On the most recent episode of The Thrive Global Podcast, Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington sat down with celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who among many other talents, is the author of the recently released Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. The two discussed everything from President Trump to deGrasse Tyson seeing his first night sky and how technology is shaping our society.
As someone who studies the stars, deGrasse Tyson spends a lot of time looking up. But in today’s screen obsessed world, most people spend the majority of their time looking down. He has voiced his concern about seeing the world through a screen rather than your own eyes before (including in his Thrive Questionnaire), but told Huffington, “I don’t want to be that guy, who is saying ‘The youngins today, and their habits, and they’ll be the death of civilization.’” deGrasse added “the future will be a different world but I don’t necessarily fear it.”
But looking down all the time, literally and more metaphorically, has obvious setbacks, especially in regard to our creativity and innovation. deGrasse Tyson uses Newton as an example: “Let’s go back to when Newton comes up with his theory of gravity. So the apple falls. Suppose he was looking at a smartphone instead of watching the apple fall—we’d have never had the theory of gravity!”
Such moments of downtime are essential to our creativity—even if you’re not discovering gravity. But “what happens to those moments if we’re constantly controlled by looking down?” Huffington asks.
We’re losing those moments — and it’s not just because we’re so plugged in with what our friends are doing. deGrasse Tyson points to the gaming industry, too. ”What would’ve been downtime for you, just contemplating infinity, you are playing a game.” In the process, he said, “We miss some truly creative discovery, simply because people are being distracted — entertained, sure — but distracted from creativity with this infusion of technology in our lives.”
Even more so, our current fascination with technology might make it harder to invent new things in the future: “The test will be, will that generation be capable of creating the next technology in this world, or have we ossified ourselves by creating technology so tantalizing that people who interact with it have no creativity to further advance the technology itself?”
“If you want to be more creative, be less productive.” Seek those moments of downtime, and cultivate some quiet.
To hear the full conversation, click here.