangible product that is
then appraised or valued by culture or by a group of experts, by the whole society,
culture and so on and so forth. So if I’ve never came up with an idea that a cup
could be used to throw at someone because I’ve always thought that that
cup is there to hold things — whether liquid or not — and I for the first time
in my life I’ve given that response that I can throw it at someone, within my
repertoire this will be very infrequent type of response and therefore I could
consider it creative. If I am in a sample of 50 people and every other person at
some point says that the cup can be used to throw at people then my response will
be very infrequent and therefore not creative. Okay. So the way creativity of
products or ideas is looked at is from the standpoint of how frequent those
ideas are; how novel — so what is the aspect of unexpectedness and surprise
and novelty in them — and also how others value that product. [Ricardo]
Okay. Is there any, an
example so something that is creative that we wouldn’t immediately think that
that was creative? Is there ways that we see creativity in everyday life that
we don’t really– [Danyelle]
recognize as creativity. [Magda]
well if you think about any given everyday life
object that you’ve been taking for granted, at some point someone invented
it [Ricardo]
Mmm-hmm. [Magda]
But right now, because we’ve been using it for such a long time, we
take it for granted. We don’t really notice its ingenuity anymore. So like a
pencil. At some point people got tired with using the, what you call it, that
feather. At some point people thought if you use
ink you cannot correct your mistake. Right? So maybe there could be something
else [Ricardo]
Yeah. [Magda]
Right? Something that I can erase easily. So at some point it was
ingenious and right now we take it for granted and
that’s pretty much with every single everyday object. And what is really more
interesting is that if you ask people about who the most creative person was,
or who they think the most creative person is, was, very often they would
point at people who presented those or introduced very kind of big, big
revolutionary ideas. Right? So Einstein comes to mind right away, and other
people in the arts, like Picasso. so we have, like, culturally ingrained in our
mind who that creative person, that creative genius, if you will, but if you
think about everyday life objects which were revolutionary at the time, you don’t
remember who invented them. I mean there were so many of them. Right? I mean. if you
look around. So we just don’t. Right? We very quickly we adapted those those
devices and objects and we just used them and we never think twice about who
invented them [Ricardo] What a downer.
[all laughing] [Danyelle]
What are some other implications — some negative implications —
with creativity outside of tech, specifically? [Magda]
So it’s an interesting
thing. Right? Because we, culturally, we are so used to thinking about creativity in
terms of benevolent values. Right? So the positive values — and especially in the
50s with the rise of humanistic psychology where creativity was thought
to be the highest level of self-actualization, this is where really
we started thinking about it in very very positive terms — but there the line
between benevolent creativity and malevolent creativity is really a fine
one. [Ricardo]
Just breaking in here for a moment to say that malevolent is defined as having,
showing or arising from intense, often vicious ill-will, spite or hatred. [Danyelle]
Benevolent is defined as organized for the purpose of doing good. [Magda]
So people distinguish two types of this, quote unquote, bad creativity. Right? So
they, they talk about malevolent creativity and they talk about negative
creativity. So negative creativity is this gray area really. A lie to get
yourself out of a trouble could be an instance of negative creativity. You are
not harming anyone with your little lie, you are getting yourself out of trouble,
but still this is a kind of, a — in our cultural system, — a deviant behavior that
we are not necessarily accept. If you think about creative process the major
ability that gets you through it, or one of the major abilities, is divergent
thinking. And what is divergent thinking? Its producing an answer, an idea, that is
different from average output. [Danyelle]
For those of you who don’t know what divergent means,
it means developing in different directions. And so divergent thinking
opens your mind up in all different directions. [Magda]
So if you forgot your
homework or whatever and you say that you, you are honest and you say that you
forgot it for such-and-such reason, you are producing an average, an expected
answer. But if you are lying yourself out of the situation and you are using very
believable scenarios such that people will believe you, why you don’t have that
homework or that you know project or whatever, then you are exhibiting a
creative behavior in a sense. Whether it’s socially accepted or not it’s
another question. Like I said, negative creativity is when people are displaying
that or showcasing that deviant behavior responses but they don’t have intention
to harm anyone. Okay? Of they don’t have the intention for the idea or product or
whatever to be harmful. Now malevolent creativity is doing all
that but with the intention of harming. If you watch any type of crime
story where we have a antihero you can see that, that the intention is there to
harm. I’m using all my wits to get as much, as creative to, to deal with my
situations but in the end it is to steal, it is to manipulate, it is to harm. [Danyelle]
How do we see malevolent creativity crop up in our everyday lives and also in tech
industries? [Magda]
So in tech industry, I mean one example that comes to mind —
Enron was one example. The 2008 crash in the housing market. [Ricardo]
Okay, so for those of us
who were still sucking their thumbs at the time, Enron was an energy trading
company that collapsed after a massive accounting fraud scheme was revealed. Its
2001 bankruptcy filing was the largest in American history at the time.
Estimated losses totaled about $74 billion. The financial crisis of
2008 created the biggest disruption to the US housing markets since the Great
Depression. The expansion of mortgages to high-risk borrowers coupled with the
rising house prices contributed to a period of turmoil in financial markets
that lasted from 2007 to 2010. [Magda]
So these are huge examples. Right? Where people
knew they were manipulating the system for the gains and they were doing it in
a very creative way. And even when you think about Enron, the phrase creative
accounting comes from that time. Right? So they were using unexpected ways of
dealing with the situation for their own personal gain so that in the, in the
social setting and a setting of corporation, this type of behavior is not
really accepted. Right? Because you shouldn’t be there. You shouldn’t trick the system. You shouldn’t manipulate the system. You
shouldn’t trick people into getting a loan if they don’t have the means to
pay it off for your own gain in the end. So these are like huge, huge examples of
this type of malevolent creativity in daily life we all know people or we’ve
had experience with the people who will manipulate us with our feelings with our
emotion with the way we think to gain whatever
they needs to gain and this is something different than just lying yourself out
of the an uncomfortable situation right because this is a behavior that Indian
hurts hurts you and not them and they typically have the intention to to harm
the malevolent creators some people talk that such individuals have certain type
of personality profile that creates this kind of a syndrome the whole syndrome of
behaviors and coupled with really great divergent thinking skills that can lead
to this malevolent is there any way to combat that I think we can we can with
emphasis on civic morality and this is again what Don Howard was talking about
in his lecture the speaker Magda is referring to is dr. Don Howard of the
Reilly Center for science technology and values at the University of Notre Dame
he was given a presentation on big data AI and civic virtue
she’ll mention him again later if we create the environment where where
people are freely can freely exercise civic moral engagement okay to do things
for others and not for your own personal gain when it’s okay to think through a
project or a design even if we are we not meet the deadline but in the end we
are not killing absent minded pedestrians he also mentioned one
philosophy that actually proposed a framework for this kind of moral
engagement within corporations to a degree in malevolent creativity is
combated right because most of the people who commit those crimes yeah they
end up in the hands of the justice system right they’re punished yeah is
there any way to positively channel malevolent behavior or even what you
were talking about the lighter deviant behavior in more positive ways of course
so let’s say a child shows the tendency to tell lies but those lies have to do
with creating believable scenarios so that child has to imagine
what do you think the scenarios could be and deviate from that so it’s said it’s
an amazing skill in and of itself I mean not lying but just the fact that you
imagine what someone else’s can think and feel and create a very believable
for that person scenario right so one way to to sort of channel it in a
correct way would be to suggest as a child to use the imagination to create
multiple universes or imaginary words and work on their divergent thinking
skills and just you know kind of channel each towards a and more positive outcome
not just the outcome that will help him or her to avoid certain situation but
actually create something that could be the source of pride and sort of sharing
with others and and so on the tricky part is that sometimes what society
perceives as negative creativity a decade later is perceived by as and
inside of a genius as something that was so deviant that we
couldn’t really embrace it at the moment but later on becomes the either
inspiration for greater discoveries or technological achievements right so it’s
really a fine line between I think negative creativity which is again the
one that kind of clashes with social norms but doesn’t harm anyone right
there is no intention to harm so this this I mean if you think about great
creators oftentimes whatever ideas or things that were working on would be
that type of behavior it wouldn’t be socially accepted so like
how how is there time for someone to consider multiple implications of a
problem in this rapidly changing tech industry world so what I said was that
the the pressure for some reasons that the tech industry thinks in terms that
everything needs to be done right away right so it’s not that we are solving
yesterday’s problems we are still looking
very much into the future people are not given enough time in the design process
to during those very early stages of design to think about different types of
scenarios okay so let me let me explain it this way
there are many creative problem-solving or design thinking models out of there
most of them claim that they are human centered that they want to include the
user in the process of design but what happens reality is such that the
engineers and designers are very pushed very early on in the process to create
prototypes so there isn’t much space for them to think about different types of
scenarios or moral scenarios or ethical scenarios that would involve their
design and what the users do with the design I mean they I don’t think there
is an easy solution to this right and what we can do as educators is trying to
teach engineering students or design students to take a lot of time during
this very phase of the process and not to rush through it do companies have
like somebody in place usually to take care of this so corporations often hire
so-called ombudsman so people who do take care of ethical issues that’s my
understanding typically those people are not involved
in the process of design they are only involved in if something serious
surfaces and the legality of it needs to be checked or or some other ethical
aspects needs to be checked to give you an example for people who work on
different types of GPS trackers they collect the data they need to store the
data sometimes they use the broadband different type of Broadband’s to to get
that data and sometimes the trackers in the car in the vehicle and it’s
synchronized with you opening with you opening the car with your remote key so
that signal from the key is I think is using one of those broad
bands right so you as a designing you to make sure that you use the correct
broadband such that you don’t interfere with others people frequency signaling
feels right so you have to check it with FCC right so there might be an issue of
privacy for example of privacy violation or using other types of broadband
frequencies so this is where such ombudsman may be helpful and this is
typically sadly when they are often asked questions but my understanding is
that they are not necessarily involved in the project dr. Howard in in his
presentation talked about one instance one corporation IBM who actually
specifically hired ethics expert and that person’s task is to kind of think
broadly about where the company is going the choices they make do you think if
companies and industries had some sort of like review board on the front end of
before the prototype ever even gets made when the idea first comes up do you
think that we could see that change the implications we have from technology
like do you think we could see like a positive change or do you think it’s
just still really difficult to foresee like some people would suggest similar
boards as their research the IRB boards in in companies that look through the
projects that ask questions that you know provoke type of thinking but I am
not sure to what degree this could be implemented in corporations but this is
this is an issue and we see that like going back to the students right that
they somehow learn that this is the appropriate behavior or expected
behavior is to work through project fast to meet the deadlines to make the
prototype fast and if something gets a mess during the process well yeah so
there should be more precautionary steps taken yeah instead of just looking at in
hindsight yes if you look at the the models of creative process in
psychology most of the researchers would emphasize not this not the face of the
process where you actually brainstorm ideas or even select them and based on
those selections you make your prototypes or whatever that is you are
working on but they focus on or they emphasize the the problem finding stage
of creative process and this is the process where not only questions about
what it is you want needs to be asked but those broader questions that suggest
that and implications set an ethical and moral implications and do you think
ethical decision-making will become more important in the future I think so I’m
I’m pretty convinced that that will be the case especially with the growing
application of artificial intelligence so that kind of a backbone of artificial
intelligences is a bunch of algorithms that are fed to the to the network right
and that network learns certain types of behaviors so first you have to think
what type of data you are feeding is my data biased is my data balanced because
that the machine is not going to conjure up a behavior that doesn’t have its root
within that learning set that the learning data right so you have to
definitely think about that and also you have to think what the user is going to
do what kind of data user is going to feed into your machine so think Siri or
and I don’t know how long we have Siri how long she’s always been here we
looked it up sorry the virtual assistant first launched in early 2010 around but
right now because people are constantly responding to it in sometimes in an okay
way sometimes in this really stupid way it had gradually learned to respond
right maybe engineers fed into the system some
types of responses but there was a case I think with Microsoft
and their device Cortana yes Cortana where what the user started
feeding very negative input to Cortana to see how what the response would be
and the system learned to behave in this negative type of way right so right now
it gets the technological development it goes into the area that it really
requires a careful thought of what is the intention of the device what
possibly people could be doing with the device right and what am i feeding the
device or the types of algorithm or what types of data are fed into the algorithm
so so definitely there is already and there will be a great need for this type
of reflection the question is would the be a time factor in the design to to
really take advantage of it I think AI is one of those topics that
people do really think about at least in the public that really take time to ask
well what if you know what if they take over what if they become bad you know
right so the public definitely has those responses right with the intelligence
have a life on its own and and be competing with us in a way or Robards or
whatever right but this is on that on a kind of greater level right but kind of
on it on a day to day basis designers and engineers needs to be very careful
and the first step is what kind of data I’m feeding into algorithm right so like
facial recognition for years they didn’t realize that the the algorithm for
facial recognition was trained on white males hmm so and and the cameras were
calibrated for that so when a person with darker skin color would be in front
of such camera the system couldn’t really recognize the face then there’s
many examples like that right that the data that we feed into algorithms into
AI is not really thought through and that that creates biases and
other problems hey friends we just wanted to give you some quick background
here according to a 2018 New York Times article when it comes to facial
recognition technology the software is right 99% of the time when the person in
the photo is a white man but the darker the skin the more errors we see up to
nearly 35% for images of darker skinned women this is according to a study that
measured how the technology works on people of different races and genders I
think that goes back to your point earlier about needing to bring that up
in the educational yes oh yeah definitely so definitely so so the
Center is really invested into creating a space or a program for for design and
engineering students where they can engage in this kind of ethical
reflection and decision-making so can you tell us a little bit about how you
got into creative psych oh gosh it was so long ago
there is one what we like to call in psychology crystallizing experience for
me when it comes to psychology and creativity so when I was growing up and
I was in elementary school and then high school I really liked the arts but the
feedback I was getting from the teachers was a lot of negative feedback that’s
hard I was very discouraged to do anything of it
or a showcase it during the classes and then I think it was my sophomore year in
high school where there was a group of researchers from the University from
Krakov invited to a high school and they were doing creative thinking sessions
with the students and they began by giving us divergent thinking tests and
all of us saw that at first our responses were mediocre
and you know myself included like kind of not mediocre in the sense of average
type of response I think it was at some kind of drawing test if I remember and
then for the following few days they were giving us very intensive workshops
on creative thinking and then after they gave us similar tests again and the
students involved in those sessions saw that tremendous difference between our
kind of inhibited types of responses average types of responses and then we
as if something was unlocked by those workshops and this is how I got really
interested in the notion of creativity and psychology so I knew at that point
that this will be something I would like to learn more about I didn’t realize you
had been interested in the creative aspect of psychology from that young of
an age with what you do in the significant values what interests you
about the topic of ethical decision making precisely how it gets intertwined
with the design process and where creative thinking process so it’s kind
of the the junction between moral judgment and ethical judgment so
thinking about whether whatever I’m working on is going to benefit people
and how others will use it would it would it benefit them would they behave
according to the instructions or not right so so this interests me where in
what way can we help people think this way and and kind of not focus on the
technicalities because the design is not about technicality it’s not about just
fulfilling they need that the users has but it’s it’s broader right interesting
ok so then tell us a little bit about what you do for this in the Center for
values in medicine science and technology here on campus so I’m
involved like in the nitty-gritty daily operations of the center as an
administrator but I’m also involved in research and one really interesting line
of research we have done involved ethical decision making in engineering
so we observed students how they were discussing or going about their senior
design projects we were giving them some prompts to discuss in relationship to
the project so for example we would ask okay so do you think the project you
work on have any kind of consequences or implications for ordinary people right
so we wanted them to think about ethics in broader sense in terms of social
responsibility and not just the engineering contact or professional
conduct and we noticed that the students were kind of very quickly shifting their
focus from discussing those broader ethical issues to focus on very
technical aspects of the projects and they would hardly ever use their ideas
that they discuss in terms of their social responsibility and include them
in their final so in case of one group if I remember correctly they were
designing this the robots that would operate cannon that shoots off the
t-shirts and during the discussion session they were discussing the the
issues pertaining to that robot with philosophy students they were thinking
oh we should have this to make sure it’s safe this to make sure that the
interface works between the operator and the robot and so they would list a lot
of different things a lot of different ideas but then because they become so
focused on the technical aspects of the project they kind of forgot about those
ideas so they never included them so that got me to think about the issue of
design so called the Design Thinking or creative process or creative
problem-solving and the the factors that prevent us from going broad okay so
actually the speaker that we had at the center hosted at the beginning of March
was touching on that problem as well and he said that when it comes to technology
and design the progress is not the problem but the
problem is that all that design needed to be done yesterday mm-hmm which
doesn’t allow engineers and designers to really think and imagine different types
of scenarios that involve moral and ethical judgment and he gave an example
of Tesla autonomous vehicle there was an incident in which the person was run
over and killed a little bit on the accident Magda is referring to according
to New York Times a person was struck and killed in March 2018 by an
autonomous car operated by uber in Tempe Arizona it was believed to be the first
destron death associated with self-driving technology the car was an
autonomous motor when it struck them portions of the dashboard camera
released by police showed that the safety driver was clearly distracted and
looking down from the road their hands were not hovering over the steering
wheel as instructed and as the article states this accident serves as a
reminder that some driving technology is still in experimental stage and
governments are trying to figure out a way to regulate it the problem was that
they couldn’t foresee certain behaviors on the user’s part right this person who
was crossing the street was like looking at their cell phone or something they
were not paying attention to what was going on on the street right so the
typical and like designers answer to that situation is it’s not it’s not our
fault it’s the user but because of the
artificial intelligence or the technologies based on artificial
intelligence or the meaning autonomous vehicles and other things I think the
the kind of space in which we have to make moral judgment became blurry so
it’s not longer my design I’m done and I don’t take any responsibility what the
user does I think it all gets intertwined and now the engineers and
designers need to actually imagine different types of scenarios different
types of behaviors different types of users and make judgment with which of
those users will be deviant and which one will be appropriate and they need to
imagine the solutions the fixes in case the behavior is
deviant right depending on what side you are on
so dr. Grumman do you think you could ever see creativity become dangerous
like I was saying the our product out there there are people out there who’ve
been engaging in that type of creativity for ages so it’s not something new it’s
just that as a society as a culture we put more emphasis and we pay attention
to the benevolent aspects of creativity so we don’t really see that similar
types of processes are going on the other on the dark side
so Magda left us with one final nugget of advice take your time when you’re
designing things and when you’re working on your ideas and never rush through the
phase the initial phase that has to do with problem finding or asking questions
about what it is that you’re working on never rush that face good engineers good
designers devote around 80% of their time to that face so don’t rush and
think broadly all right well thank you for coming on this it’s been very
enlightening yeah there’s a lot more of creativity than either day now so that
was absolutely fantastic so yeah thank you for coming you can find Magda her
team and all the work that they’re doing at UT Dallas
edu /c 4v that’s the letter see like cat the number four and the letter V like
victory and on Facebook and Twitter at values in science the UT Dallas comic
cast is a podcast network brought to you by the UT d Office of Communications a
special thanks to senior lecturer Roxanne minish for our music be sure to
follow the university on social media and check out could we ever and our
other shows at UT Dallas edu slash comic cast so listen out for us next time

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