Who needs talent when you have technology?

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Is technology reducing the need to learn new skills? Do you think it undermines talent?

Recently I downloaded Instagram. Yeah, a bit late to that party, I know. It quickly became one of my favourite apps. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a simple app that enables you to take a photo on your iPhone and apply filters to produce images like the one above.

Not too long ago this kind of manipulation of images used to be limited to a talented, minority group of people who had worked to attain technical and creative skills, usually photographers and designers.

Today, I bypassed any study and produced the same results by clicking a button.

The pace of change

In my distant past I studied photography. We learned the technical process of developing film in darkrooms and experimented with manipulation of chemicals to produce effects not too far from those replicated by Instagram.

Shortly after I learned those skills, they became redundant, as digital technology overtook the photography market and enabled the process and manipulation of images to take place in the camera, PC and products such as Photoshop.

Today, I need no training, no time investment. It happens in an instant.

Instagram is not unique in providing this ‘leg up’. There is a proliferation of tools and products available today that enable you to take a short cut to results – the WordPress content management system springs to mind, and even Rock Band or Guitar Hero!

The role of talent

So, does this simplification of the process by technology make us all artists or is talent still the differentiator?

Clearly, the quality is not always there (my one and only attempt at Guitar Hero, a case in point). However, is it good enough for people’? If so, isn’t there a danger that the need for trained professionals will diminish in the face of commoditised skills?

There will be an impact. As with most things there are winners and losers. Specialists suffer as their skills are diminished by technology, but the masses have the means to become creators and producers themselves. New businesses and outlets (e.g. blogs, music, video) have appeared and creativity has been unleashed as individuals are no longer shackled by their technical skill set.

What technology doesn’t do, however, is remove the need for talented people. Talent is still the differentiator. Anyone who has ever worked with a good web designer and then built their own website using WordPress, will know the difference talent makes. The template of this blog you’re reading looks good because of the talent of its designer. When I first installed it, I was impressed with how it looked – I was even able to modify parts with some basic code editing – but there are still parts that I’d like to change – if only I had the skill set to do so.

Ultimately, Instagram and WordPress are just tools – very clever creations that have distilled something very complex down to a simple process. They have reduced the skill gap, but are no substitute for talent.

What do you think?

I’ll leave you with Baby Nico playing Rock Band…

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Gary Robinson is a UK digital marketer, who fell into this tech world by accident and decided to stay and play. That was 1999. He's still here. His current loves are conversion optimisation, mobile and tinkering with new technology. He also has a fondness for coffee.

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Posted in Innovation
  • Joe Mc

    Gary, that photo makes you look a bit like ex Breakfast TV dude Nick Owen. Sorry mate. Never noticed before. Great Blog btw…

  • Christian

    Speaking about WordPress in particular, I think it has increased the need for talent rather than reduce it. With WP, the market for templates and plugins is huge and it requires talented designers and programmers to create this content.

    With regards to your Instagram picture, no offence, but it looks crap. You still need talent to create professional looking images. Creating imagery for advertising for example, sure it’s got easier, but so far technology can’t tell whether a finished design meets the requirements of management, the marketing department, designers, the intended audience etc etc It still requires talented people behind it all.

    Guitar Hero? However easy its got to play a guitar, I’m still musically dyslexic. Baby Nico has got talent.

    Nice post ! 🙂

    • Ouch, don’t hold back on your review of my photos, Christian 😉

      Granted they’re not the best examples of pushing the boundaries of creativity with Instagram (just what I had to hand), but there are plenty of stunning images in the Instagram galleries and I would imagine most are not professionals. I just think it has narrowed the gap somewhat.

      I do agree with you about the talent – it makes a world of difference, whether its a photo, singing, writing or anything remotely creative. The point I’m questioning though is whether technology makes it easy to produce something that is ‘good enough’.

      In your example of advertising for a business, no, in most cases you probably wouldn’t go the DIY route. That said, if you’re a small business on a tight budget, you might well considering building your company website with WordPress and use product photos you’ve taken yourself. You may even produce a video on your (now sadly defunct) Flipcam, upload it to Youtube and embed it on your site. Considerably cheaper than a professionally shot corporate video, and in some cases, it may well work better (i.e. more personal, human face to the brand, etc.).

      Regarding your point about WordPress, I agree here too. Whilst WP has made it easier for the ‘unskilled’ to build sites, it’s also created a whole new market for professionals – designers, coders, marketers. Which is just as well, as this site would look pretty awful otherwise!

      Thanks for your comment, Christian. Hope the travelling is all going well


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