From Hollywood Writers Strike to AI-Based Creativity: A Growing Impact

Category Artificial Intelligence

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AI tools and applications are increasingly contributing to creative production from Hollywood to the Grammy Awards, leading to both promise and peril. A study into the originality of AI reveals that it is capable of combining existing knowledge and resources in a novel, useful, and surprising way, and passing the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.

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Of all the forms of human intellect that one might expect artificial intelligence to emulate, few people would likely place creativity at the top of their list. Creativity is wonderfully mysterious—and frustratingly fleeting. It defines us as human beings—and seemingly defies the cold logic that lies behind the silicon curtain of machines.

Yet, the use of AI for creative endeavors is now growing.

New AI tools like DALL-E and Midjourney are increasingly part of creative production, and some have started to win awards for their creative output. The growing impact is both social and economic—as just one example, the potential of AI to generate new, creative content is a defining flashpoint behind the Hollywood writers strike.

AI-generated songs are eligible for the Grammy Awards

And if our recent study into the striking originality of AI is any indication, the emergence of AI-based creativity—along with examples of both its promise and peril—is likely just beginning.

A Blend of Novelty and Utility .

When people are at their most creative, they’re responding to a need, goal, or problem by generating something new—a product or solution that didn’t previously exist.

In this sense, creativity is an act of combining existing resources—ideas, materials, knowledge—in a novel way that’s useful or gratifying. Quite often, the result of creative thinking is also surprising, leading to something the creator did not—and perhaps could not—foresee.

AI applications can be used to create products such as abstract art, wedding videos, and advertisement campaigns

It might involve an invention, an unexpected punchline to a joke, or a groundbreaking theory in physics. It might be a unique arrangement of notes, tempo, sounds, and lyrics that results in a new song.

So, as a researcher of creative thinking, I immediately noticed something interesting about the content generated by the latest versions of AI, including GPT-4.

When prompted with tasks requiring creative thinking, the novelty and usefulness of GPT-4’s output reminded me of the creative types of ideas submitted by students and colleagues I had worked with as a teacher and entrepreneur.

AI-generated content can simulate natural language for generating persuading copy and ads

The ideas were different and surprising, yet relevant and useful. And, when required, quite imaginative.

Consider the following prompt offered to GPT-4: "Suppose all children became giants for one day out of the week. What would happen?" The ideas generated by GPT-4 touched on culture, economics, psychology, politics, interpersonal communication, transportation, recreation, and much more—many surprising and unique in terms of the novel connections generated.

AI applications are employed in more industries than just creative ones (such as medical, finance, and e-commerce)

This combination of novelty and utility is difficult to pull off, as most scientists, artists, writers, musicians, poets, chefs, founders, engineers, and academics can attest.

Yet AI seemed to be doing it—and doing it well.

Putting AI to the Test .

With researchers in creativity and entrepreneurship Christian Byrge and Christian Gilde, I decided to put AI’s creative abilities to the test by having it take the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, or TTCT.

AI-generated movie scripts and stories are now being developed and tested by various studios

The TTCT prompts the test-taker to engage in the kinds of creativity required for real-life tasks: asking questions, how to be more resourceful or efficient, guessing cause and effect, or improving a product. It might ask a test-taker to suggest, for example, how to make a skateboard more comfortable, or to come up with an interesting use for a paper clip.

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