Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) Be Creative?

Often when I talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI), the conversation leads to it not being true intelligence, or at least what we understand from human intelligence.

But what about the creativity we see from AI models like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and MusicGen?

Is that true creativity?

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is the ability to produce something new, valuable, and imaginative.

It involves seeing the world in new ways, making connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and generating solutions.

For humans, creativity is a natural process and can be expressed in countless ways, such as art, music, literature, or even solving a complex problem.

How Can AI Be Creative?

AI mimics creativity through the use of machine learning, algorithms, and randomness.

  • Machine Learning is a subset of AI that involves making predictions on from data. By processing large amounts of data, machine learning can identify patterns and trends that can be used to generate new content. For example, by analysing thousands of paintings, a machine learning model can generate a new painting that combines elements from various art styles.
  • Algorithms are sets of rules that are followed to perform a task. In the context of creativity, algorithms can be designed to generate new content by following certain patterns. For instance, an algorithm could be used to create a piece of music by following the rules of a particular musical scale.
  • Randomness in AI systems introduces variability and novelty in outputs. By introducing random elements, AI systems can generate content that is not just a direct copy of what they have been trained on. This randomness is similar to the spontaneity in human creativity.

Practical Examples of AI as a Creative Tool

Despite not being inherently creative, AI models have been remarkably useful in enabling non-creative individuals to express themselves. 

Digital Art

Midjourney, for example, can be used to create digital artworks.

These artworks might not have the emotional depth of a painting created by an artist but serve a functional purpose.

For instance, hotel art or lobby decorations, which don’t necessarily require emotional depth but are aesthetically pleasing.

Text Generation

ChatGPT is an AI language model that can generate text.

It is used for summarising data, generating initial drafts for blog posts or press releases, and even writing books.

While ChatGPT can handle the heavy lifting, the final piece often requires a human touch to add the emotional depth and nuance that AI cannot achieve.

Audio Generation

MusicGen is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool for generating music from a text prompt, and also allows users to upload audio clips to guide the music generation process.

While this technology is quite new, it’s the quality and artistic merit can be compared to hotel lobby music, elevator music or even generic club music.

But Is This True Creativity, or Just an Imitation?

While AI can produce novel and valuable outputs, it does so based on patterns and data it has been trained on.

Unlike human creativity, which is often spontaneous and driven by emotions, AI lacks consciousness and emotions. Its creativity is derived from mathematical calculations and does not involve an understanding or appreciation of art or culture.

Moreover, one could argue that AI’s creativity lacks the personal touch and background that often give human creations deeper meanings.

AI-generated content might be technically impressive, but it’s not rooted in personal experiences or cultural contexts, which are fundamental to human creativity.

AI as a Tool for Creativity

But AI can be an enabler for creativity.

For individuals who are already creative, AI tools can enhance their abilities and offer new mediums for expression.

This is especially useful for people that do not have traditional creative skills. AI can democratise creativity, allowing more people to generate art, music, or literature.

AI can also be used in collaborative settings, where humans and AI work together to produce creative content.

Imitation or Not, AI Creativity Has a Place

AI-generated content has the potential to enrich our lives and introduce us to new artistic experiences.

While AI’s creativity may just be an imitation, it could strengthen our respect for human creativity.

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