I talked about how technology levels the playing field in my previous post, and it got me thinking about the limiting factor in today’s society. I cycled through attributes like intelligence and time as the limiting factor, but finally landed on the word “raw”. With all that technology can do, and the nature of specialization in our society, a lot of people can fake a lot of things, including intelligence and skill. A few lucky shots or a well-placed industry buzz word might convince a whole crowd that you’re the expert.
I think raw is an abstract concept that I haven’t totally defined, but I know it has something to do with someone’s inherent ability to do a task. The task is also pretty abstract, since it could be “create and communicate a vision”, or “change the world”. Or, it could be as simple as “make a great card”. I’ve mentioned that my mom and I do a lot of scrapbooking and card-making, and we both get a lot of compliments on our creativity. But then we look through some blogs or catalogs, learn a new technique, or purchase a new tool, and we feel like we’re not creative at all, we’re just copycats! We wonder what kind of raw creativity someone must possess to come up with such a technique, because there’s no way we could’ve figured it out. My mom and I create beautiful work, but do we really have the “raw” factor? Is what we bring to the table so incredibly unique that no amount of technology or teaching could make someone our equal? I’ll be the first to say say, “DEFINITELY NOT!”
But what about people that use the raw factor to change the world via technology? Was it the human mind that conceived the idea, the human skill that built the tool, or the technology itself? Think about Facebook, a technology that has fundamentally shifted the way humans interact with each other. Sure, Mark Zuckerburg had a great idea, but did he really envision the re-work of social science as a result of his tool? Is he a visionary that will continue to change the world, or a guy who happened on the right idea, at the right time, via the right technology? What about the old-school inventors and thinkers, from Aristotle to Edison, with game-changing ideas and technology? Surely, there’s something innate in their abilities that allowed them to come up with their philosophies and inventions!
You can’t learn the raw factor, and you can’t mimic the raw factor… it just exists for some people. We don’t know what “it” is, that quality that takes someone from “smart” to “visionary”, from “creative” to “creator”, from “talented” to “unequaled”. It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, but even experts can’t compete with raw talent, brain power, creativity, or vision. I think in a world where technology has leveled the playing field, “raw” is the new limiting factor, and I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to replace or replicate that.