The machine: creative muse

Considered one day as a formidable technological aid, the next as an unfair competitor, the machine exercises as much fascination as distrust. From the first industrial revolution to transhumanism, the forms of this ambiguous relationship between humans and machines have been multiple. What exactly is it?

Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Metaverse, web3… digital-based technologies are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and the limits of human creativity, especially as they evolve ever faster. According to cognitive science researcher Margaret Boden. Creativity is the ability to come up with new, surprising and valuable ideas or artifacts. More generally, creativity is the ability to observe, manipulate and synthesize sensations, perceptions, information, signals, needs and desires in order to transform them into a reality with high added value.

But is this creative skill, which characterizes humans, threatened by the rise of machines? Is artificial intelligence overtaking, even threatening the sensitive and creative human intelligence as predicted by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk or Bill Gates? One thing is for sure, it has incredible potential for humanity. Its likely contribution to the global economy alone would be $15.7 trillion by 2030. AI’s contribution is not limited to assisting a chatbot, driving an autonomous car, or assistance from Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon). It is no exaggeration to claim that it is an enabler of human creativity. And why not a muse for the creative spirit?

synthesis machine

Today, artificial intelligence is capable of creating photographs, films, comics and even a virtual world: the Metaverse. The technology is therefore able to digitize a parallel universe by integrating products, services and even works of art. These innovations simply duplicate and recompile existing elements. Reinvention, identification of unexplored areas is to this day a privilege of humans.

The machine currently operates only syntheses, combinations that will always lead, mathematically, to the same conclusions. If it excels in repetitive and perfectly framed tasks, no AI is proactive and will not exceed the limits set and marked by its program.

The digital, because it removed the possibility of a difference between an original and copies, generalized the creative act to the detriment of the creative act. In this way he dealt a fatal blow to the romantic myth of the solitary creator, replacing it with the idea of ​​a generalized exchange and cooperation. Nevertheless, it remains an overwhelming tool in the service of creativity. This is not only the ability to synthesize information, but rather what the human mind extracts from this synthesis and this gathering of information by providing perceptions and sensations. Humans are much more creative than machines. Technology can expand our field of vision and create connections we never imagined, but it is not a creative force. When an AI produces plastic art or music, it is only based on a human suggestion (description, code, image, etc.). Creative genius, the surge of creativity, remains above all human. No AI knows how to start from scratch. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the EPO (the European Patent Office) rejects any patent application for an innovation designed by artificial intelligence. Furthermore, all the machines have so far failed the Turing test, in other words, no one has succeeded in impersonating a person in a conversation.

Democratized creativity

In reality, machine and human are not two competing intelligences. AI is a facilitator, a vector of human creativity. It makes it possible to go beyond the limits of the human mind, to go faster and further. Creating has never been easier than today. The machine does not replace talent, but it gives all talents the opportunity to express themselves. The ease with which young musicians now manage to create, record, mix and even distribute their albums in their bedrooms, where before it required large studios, highly qualified engineers and labels or large companies for distribution, is a particularly representative example of this development.

The machine can capture much more information and interpret faster than the human brain. With Data, it mixes different sources, traces history, establishes connections and thus brings perspectives that we would not necessarily have thought of. AI increases our abilities tenfold. It therefore opens up new horizons for human creativity, further expanding its spectrum without limiting it to artistic expression. For industry is also a large field where the machine enables a true explosion of creativity. Technology is now a source of inspiration there: the pharmaceutical sector with the creation of new molecules, robotics with the power of its calculations, architecture with the digital twin, cars and autonomous transport, sending drones in space or in the theater of military operations, the universal connection with the satellite internet… Invention, improvement, optimization, etc., creativity can be expressed in many ways in industry.

Today, if the machines are much more powerful than before, they are above all much more accessible and intuitive. The machine has thus democratized creativity. She made it more fluid, easier, more obvious, more malleable. It decompartmentalizes and thereby opens up the boundaries that previously prevented us from accessing new skills, talents and training. It is a knowledge and skills accelerator, a creativity catalyst.

Digital has changed the very nature of what a machine is. In the past these were multiple extensions of human strength. The rise of industry was built on this Promethean ambition, which consisted of mechanizing human strength to control and exploit the forces of nature (coal, steam, electricity, petroleum, atom, etc.). The digital has given birth to machines of a completely different kind, where the transformative power comes from the capacity to calculate, establish correlations and digitize the world. Digital technology thus has an innate virtue: creating worlds, especially by facilitating modeling. And it is this ability that changes everything, giving new impetus to human creativity.

Protection of the creative from the temptation of the recreational

If AI has undeniable virtues, it can also flood us with information and contribute in a methodical and permanent attention war to a form of isolation. Connected to our screens, we risk becoming passive, even vegetative. Recreational use would then take precedence over creative use. By simplifying everything, the machine also makes our tasks easier. By weakening the transformative and educational value of work, it risks sinking us into eternal boredom.

However, let us not fall into pessimism. What defines man is truly his ability to adapt. It is likely that he will know how to harness the power of AI and new technologies in a positive way. After all, the machine itself is only the result of human creativity. And until proven otherwise, except in science fiction novels or in 2001 A Space Odyssey, Artificial intelligence has never independently turned against its own creator. So, in an optimistic creative impulse, let us continue to improve our muses, they will pay us back.

Tribune written by Marc Benero, Corporate Vice President and Chief of Staff.

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