AI and the art of creativity

AI and the art of creativity

AI and the Art of Creativity  - Better Known
Words by Bianca Hennessy | Images Mario Klingemann, Sothebys
Better Known – Thinking

AI and the art of creativity

Creativity and human ingenuity drive our culture – but could artificial intelligence ever match, or even exceed, human creativity? 

Creativity is one of the most exceptional human traits. Without it, there would be no art or inward exploration of ourselves. There would be no innovation or outward expansion into the cosmos. And, of course, there would be no internet.

Creativity is the bedrock of modern society. It drives the constant evolution of our culture and the exponential growth of our technologies – as we move, quicker and quicker, towards a fully realised digital world. 

But could artificial intelligence ever match, or even exceed, human creativity? 

Defining creativity

Over the years, many have offered their definition of creativity.

As creatives, we start with one piece of knowledge, an insight, then look for meaningful ways to connect that to another piece of knowledge. Through this process we strive to generate something novel – a surprising, engaging and (hopefully) useful idea.

Can machines learn this formula for creativity?

When it comes to storing, processing, finding patterns and making connections with data, they’re pretty great at it. But can they create something to surprise and move us in the same way as humans? Machines may be capable of practising the formula for creativity – but it’s the process, what happens along the way, that births an idea.

When we think of creative projects, we tend to assume that there's a human being behind the work. From Michelangelo to Marc Jacobs, artists and designers have always been human.

AI, on the other hand, is typically associated with less artistic concepts; facts, figures, formulas, and calculations.

But do these formulaic and data-driven processes translate to creativity or even art?

AI can create new ideas in three ways:

1. Producing new combinations of familiar ideas.
2. Exploring the potential of conceptual spaces.
3. Enabling changes that generate previously impossible ideas.

As AI becomes more and more involved in all aspects of our daily lives, it's only natural that artists have begun to experiment with it too.

AI  in art and advertising

Mario Klingemann, a German artist who uses AI in his work, has strong views on creativity: ‘Humans are not original... machines can create from scratch.’

In 2018, Klingemann won the Lumen prize for his piece The Butcher's Son. Being the first time an AI-generated artwork had won this prize, it was a historic moment.

Mario Klingemann Photograph Sothebys - AI and the Art of Creativity - Better Known

Klingemann posits that humans only reinvent and make connections between things we’ve seen before. A little extreme, perhaps – but there’s some merit to his view. Just look at the cyclical nature of fashion, where trends come and go, then come and go again. There’s even been a (most unfortunate) resurgence of (highly questionable) early-2000s style.

In 2018, Lexus released what it called the first advertisement scripted by AI. The brand employed IBM Watson to analyse 15 years of ‘car and luxury brand campaigns that have won Cannes Lions awards for creativity, as well as a range of other external data. As a result, Watson was able to identify which elements from the dataset would resonate with viewers.

That same year, Christie's sold its first piece of auctioned AI art, the Portrait of Edmond Belamy, for USD 432,500.

Beyond the question of whether this is real creativity lies another: who deserves credit for the work? The Artist or the AI? We think this type of ‘algorithmic art’ is a collaboration, between humans and machines; the artist is still very much involved in the process.

But what about old masters like Picasso? Scientists at Oxia Palus recently used AI technology to construct 'new artworks' in Picasso's style. When X-rays of his original works revealed hidden images, AI reconstructed them by extrapolating his style using data analysis, then recreated new works in a similar (albeit simplified) style.


Oxia Palus 'Picasso' - AI and the Art of Creativity - Better Known

Art created in such a way only raises more questions about ownership and intellectual property – but, outside of those issues, the experiment’s an enlightening exercise in art history.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about AI-created art isn’t the final product, but the creative process: humans and machines collaborating to explore new creative forms in revolutionary ways.

Strategists, marketers, designers and technologists are already embracing data and technology in so many ways. So why not embrace AI too?

Will AI completely replace human design and creativity? We don't think so. But we think the beauty of modern creativity lies in balancing the human and the digital.

There’s an exciting intersection forming between the human and the digital. It’s on the horizon, and it’s getting closer every day.

Stay tuned.

Better Known is a creative consultancy building better brands at the intersection of people, design and technology.

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