We all think that creativity is an inherently human process. In spite of the huge advancements in the artificial intelligence (AI) field, we simply can’t imagine complex algorithms taking over the things that require sensitivity, consciousness, and subjectivity. How could a machine create something as beautiful as the Moonlight Sonata without knowing the emotional response it can cause?
Impressive as that is, it’s interesting to take a look at the implications this may have for our future. Does that mean that AI will replace us even in the fields where we thought as exclusively ours? Not precisely. There are people out there that believe that AI applied to creative fields will push the envelope of what humans could do in these fields. Instead of replacing humans, AI could enhance our imagination. That’s how the Age of Supercreativity could begin.
As the name clearly states, supercreativity implies a superior level in creativity and the search for ingenious solutions. There are a lot of things that could be understood by that name but, in general terms, you could say that supercreativity suggests new paths, patterns, and connections to solve issues, create new products, services, and art, and even think about our own human existence.
To better understand supercreativity, it’s best if we take a deeper look at what we understand as basic creativity. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, creativity is “the ability to create” which, in turn, implies making or bringing something new into existence. This definition, however, feels incomplete.
How can it be made more detailed? By following the creativity classification explained by Marcus du Sautoy, a mathematician and professor at Oxford University. du Sautoy thinks that there are 3 types of creativity:
- Exploratory creativity: the imagination needs to take something that already exists and understand how it works to exhaust all of its possibilities. The professor believes that Bach’s music is the perfect example of this, as his compositions used existing elements to come up with new moods and melodies.
- Combinatorial creativity: whenever someone takes two seemingly unrelated ideas to find how the associations in one of them can suggest new ideas in the other. This pretty much happens when engineers or architects inspire themselves in nature to build new objects, just as Gaudi did with his architecture.
- “Mysterious” creativity: as du Sautoy puts it, this creativity can be seen in those moments that seem to come out of nowhere, like the state changes in water turning into steam when it boils.
The third kind of creativity is the one that’s the most exciting. That’s because we, as humans, can’t fathom what a supercomputer could come up with when simply instructed to break the rules of a specific field. This could bring a new music genre based on combinations that no one thought possible, new scents for perfumes, or even create new genres for our movies.
Supercreativity today and tomorrow: from mimicry to actual creation
If all of that seems a little surreal, it’s because it feels like it couldn’t be possible. Humans are used to repeating patterns of behavior they’ve learned in the past. The internalization of these patterns is so deep that we come to naturalize them. So, getting past them to imagine new ways of doing things is extremely hard. That’s why we consider geniuses those capable of creating new paths!
Though it may sound like an idea out of a science fiction novel from the 50s, supercreativity has already taken its first steps. Projects like the jazz Continuator, which was fed jazz music to later play new compositions in that very style are clear examples of this. The jazz musician in charge of creating the input music said that the AI came up with melodies and arrangements he could have never thought of. Yet, he heard his style in there.
There are many other examples around us. From AI-powered systems that are capable of writing haikus to recurrent neural networks that imagined new pizza recipes, many supercreativity solutions are already inviting us to rethink our own approach to creation itself.
There are 3 ways we can get there. First, there’s the continuous feedback and training process we could implement right now. AI systems used for the arts haven’t had that much human feedback—and since they can’t feel the emotion their own art elicits, they can’t benefit from those emotions. Using human feedback could improve and refine the inner logic of the AI, bringing to the front a whole new set of art styles and works.
Then, there’s multimodality and associations learning. Think about the last time you listened to music. Depending on what you’ve listened to, you surely experienced a range of emotions. Maybe you remembered a specific moment when the song was playing, or thought of a friend, perceived a fragrance, felt frustrated, angry, or happy. There are all sorts of connections when we experience our subjectivity, which is crossed by images, memories, words, analysis, interpretations, cultural, and historical patterns.
Finally, there’s human-AI collaboration. Once both of the previous methods are developed, a true collaboration between us and AI systems could take place. Humans could provide a basic template or idea (such as a melody, a product design, or an app sketch) to be later taken by an AI that could perfect and improve it in ways that humans could never have.
The process wouldn’t die there. As it always happens (especially with avant-garde art), the experiments that could result from these collaborations could further influence humans, which will learn new patterns and imagine new out-of-the-box concepts. This won’t be limited to the fields of arts or consumer products. Opening our minds like that could lead to new political systems, philosophical approaches, and societal connections that we couldn’t grasp right now.
Some final words
Naturally, we’ll have to guard this development. Since our own creativity is limited, we can’t truly understand what could happen when you combine vast data sets with human emotions and feedback into a supercomputer. Whatever comes out of that can surely revolutionize the way we understand our world and what we mean by “human existence.” In simple words, AI could lead the way to a new age, the age of supercreativity.