Are Creative People More Likely to Be Immoral?

InkblotTravis Riddle writes in Scientific American:

In the mid 1990’s, Apple Computers was a dying company.  Microsoft’s Windows operating system was overwhelmingly favored by consumers, and Apple’s attempts to win back market share by improving the Macintosh operating system were unsuccessful.  After several years of debilitating financial losses, the company chose to purchase a fledgling software company called NeXT.  Along with purchasing the rights to NeXT’s software, this move allowed Apple to regain the services of one of the company’s founders, the late Steve Jobs.  Under the guidance of Jobs, Apple returned to profitability and is now the largest technology company in the world, with the creativity of Steve Jobs receiving much of the credit.

However, despite the widespread positive image of Jobs as a creative genius, he also has a dark reputation for encouraging censorship,“ losing sight of honesty and integrity”, belittling employees, and engaging in other morally questionable actions. These harshly contrasting images of Jobs raise the question of why a CEO held in such near-universal positive regard could also be the same one accused of engaging in such contemptible behavior.  The answer, it turns out, may have something to do with the aspect of Jobs which is so admired by so many.

Read More: Scientific American

20 Comments on "Are Creative People More Likely to Be Immoral?"

  1. Jin The Ninja | Apr 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

    this article requires too many assumptions. we are to recognise steve jobs as a ‘creative.’ i would assert while a good business man (the ability to monopolise and capitalise on lacktherof)- jobs was not a creative (in the sense of ‘the artist’) but rather creative in his methods to control people (‘the king’).

    • Eric_D_Read | Apr 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm |

      I’d argue that he was still creative. Creativity is just as able to be monstrous as it is able to be beautiful. Once in a while, it can be both simultaneously. 
      The inventors of medieval torture devices, the hydrogen bomb, and boy bands were creative people too.

      • Jin The Ninja | Apr 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

        i disagree that jobs was a creative, but i do agree that creative people have an ethical and moral fluidity- not to say creative people skew ‘evil’ but that as you said, ‘creative people are more likely to choose for themselves.’

  2. Eric_D_Read | Apr 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm |

    Creative people are more likely to decide for themselves what is moral and immoral.

  3. Fusionsim | Apr 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm |

    I can’t see any justification in this article for it’s conclusion. How many artists, musicians, writers, thinkers etc were interviewed for this study? None. Some very long bows being drawn to seemingly and dangerously paint ‘creatives’ as lying, cheating, selfish no-good-for-society sobs. Possibly because they don’t adhere to the rules? Who’s to say the rules aren’t immoral?
    Answer this: who gives more value and substance to our existence? An artist or a politician? A musician or a business man? A free thinker or a mindless drone?
    Jobs was an asshole. Creativity had nothing to do with it.

  4. Garryjenkins | Apr 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm |

    I would venture to say that this article is somewhat truthful.  Especially if genius level artists are denied or discouraged from taking up the arts.   In fact one artist that everyone knows used the world as his canvas and ‘painted’ the third reich,the SS, and blitzkreig.  I had the privelege of once asking a enormously talented painter what he thought he would be doing if he wasn’t painting.  His reply was ” I could have been a creator or a destroyer, no in betweens, flippin burgers, cubicles or moving heavy shit don’t float my boat.” Dosen’t take a slide ruler or rocket science to figure out the rest.  As for Jobs.  Well most CEO’s aren’t nice people anyway.  And for all we know someone pissed on his cornflakes back in the day and turned him.  

    • There a plenty of powerful people who fancy themselves as artists. There are many artists who fancy themselves as creative. Hitler was about as original in his ideas as my left nut. 

  5. all creativity is immoral
    all morality is hypocritical

    according Jobsian morality
    it’s ok when you do it, not ok when some one else does it
    which is everyone’s’ morality, more or less
    treat others the same way you want to be treated is a good moral guideline
    what goes around eventually comes around
    is the consequence of that proverb’s neglect

  6. if so criminology wouldn’t work because stats used in crime has the assumption that there is a pattern

  7. Jobs certainly had some creativity in getting his new liver.

    • The story I heard was he had a long lost cousin in China who was just coincidentally getting executed for “crimes against the state” exactly when Jobs needed a new liver.

      Is this the story you heard?

  8. How many great artists/musicians/poets/writers/designers started wars/participated in wars/are responsible for wide spread misery? Steve jobs was a DIRECTOR OF CREATIVITY. NOT a creative. You could say that artists are more likely to take drugs and be promiscuous, but when you compare them to the sleazy activities of the rich and powerful, their so called immoral acts suddenly turn into fringe novelties by comparison.    

  9. Tempo House | Apr 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |

    morality is for weaklings and sheep. 

    • Morality/Ethics requires rational thought and intelligence. Weaklings and sheep are not famous for this.

    • I could hardly disagree more with this statement…and on more than one level.

      “Weaklings and sheep”, as you put it, have much less need for well considered guiding principles than the strong and yare.

      The people who are out changing the world are the ones who really need to consider the consequences of their actions.

    • So you won’t mind if a group of thugs beats you up and steals your stuff.

  10. Only when applied to business or politics, which is an asinine use of creativity to start with. 

  11. morality is a choice, creativity is a hobby, but breathing and drinking are not optional.

  12. What the fuck does Steve Jobs have to do with any assessment of Creative Peoples? Nothing, the title for this article is completely absurd. 

  13. I’m reminded of a statement Rob Reiner made in the movie Bullets Over Broadway. He was counseling John Cusack’s character, a struggling playwright torn romantically between his girlfriend and the actress (Dianne Wiest, who won an Oscar for the role) who’d become his creative muse:

    “An artist creates his own moral universe.”

    Morality is indeed subjective, in other words, and artists/creative types are naturally oriented to see things differently from the mainstream. One might say Jobs was “immoral” for fathering a child (his daughter Lisa, after whom he named the immediate precursor model to the original Mac) out of wedlock. Others might say that the mandate of traditional marriage is an outmoded restriction on individual relationships. As they say, whatever floats your boat or YMMV.

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