New Solutions for the Creative Age

Guest Correspondence



I wrote a series of articles last year describing the reasons Ringling College of Art and Design matters. Although I gave many reasons, ultimately the articles underscored one fact: Ringling College matters because creativity matters. In that series, I argued in the future of the new Creative Age, automation and Artificial Intelligence will significantly impact all we do, from how we live to how we work. I believe creativity, and its attendant willingness to fail, will become the key skill set for success, across all sectors. And institutions like Ringling College that teach people to think creatively and to risk failure by trying something new will become crucial to producing the next generation of leaders.

The new Creative Age marks a natural evolution. As we moved from the Industrial Age to the Technological Age and now to the Creative Age, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) engine that has driven our society will be replaced by the STEAM engine (adding an “a” for arts and creativity). Left-brain skills, such as analysis and linear thinking, will need to be balanced with more creative, right-brain skills for the next generation to be prepared to use emerging technologies to meet local, national, international and even global challenges.

At Ringling College, we are leading the way in preparing young people for this Creative Age by providing students with the latest technologies in an environment that encourages students not just to think outside the box, but to throw the box out. Why? Because tomorrow’s leaders will be those creative thinkers who can put technology and automation to work to find innovative solutions for our people and our planet—in whatever fields they choose.

While all of the technological advancements of the last 100 years have undoubtedly served us well—even taken us to the moon and back—creativity is a distinctly human trait. Just like I know that it was people, not computers, who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, created the Mona Lisa, and composed Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, I also know that it will be people again—using the technologies available to them in innovative and creative ways - that eventually will identify a cure for cancer, solve the puzzle of red tide, and find solutions to a million other challenges facing us today. The issues facing society today will not be solved by computers alone; no, they will be solved by human beings finding uniquely creative ways to put technology to work to change the world. That reality is why employers will be looking for employees who know how to approach challenges from unique perspectives, who are able to imagine, to discover, to take risk, to move from what is to what could be.

Creative mathematics? Absolutely! Creative environmental and marine sciences? It is already happening here on our Gulf Coast at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, with future plans that will present both scientists and local students with creative and immersive learning and research opportunities. Creative health care? Virtual reality is already becoming a prominent force in the health care industry, with applications ranging from training medical professionals to diagnosing and treating different conditions. Indeed, creativity will be recognized for what it is: The driving force behind every major breakthrough.  

Over the next few months, we will look in more detail at the importance of creativity to every sector, from politics, to business, the environment, entertainment and more. In a world where the ways we work and live will be drastically changed by automation and Artificial Intelligence, creativity cannot be just the purview of artists and designers. To find success in the future, we all will need to harness our creativity and learn to leverage it across all areas of our lives.

Welcome to the Creative Age. 

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

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