Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creativity. Show all posts

Monday, May 6

Pushing AI: A Reduction In Creativity

In his book The Creative Act: A Way of Being, Rick Rubin praises artificial intelligence (AI). But he doesn’t find its strength in being creative as much as in seeing problems with a fresh perspective.

He highlights AlphaGo’s approach to the game Go as his example. AlphaGo, the first AI to defeat a Go grandmaster, applied a never-seen-before move that no human would have made. Indeed. Most humans saw the move as a mistake when the AI made it, failing to recognize anything beyond the two choices that the grandmaster expected the program to make. But the algorithm didn’t care about 4,000 years of Go history. It was programmed to win. It did. 

Rubin is right in that the AlphaGo win is a teachable moment for human beings. Sometimes, we carry too much emotional, intellectual, and historical baggage around with us to be truly creative. Ergo, divergent thinking is still king when it comes to creativity. 

Divergent thinking is also where the proliferation of AI ceases to interest me. Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention, especially when my colleagues point it out.

Hugh Behm-Steinberg, who teaches writing at the California College of the Arts, recently did so when he mentioned: “One of the dark pleasures of teaching uncanonical work is reading the AI hallucinations my students think I won’t notice.” 

To be clear, Behm-Steinberg allows AI assistance if his students include their prompts with the work. He says it’s better than forcing them to sneak it into their assignments and then failing them when he spots what he calls AI hallucinations (something nonsensical, akin to those crazy hand defects that litter some graphics). 

I don’t know. After seeing the first official music video made with OpenAI’s Sora on LinkedIn, I still struggle to condone its broader applications that attempt to supplant human creativity. The video is largely unoriginal, with horrible camera angles and bad morphing effects that cause some people motion sickness — AI hallucinations that we can see rather than read. It’s a fail, propped up only by the crutch of AI infancy. 

So, what is the status of AI creativity? There isn’t any. I mean, using AI editors as a prompt to improve sentence structure is one thing, along with applying a photo effect that saves some tedious pixel tweaking or creating elements that can inform a component of a bigger project. Those are suitable solutions. This continued pursuit of trying to make it capture a human’s imagination, on the other hand, is faulty by design.

At its core, the true strength of art in all its forms is one human’s mastery over some medium so they may share their unique perspective of the world with others. These perspectives — a lifetime of experience and knowledge and, sometimes, the purposeful subtraction of said experience and knowledge — is more unique than a human iris. And this is why AI, programmed to mix and match other people’s work, will never truly obtain human creativity — even if it is constructed to be born and live like a human being. Because, even if it were built to be born, then it would still only represent a single point in an infinite ocean of stars. 

No. More likely, AI merely represents a reverse renaissance or a great reduction in creativity. As humans allow machines to copy processes, techniques, and rules, they may become even lazier in the pursuit of original thinking. And it will be only then that AI may succeed in simulating something superior, not because it’s creative but only because we will cease to be. 

Ho hum. I liked it better when programmers focused on teaching AI to wash the dishes and mop the floors so that we could have more time to be creative. Instead, this trend to program AI to be faux creative will only give us more time to wash the dishes and mop the floors. And we’ll all be too dumbed down to even know the difference. Good night and good luck. 

Tuesday, July 12

Exploring Imagination: The Creativity Equation

This one study continues to surface in articles, and it always stops me in my tracks. It claims a creativity crisis in America, largely attributed to the pursuit of winning formulas over future breakthroughs.

The crisis began, they say, as American education put creative thinking on the back burner in favor of measurable rote memorization in the 1990s. Americans wanted to test better than other people at the expense of innovation — ergo, finding answers that don't exist on an answer key. The outcome has been a continual decline in education and creativity. And now we see it in other places, too — everything from business automation to book and film reboots. Almost everything seems stuck on rinse and repeat. 

Ironically, decades ago, it was our creativity and not our test scores that used to set America apart. In fact, Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman warned us away from the rote memorization route. He suggested thinking things through instead of rehashing the past. But that's why he won a Nobel Prize. Thinking.

So what's the real problem? We're so confused about creativity nowadays that more and more people harbor an aversion to creativity. Even people who are attempting to ignite creativity in the classrooms are accidentally trying to make it an off-the-shelf commodity by denying the concept of creative genius.

The creativity equation. 

Like most things, answers to complex problems are somewhere in the middle, let's say between Project Zero, which operates on the belief that anybody can be creative, and the polar opposite, which believes relatively few individuals are born with it. More than likely, we're all born with a capacity to be creative (although some with a greater capacity than others) until society crushes our natural instinct for it

But let's set that debate aside and look at what's new in neuroscience. Some researchers studying our brains have found that creativity is linked to two different semantic memory processes: clustering, which is related to divergent thinking; and switching, which is related to combing distant associations between concepts. 

In short, aside from magic, our capacity for creativity is tied to how we develop associations between things and our ability to draw upon the broadest possible network of associations to connect and combine those ideas and concepts that are distant (unrelated stuff that fits together without being forced).

There is more to it, no doubt, but let's go with this idea to build a real blueprint. There are five steps in supercharging creativity. And while anybody can follow it, those who start young have even more time to get it right (and with less concern for society's insistence on conformity). 

Expansion. The more we learn and experience will increase our capacity for creativity. There isn't any other way to expand our conscious and subconscious database of distant ideas and concepts if we are not continually looking beyond our comfort zones. Dreams count too. 

Immersion. More uninterrupted time invested in creative pursuits through meditation, reflection, or experience will provide more time to explore the furthest reaches of our conscious and subconscious. We need to take the road less traveled and engage our alpha frequency

Evaluation. Great ideas seldom follow pre-existing models so it's better to measure them based on their feasibility, flexibility, and originality. Very often, original ideas are not as compelling as their next iteration — something that's been mulled over more than a minute. 

Execution. Creative ideas have to be actionable.  So, in addition to placing creativity at the forefront, we have to develop a secondary skill set to share it — writing, drawing, painting, producing, choreographing, or even implementing a system inside an organization. This is why creativity is hard work.

Vacation. Sometimes our minds need a break. The best breaks tend to be spending time in nature, improving our creative spaces, taking in some new entertainment, or otherwise busting up a routine so we can come back to the project with fresh eyes. And if you are one of those people who are guilty doing it, just remember that vacations still stimulate the expansion of our database.

That's all there is to it, sort of. There is magic that David Lynch likes to talk about (and I love to listen to him talk about it). There is the conversation about whether ideas come from one, some, or many. And there is plenty more we can learn about the mind. That's all fine. We'll save it for another time.

Saturday, October 19

Rekindling Creativity: Live, Learn, Leap

When automaton drives marketing, creativity can take a back seat. There is only one problem with it. A world run by algorithms is impossibly predictable. You look up product support, and you're subjected to a series of advertisements for a product you already own; only it’s broken. 

Predictably isn’t only inherent in computer programming. It becomes part of our daily routines. We wake up, get ready, exercise, have coffee, take breakfast, commute to work, check email, work on priorities, have a meeting, eat lunch, take another meeting, wrap up deadlines, transport kids, have dinner, watch television, go to bed, and then do the whole thing all over. 

Sure, everybody’s routine is probably a little different, but you get the point. You have a routine, and the better it goes, the more likely you feel content. The price you pay is not being present. 

The less your present, the more predictable our reactions when exposed to programming. The busier we are reacting to stimulus and situations or policies and politics, the less likely we are to take actions that move our lives forward. Sure, routines can be useful but they can also cause paralysis — in both marketing and our daily lives. The only problem is that some people grow so accustomed to contentment, they forget how to rewrite an increasingly scripted world.


The first step toward rekindling creativity is to live with intention. Much like animals, people are hardwired to filter out unimportant details. Since we are bombarded by neural input, our brains tend to ignore the expected and notice the unexpected. This is the very reason even fitness trainers tell people to keep your fitness routine fresh

Life is exactly like that. You have to keep changing the stimulus so your brain doesn't slip in and become stuck in sameness. Make time for weekend retreats, walk somewhere new, drive a different route, skip your daily routine once a week (e.g. don't open email until noon or try a no-meeting Monday, have lunch with an old friend, perform a random act of kindness, or flip a coin to make some choices. You get the point. Do something different. 


I have always been a lifelong learner. I read books. I go to events. I listen to speakers. I take online courses. My lists for inspiration are endless. You don't have to start with any of them. But I did want to share that it was through one of the venues that I discovered the genius of David Lynch. 

He ties living and learning together perfectly. His concepts of capturing ideas literarily changed my life. The two-and-a-half minutes I'm sharing here will introduce you to a sliver of his understanding of consciousness. I'm calling out the time for a reason. Most people tell me that time famine is the number one reason to avoid learning. You have to find the time. I listen to audiobooks when I drive anywhere. Most Ted talks are only 18 minutes long. The very notion that you cannot afford to invest five or 20 minutes to improve yourself should be an indication that you probably need to more than anyone. 


Creativity isn't only about input. It's about output. In fact, the root meaning of the word “creativity” is “to grow.” To truly benefit from creativity, you have to turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. The idea doesn't only apply to arts or marketing. It applies to education. It applies to science. It applies to IT. It applies to business. It applies to finding a sense of purpose in our lives. 

One of the recent changes I've made in my life is to finally set time aside to work on writing fiction. I originally set a goal of writing one short-short (a story of 50 to 1,500 words) once a week and a short story (3,500 words or more) once a month. The leap to do so came from author Joyce Carol Oats whose class reminded me that feedback helps fuel writers. Right now, I share these stories at byRichBecker on Facebook. 

More importantly, the infusion of creativity in my life has awakened a passion to produce great things. While I've always enjoyed being on the leading edge in my field, writing fiction has elevated my work in advertising and marketing. It's made me more open in observations and making connections within the world. It's increased my sense of purpose and added excitement in everything I do.

And the reason I want to share this has very little to do with me and everything to do with providing some evidence for you. If you really are looking to rekindle your creativity, start by turning off those distractions and making small changes in your life, learning more about those things that interest you, and then transforming the ideas that start to come your way into action. Give a try. Try it for two weeks (or a month). And if you wouldn't mind, drop me a note and tell me how it worked out for you. I'd really love to know.

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