What can you do as a human-born person today that a computer can’t? How about in five years? Or 10 years? Or maybe even 50 years?

It’s not repetitive tasks. It’s not knowledge. Nor is it performing surgery. In the not-too-distant future, it might not even be writing

The winning bid for humanity is creativity. Specifically, the type of creativity that has made us uniquely human for thousands —maybe even millions — of years: connecting dots. Searching for solutions to deal with problems or frustrations. Imagining possibilities that don’t yet exist. Using intuition gleaned from a lifetime of experiences, emotional responses and logical inferences.

While art often requires creativity (it’s prefaced as the creative arts for this reason), creativity encompasses so much more.

In fact, you’re probably far more creative every day than you realize. Quick: Imagine hiring Han Solo to turn on your coffee maker while you sleep in. Or, even more dot-connectingly creative for your brain: Decide on a few healthy ingredients for dinner, and then envision how you might combine them in a brand-new way to make a meal. Congratulations, you’re creative!

This type of creativity is what brought us the wheel and the sofa, the Enlightenment and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” smartphones and the pull-top can (invented, incidentally, by my great-uncle Ernie after a missing church key forced him to open cans at a picnic via a car bumper). 

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Word on the research street is that 35%-40% of jobs could be replaced by a computer, robot or machine within 20 years, but jobs requiring this solution-based creative thinking are some of the most immune. 

Whether machines steal our jobs or not, creativity in general is in short supply these days. In the United Kingdom, up to 90% (!) of schools are cutting back on the arts. At the same time, our future is asking more from us creativity-wise. 

While computers are already better at diagnosing many illnesses than doctors are, we’ll still need human-centered, brain-based creative thinking and its counterparts — collaboration, planning, empathy, playfulness — in almost every field. In medicine, absolutely, but also in science, business, politics, psychology, architecture, urban planning, retail sales, and, yes, the creative arts. Nearly everyone will need to innovate to stay relevant. 

As important as this type of creativity is, connecting disparate dots to come up with potential solutions is not often our natural response. It requires stretching, often uncomfortably. It might break sacrosanct routines, or it might feel a little silly at first.

So we’ll go slow. Find me on Twitter. Ask questions. Think about how you connect dots, and where you’d like to do more of that.

Next up: Where will Han find a parking spot for the Millennium Falcon?

Seattle-based Alex Leviton, author of “Explore Every Day,” writes about (and teaches) how to access creativity.
Seattle-based Alex Leviton, author of “Explore Every Day,” writes about (and teaches) how to access creativity.