AI and Human Creativity: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”

HAL 9000 | Stanley Kubrick | “2001: A Space Odyssey”

It’s only natural to be fearful about everything that’s unknown and in today’s world both AI and our own potential of creativity is unknown to us. 

I have been thinking about AI and how it has entered our lives to never leave, considering ways to leverage its presence, evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve reached a few conclusions.

AI is in its “baby” phase and is learning and growing rapidly. Given this stage, let’s draw an analogy between AI and the growth trajectory of a baby.

Thinking about children and observing my own ones, I came to realize that children’s creativity is infinite, yet also based on the “data ” that they have. Children’s creativity comes from a blank space through pure curiosity, exploration of new concepts and iteration of functionality as a part of a play. The interesting part for me is that the iteration is mostly based on the data that they have collected. Children can take a box and turn it into a plane, a boat, a horse, a house or anything else the “data” of which they have. Very few children will create things from pure imagination. This is probably the realm artistic or scientific geniuses. 

In comparison to adults, children have no fear of countless iterations and are not familiar with the concept of failing. They are simply playing. Curiosity and play are the core driving forces for children’s expression of creativity. It’s almost the same with AI. it has the ability to rapidly iterate, providing millions of combinations within the data that it has, but won’t have the curiosity or predisposition to explore anything outside of the data that it has, nor is it particularly playful. Unlike unpredictable, curious humans, who are much slower at iterating, but have an incredible predisposition to switch subjects, follow their curiosity with no awareness of the apparent outcome – outside the “data” they have. This is a trait that AI doesn’t have. 

Not long ago, a friend of mine went to a birthday party with a gift that had been recommended by ChatGPT and he was very pleased with it. I gave it a little thought and realized that yes, ChatGPT could provide interesting gift suggestions, probably not within the initial 10 suggestions, but surely among the subsequent 20-30-40 suggested birthday gifts ideas. 

Then I thought, while AI could recommend a special gift, it could never have come up with the idea of the special, personalized gift that I made for my husband. Or could it? The only way AI could recommend that special, personalized, gift, which also had a story in it, was if AI knew me, knew my husband, knew the details of our story, or even the details of my talents beyond my professional and public profile . 

So what does it mean? 

AI knows what it knows and doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and also doesn’t have the curiosity to explore “uncharted territories”. These “unexplored territories” are even beyond its awareness, unlike creative humans who thrive in such curiosity-driven exploration. So it’s imperative to be perfectly clear the content you are teaching it, the data you are supplying and how you are nurturing its development. And the only way to harness its power is through always being a step ahead, the master of AI. This is going to be ultimately, the best type of collaboration and the driving force of massive advancements in any domain of life. 

It’s not by accident that AI is called generative. AI’s capacity for creativity comes from its generative nature. The intriguing question is if the collaborative interaction between humans and AI can reinforce or enhance the expression of the human and the personal side in us. Will the emphasis on the personal, as opposed to the generative, be the distinguishing essence of success in this era?

Let’s ponder over all the benefits that we can extract from AI. 

Incorporating AI into business processes is not just valuable but essential. AI will automate tasks, boosting efficiency and freeing up employees for strategic and creative endeavours. Drawing parallels to the Industrial Revolution, where machines replaced manual labour and ushered in an era of intellect, AI similarly has that transformative potential. AI predictive models will leverage data to forecast trends, help with proactive decision-making and market shifts anticipation. Whatever it may be, AI’s ultimate contributions will results in raising efficiency, cutting costs and speeding up the advancements in every domain.

With the outburst of AI, there will be no shortage of continuous access to global markets or innovative products. Every product, every idea will be accessible to us with multiple versions of it. The question here is, we, humans being driven with our emotions, making emotional connections with the product and companies is going to be indispensable core component in the AI-driven world. People do not necessarily buy the product, they buy the vision, the story thee person standing behind it. Marketers would call it personal branding (which doesn’t do justice to the concept). The human created, oriented approach is going to be the core high value of most run businesses. It has been the case for many years now, look at the world’s giants and their founders. The human factor has always been dominant in businesses and having large networks  has always been a form of value and currency. 

It’s fascinating how generative AI is reinforcing personalization and enhancement of the human personalized and individualized factor in everything.

With the use of AI, we’ll finally be able to (hopefully) provide personalized education, personalized health care system, individualized therapy and, particularly, promote personalized forms of self expression.

In regards to arts, personalized self expression is going to be of high demand and high value in future. There has probably never been a better time to be creative and make it. Every tool that’s needed to express your thought in any creative domain and promote it within the public at large without being part of big studios or production companies is there. Your job as a creative, at the end of the day, is to be the master of your craft and have something to say. 

Regardless of AI, it’s still about your thoughts, your ideas, your knowledge, your skills, your mastery and your world outlook. To achieve this, it’s imperative to diligently polish your skills and immerse yourself in knowledge that cultivates your creative prowess within any chosen field. The process entails deep-diving and exploring subjects that might not be trendy or dominate headlines. The bite-sized information is not something to settle with, but a trigger for in-depth exploration. Reading wonderful classics and marvelous contemporaries is an essential component of this process.

The concept of excelling within your field is not simply a universally accepted nice principle to follow. It’s an essential prerequisite for survival in the era of AI. Being the genius master of your domain will help you differentiate right from wrong, tasteful from tasteless, good from bad and not let AI do all of that for you.  While I don’t deny the possibility of creating a masterpiece with AI without the foundational work, but chances are you won’t be able to recognize the subject as a masterpiece, to say the least. Collaborate with AI intentionally, rather than coincidentally or accidentally.

So I think Picasso was right, when he said: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. The quotes is about mastering the established conventions, techniques, and principles of a craft for an artist to then intentionally deviate from them in creative and innovative ways. Picasso’s message encourages artists to understand the foundations deeply and skillfully before using that knowledge to push the boundaries, challenge norms, and bring about new forms of artistic expression. In other words, by knowing the rules well, artists can make informed choices about when and how to diverge from those rules for the purpose of originality and meaningful self-expression. In my humble opinion, this principle extends beyond art and is applicable to every other field.

And if we look at things from this perspective, seems like everything has changed, but maybe nothing really has?! After all, in our day-to-day life, you still need to get up every morning and fulfill our responsibility in pursuit of our own greatness, regardless of AI. 

Now, I don’t assume that things won’t go terribly wrong (having recently had the fortunate opportunity to watch Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” on a large screen, I’m referencing HAL 9000 here). However, even if that’s the case, what we all can do today is continue being curious, creative and better than the day before.