Being a creative and the son of a psychologist mother and an opinionated father, its no wonder why I’m full of wonky psych theories and wacky philosophies. I strongly believe that there is much we still don’t fully understand about the human intellect. The future of psychology, much like the future of everything else these days, is a blurry haze made clearer every day by experts and amateurs alike. As a designer, I’ve always made it a point to stay tuned to emerging neuroscience intel and fascinating mind hacks. If only to learn more about what draws people to certain forms, what about particular experiences has an emotional impact on people, or how new ideas form. I’ve also made it a personal goal to correlate existing professional hypotheses with my own more radical theories on life and what makes us all tick.
For the first installment of Doc Snyder’s Wonky Theories, I’d like to share my opinions on the subject of personality development as it relates to digital globalization and originality.
As a child, I constantly wondered how people became themselves. How did my parents, friends, and neighbors become the people I know and love? Personality development is the official term for “somebody becoming themselves”, thereby going on the assumption that they are not the same as somebody else. Science tells us that this process happens in childhood by Nature and Nurture: the former dealing with genetically inherited traits, and the latter involving the outside world’s effect on personality. There have been all sorts of studies in which researchers split up twins at birth, only to find out years later that they shared a remarkable number of personality traits, despite being raised by different parents, in different socioeconomic situations, and in different parts of the world. So that would be Nature’s doing. I’m more interested in Nurtures’ role. I believe that throughout our lives, we all become a hybrid mind in a sense, combining our own inherent Nature characteristics with those that we accumulate along the way. I think that each person we know in our lives changes us in subtle ways, and that the accumulation of every relationship each of us has ever had in life, makes us who we are today, or at any given point. Have you ever asked yourself, “what would Bobby say in this situation?”, or “If I were Dana, how would I handle this problem?” I think we do this because we want help from the other selves within us that make us who we are. Have you ever noticed that your laugh has changed without you consciously making a switch, only to realize that you now laugh the same way as your best friend? These sorts of things have happened to me a lot. This is the foundation for my theory. I don’t mean to overlook the importance of events and other outside factors on influencing who we are in life, but I want to focus on people and how our growing interconnectedness changes things.
We operate in a world in which you may think you have 12 good friends but you actually have 900 Facebook “friends”, 342 followers on Twitter, and 12,438 views on YouTube. When people define their physical selves they often list key elements such as:
- Physical Attributes
How then does your online version of those characteristics affect the offline embodiment of them? When you gradually build a personality through your Tweets, collect hundreds of profile photos of yourself on FB, share your thoughts in discussion forums, and upload your GPS locations from your iPhone, is this then another layer of your offline personality?
As online globalization becomes ubiquitous and we begin to “know” everyone, how will “we” change? If we are a conglomerate of all of our relationships, what happens when everybody “knows” the same people? What will happen to the value of information in an age when the digital hive mind knows everything?
I’ve encountered an interesting manifestation of these philosophical dilemmas in the design world. More times than we care to remember over the past year, my coworkers and I have discovered that some great idea we had together months ago, is now suddenly going into production. Chalk that up to speed to market or whatever but the point is, in some other country at just about the same time, some other people had the exact same idea as us. I know I’ve read some scientific theory on this called “Simultaneous Duplicity” or something fancy like that, but what I find really interesting is how this will happen with even great frequency in the future. There are two sides to this of course. One being the mass globalization of information and ideas to the point that everyone in the world may one day know (or at least be connected to) everyone else, and share knowledge about more of the same things than ever before (Moontoast). And this knowledge overlap will cause more of the same ideas to be pushed out than ever before. The other side is that as ideas are spread faster and wider, it becomes easier and faster to discover what’s already in the ideasphere, thereby revealing overlapping ideas in the first place. Theoretically if two people had the same idea at the same time in two different places in say, 1800 you might say that the “Simultaneous Duplicity” theory applies and just wonder how that could have happened. Now though, and increasingly in the future, it won’t be a mystery. You had the same idea as Schleb in Poland because you and Schleb both subscribe to the same blogs, watch similar videos on YouTube, and know some of the same people from the conference circuit you both travel on. And because you share so much in the way of interests and resources it’s only natural that you would both come up with the same idea at about the same time. These outside factors and relationships affect your thought process, your idea engine, just like I propose they affect your whole personality. You are who and what you know and in an information hungry, always connected yet always lonely world it becomes increasingly difficult to be original, to truly know yourself, to know the difference between you and Schleb.
What is it about an idea that makes it belong to somebody in particular? When we “come up” with new ideas are we then expected to do a full IP search to unveil previous similar thoughts, pre-prior art, if you will? Adam Greenfield writes on his blog ,“I don’t happen to believe that anybody ‘owns’ an idea, and I do believe that almost all knowledge production happens in the spaces in between people …” I propose that these spaces are tightening, electrifying, and growing exponentially, and as they do, we will all either have to embrace the digital hive mind philosophy or rebel and continue to carve out a lonely niche of naïve innovation.