Monday, June 8, 2009

Creativity and its rewards. Or not.

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending,

We think there was no direct selection favoring creativity itself... Our view is in sharp contrast to those who have argued that creativity conferred fitness benefits. It has been shown that poets are unusually likely to be manic-depressive. Building on this, others have argued that alleles underlying manic-depression should have increased in frequency because of the social rewards received by poets and other creative artists...

Of course, poets have seldom received large rewards, and their fitness has often been low -- particularly among those with manic-depression, as a result of its high suicide risk. More generally, creativity seldom confers large fitness advantages, because good new ideas can be rapidly copied by others. The copiers receive the fitness benefits without paying the associated costs. In fact, it's been obvious for a long time that innovators seldom harvest much of the benefit generated by their innovations.
Image source here.