What is a creative mind?
In the 1400s, Italy’s creative minds pioneered the century-long Renaissance, triumphing art and vernacular literature over the world’s prior superannuated social and cultural mindsets.
In the early 1900s, the creative mind of Agatha Christie brought about a frenzy of mystery to the UK, continually affecting the country and its image for decades.
Following the spark that led to the emergence of the Silicon Age, in the mid-1900s, the creative minds of artists worldwide, digital art, and animation flourished, and modern entertainment was revolutionized.
Today, creativity – and by extension, the creative mind – is defined as one’s original ideas driven by imagination, within or outside of artistry. Humankind has sourced innumerable elements of invention, culture, and language from its creative minds, and continues to do so in a world in which imagination seems to grow more and more obsolete.
Socrates, DaVinci, and Einstein – geniuses in their own respect – thrived in life; but if faced with an AI chatbot with the ability to answer virtually every question with the intellect and research of billions, would history’s brightest minds have flourished or failed – and by extension, will we?
In the words of Picasso: “The important thing is to create. Creation is all. Nothing else matters.”1Pablo Picasso, “Quote from Pablo Picasso,” Quote Fancy, https://quotefancy.com/quote/884322/Pablo-Picasso-The-important-thing-is-to-create-Nothing-else-matters-creation-is-all.
Is the invention of mind-mimicking AI the end of all creation?
Or is this the birth of a new, completely different, generation of non-human creative minds?
The Important Thing Is To Create
The creative process may be categorized into three different progressions: Influence, Innovation, and Invention. These steps, coined in The Art of Thought by social psychologist Graham Wallas, apply both to artistic creativity and general thought.2Chris Mattson, “Graham Wallas: The Creative Process,” The BYU Design Review, accessed March 22, 2023, https://www.designreview.byu.edu/collections/graham-wallas-the-creative-process. In his description of the creative process, Wallas drew inspiration from physician Hermann von Helmholtz, who stated how his thoughts “never come to [him] when [his] mind [i]s fatigued […] [t]hey c[ome] particularly readily during the slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day.”3Alec Nevala Lee, “‘The Slow Ascent of Wooded Hills on a Sunny Day,” Nevalee, last modified July 31, 2011, accessed March 23, 2023, https://nevalalee.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/the-slow-ascent-of-wooded-hills-on-a-sunny-day/. After analyzing Helmholtz’s study on the formation of ideas, Wallas added an additional stage to his guide, bringing the total progressions to four. He established a system widely accepted by modern psychologists across the globe:4Masterclass, “How to Improve Creativity,” Masterclass, last modified August 30, 2021, accessed March 24, 2023, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-improve-creativity.
- Preparation. Wallas highlights a pre-creation stage labeled the “Preparation Stage”, in which memories and events that have impacted one’s life, along with research, are factored into the founding of an idea or the beginning of a brainstorming process. It’s during this stage that the creative process is given the materials it needs to begin its course.
- Incubation. According to Wallas and Helmholtz, ideas form best in the subconscious (or the back) of the brain, when a person isn’t actively thinking about creating something new. It’s then that the idea may incubate, or begin to form, without being scrutinized.
- Illumination. Following incubation, a creative thought will appear. Both Wallas and Helmholtz agreed that these ideas surface most often in times completely unrelated to the general field the idea stems from, but illumination may also occur as the direct product of the research and work done to achieve it, such as finding a working formula after spending hours in a laboratory. Both of these events are demonstrated in one of Mary Flannery O’Connor’s most famous quotes: “I don’t sit at my desk because I have an idea, but in case I do.”5Ann Wylie, “Quotes On The Creative Process,” in Wylie Communications (Ann Wylie, 2023), [Page #], accessed March 23, 2023, https://www.wyliecomm.com/writing-tips/writing-process/what-is-the-creative-process/stages-in-creative-process/. As a writer, Mary references resting in her own field of inspiration, despite not actively thinking about writing in order for a thought to occur.
- Verification. This stage, determined to be the event in which the actual idea comes to fruition, occurs when a writer finally puts pen to paper, an artist paint to canvas, and a singer lyrics to a song. A physical or nonphysical product is rendered, and what was once a fleeting thought is now the result of that idea’s mergence with the work its creator put into it.
- Finalization. Wallas continued onto a final stage – often tied with the verification stage – in which an idea is finalized, or completed, and polished off before being presented to the world.
The perspectives of professors and psychologists alike on the creative process and general creative minds diverge, ranging from arguments that the process is null to attributing the beginning of creativity to standard evolution. In The Philosophy of Creativity, Berys Gaut argues that creativity is random and fluid and therefore cannot be explained, rendering Wallas’s 4-step creative process invalid.6Berys Gaut, “The Philosophy of Creativity,” Philosophy Compass 5, no. 12 (December 2010): [Page #], https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00351.x. Contrarily, Dean Keith Simonton, author of Creativity As A Darwinian Phenomenon, provides the reasoning behind creativity as a whole and identifies its roots with past creative abilities of humankind that have increased in reach as time stretched on. In other words, Simonton argues that our abilities to produce ideas expand with evolution.7Dean Keith Simonton, Chapter Four. Creativity as a Darwinian Phenomenon: The Blind-Variation And Selective-Retention Model, The Idea of Creativity (BRILL, 2009), [Page #], https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004174443.i-348.30. According to Simonton, “Darwin’s theory can be considered an implicit theory of creativity”, and creativity is therefore the amassing of prior knowledge paired with variation of newer environments, in order to create new ideas.8Dean Keith Simonton, Chapter Four. Creativity as a Darwinian Phenomenon: The Blind-Variation And Selective-Retention Model, The Idea of Creativity (BRILL, 2009), [Page #], https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004174443.i-348.30. For example, the people of the 1600s didn’t have the knowledge nor the environment to invent commercial machines until the Industrial Revolution, in which the materials needed to build and manufacture these contraptions became available, and imagination was fed in order to produce creation.
In today’s world, our “new materials” are machines of artificial intelligence, and each of the aforementioned views has equal credibility. Wallas might argue that AI is incapable of incubation – and thus unable to follow the creative process – reserving this ability solely for mankind. Gaut might give a non-specific statement on the subject, along the lines of “it is what it is”, leaving “creativity” undefinable and therefore unknown to be possessed by artificial intelligence or by anyone else. Finally, Simonton may propose that AI isn’t what will be limiting human creation, but will enhance it, saying that “empirical research has shown that quality tends to be the consequence of quantity when it comes to creativity”, therefore encouraging faster processes for better results. In other words, if chatbots are generating creative products at a substantially higher speed than humans, then there’s a greater chance they will provide at least some material of value that a human being can then enhance or use in their own creative processes.
The questions, then, following this, have to be: can artificial intelligence replicate the creative process? Can it perform something similar, and at a higher rate? Should it be capable of any action within this field? And, would this ability – revolutionary as it is – hinder humankind’s own innovative spirit?
Creation is All
Creation – or products of the human brain – is everywhere; it’s impossible to live through life without coming into contact with human invention. Everything in the world of today is the product of innovation, from buildings to cuisine to manners of speech employed throughout the globe – the human language itself, for example, was developed 200,000 years ago. As many creative works have attempted to prove, there isn’t a single person who is neither untouched by nor vulnerable to influence, and by extension, the creative product of somebody else’s mind. Without the discovery of fire and the tools that were consequently created, humanity as we know it would not exist. Without the discovery of electricity and the inventions that utilize it, the Digital Age may have never taken place. Without the artworks and hieroglyphs that the creative minds of the Ancient Egyptian period had etched into papyri, which Jean-François Champollion later deciphered, an entire civilization would’ve been lost to the modern world. Creation is all, and man-made inventions are everywhere. Artificial intelligence won’t change that.
Technically speaking, artificial intelligence is capable of amassing almost infinite amounts of information and condensing the necessary parts to generate something “like-new”; the product of collection, not creation. By catalyzing and providing resources at a moment’s notice, the AI of today is able to cover the entirety of the Influence section of Wallas’ creative process plan, substantially speeding up the creative process. However, this simultaneously inhibits a person’s ability to perform their own research and let their own experiences season their ideas, potentially diminishing the uniqueness of the final product. Another major concern about AI is its use of biases reflected across the web to output a single opinion or material for a person to factor into their ideas. Despite this, it’s important to note that bias lies everywhere. According to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, “there is no such thing as a good influence… all influence is immoral – immoral from the scientific point of view”. In other words, influence will always affect a person’s mind in some way, shape, or form,, but, according to Wilde, it is the consequent distancing of that person from their original self, which Wilde considered to be almost sacred, that justified his reasoning for labeling all influence an immoral change.9Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900. The Picture of Dorian Gray. London ; New York, N.Y. :Penguin, 2003. Although it is impossible to live through life without coming into contact with influence, utilizing large amounts of biased material generated by an AI could drastically alter one’s original thought process and consequent final product, something that, in Wilde’s philosophy, would’ve stood as immoral.
Philosophy and ethics play largely into whether or not artificial intelligence should be considered in the founding of an idea, let alone be labeled as a creative mind of its own. The basis for those two statements is simply: can artificial intelligence act intelligently; can it solve a number of problems paralleling a human’s ability of thought? If the answer is no, then the world continues at its ever-growing pace, but creativity is enhanced with easier access to materials on any topic. Even so, education may be hindered by the ease of access to answers that may lead to a lazier way of seeking solutions in life. If the answer is yes, or if AI can process information and generate original conclusions from it, then would this be how the human creative mind ends? Although AI chatbots may have the ability to render new passages and products from their collection of data, it’s impossible for them to generate a divergent product from past research, as it is essentially reiterating prior knowledge. However, for artists who have discovered AI-generated work, or writers who now face themselves with a machine capable of producing passages in minutes, new competition is introduced. The field of science, research, and STEM is furthered by artificial intelligence. However, the fields within artistry may be threatened. And yet the world isn’t at its end, as human empathy (and human appreciation for human products) continues to prioritize hand-made artwork rather than machine-generated pieces. Additionally, AGI and AI’s abilities as of today extend only to that mimicking what they’ve come into contact with, and for art especially, this severely limits their artistic scope. Traditional art may be hindered, but a new form of art could possibly come to fruition – that of an artist inspiring an AI, and creating innumerable pieces of art together.
Nothing Else Matters
In the end, what really happens if AI is able to create? Would it spell out the end of human creativity?
According to BBC and Arthur I. Miller in The Artist In The Machine, it’s more likely that humankind will turn to a new form of creativity – a change from creation to curation – in which Wallas’s 4-step plan would take a new turn:
- Preparation. The machine provides endless amounts of information for a person (or the AI itself) to interpret.
- Incubation. Shorter now. Could occur in fields outside of artistry, in which serious thought may be required to generate something new.
- Verification. A new item is produced – illumination is skipped as the generation of an idea in artificial intelligence is the product itself, and therefore a step for the actual realization of that idea would be redundant.
- Curation. With outward change comes inward adaptation, and the same is true for this process. Should AI be checked for bias? Should the end product be tested for plagiarism?
Should artificial intelligence be able to partake in any part of the creative process, it’s more likely that the creative minds of the 21st century will utilize these abilities to advance humankind’s own innovation to unprecedented levels; and should AI and human intelligence collaborate on any given project, the inventions, discoveries, and possibilities the world could achieve would be endless. With AI may come AI literacy, or teachings on how to become aware that technology may at times be biased – effectively reducing the (in Wilde’s opinion, immoral) impact of its influence – and with literacy comes a new age of creativity. Time would be saved, and the world – although shocked at the speed AI can evolve – will adjust; generations and generations into the future would learn to live and thrive with machines. Content previously only reached after substantial research is now available as the result of a simple query. Responses to AI are and will continue to be varied, but its abilities of gathering information, of analyzing text, of transferring data and recycling content in record speeds are undeniable and revolutionary. Jobs will be initially lost – as they generally were following every major commercial advance – but new careers will be created; information will be available to more communities than ever before, and new interests, passions, and futures may be formed.
Salvador Dalí famously said that “intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”10Nord Angelia, “Intelligence without Ambition Is a Bird without Wings,” Nord Angelia Education, last modified June 14, 2019, accessed April 1, 2023, https://www.nordangliaeducation.com/biss-puxi/news/2022/06/14/intelligence-without-ambition-is-a-bird-without-wings#:~:text=This%20quote%20by%20Salvador%20Dali,around%20the%20theme%20of%20ambition.
Using the logic derived from this article, artificial intelligence combined with human imagination will enable our future generations’ creative minds – sourced from computers or otherwise – to fly.