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AI, Creativity, and Sci-Fi


You certainly noticed that technology is advancing at a pace that most people struggle to comprehend. Many questions that were once confined to the realms of science fiction are now realities that we must face. The rise of generative AIs, in particular, brings both fear and hope since the possibilities presented by this technology can range anywhere between disaster and utopia.


As a writer actively making art, I often wonder about the relationship between AI and creativity. No, I don’t think AI is creative (it’s not yet that bright). But, as a tool, can AI turn someone creative?


Can humans use AI to be more creative?

Before continuing, I must warn you: there will be SPOILERS for the Love, Death & Robot episode called Zima Blue.



A picture of a nebula with a blue square at its center.


AI and Creativity


I was inspired to write about this topic by one of the members of The Bot Family (here’s your cue to join my mailing list to follow up on my shenanigans!) Sometimes, I ask my subscribers what I should write about next, and this person fed me some really good prompts (which I am taking forever to write, but it’s coming together nicely, I promise.)


A couple of months ago, we talked about AI-generated prompts, and this Bot Family member told me about the ones he got, with detailed plot structure, theme suggestions, and all.


In a way, it’s pretty impressive that AI can do it at this level of planning. On the other hand, the ideas generated felt utterly uninspiring to me.


This meaningful interaction led to the question: Can humans use AI to be more creative?


Of course, I formulated the question in a misleading way to draw attention. I don’t think people will become “more creative,” but creative in other ways. I will never underestimate humans’ ability to make art; AI can be a powerful tool to help us with it.


Does it mean anyone using AI will become more creative? There is a curious phenomenon happening where people using AI feel creative. Is feeling creative the same as being creative?


Yes, feeling creative is being creative for the person exercising the creative muscle. I know how fun it is to let the imagination run wild and to admire the subproduct of this process (a shoutout to all of the fanfic writers!). However, as with anything in life, making art as a creator requires more than generating a subproduct. It is a craft, and as such, it requires study, understanding, novelty, and purpose.


So, is the subproduct generated by AI art?



AI art


Do you know how a generative AI works?


Let’s see what Chat GPT has to say:


“Generative AI, like the GPT models, works by learning patterns from large amounts of data and then using those patterns to generate new content. [...] Overall, generative AI works by learning from examples to create new content that is similar to the examples it was trained on.”


This process will hardly lead to original ideas—it goes against the very core of machine learning. Unless generative AI learns how to transcend this initial state (and we achieve the so-called singularity), its creations are dull and insipid. Of course, a gifted artist could use it as a base for something greater, but the majority of people don’t do it. They accept the AI art as final.


More recently, I’ve been accused of using an AI to write a blog post. Technically, there would be nothing wrong with it. But the accusation bummed me out. Is my writing really as generic and stale as AI-generated texts are?


It is almost insulting (or, at the least, depressing) to compare an artist to an AI. It could indicate that something is missing in their art, their voice is too bland, or their take on old ideas is too unoriginal. (Or it could mean the accuser is an internet troll…)


(Side comment: as with anything on the internet nowadays, those who don’t understand the craft are quick to judge those who do. Everyone feels like an expert about everything.)


Generic pieces and trolls are two reasons why there’s resistance to accepting AI-aided pieces, with many marketing places rejecting those partially or completely created with AI. Not the only reasons: there’s the ethical issue with copyrights (which I wrote about here) and also because there was an overflow of boring submissions that frustratingly obstructed the selection process.


Until we collectively learn how to deal with those issues, artists will probably remain reluctant to use AI as a tool.


Zima Blue


All of this AI talk sounds science fiction, doesn’t it? Artificial intelligence is a fan-favorite sci-fi trope, after all. 


When it comes to AI and creativity, few have done better than Zima Blue, a short story written by Alastair Reynolds and adapted to the screen in Love, Death & Robot with style!


It tells the story of a famous artist’s journey to find meaning through his art. In this futuristic tale, Zima has undergone extensive body modifications, which makes him more machine than man, but his humanity can still be appreciated in his art. For his final piece, the recluse artist invites a journalist to share his life story and add weight to his last artistic endeavor, revealing his true self.



A scene from the episode Zima Blue of the show Love, Death & Robot.
Scene from Zima Blue.


The truth is that Zima was never human. He was initially a pool-cleaning robot that became sentient after many modifications to his programming and body. His search for a purpose in life poetically became art.


Searching for meaning is something any of us can relate to, and that’s why Zima Blue became one of the top-rated episodes of L,D&R. Zima represents this very human drive in our lives, the search for purpose. Yes, he’s an artificial being, though his art is not meaningless or uninspiring. He reached for the universe and evolved his craft to scratch this brain itch, driving him toward a final answer until he found it: he stripped himself of his humanity and went back to his origins.


Zima’s art differs from the six-fingered images generated by AI today. These last ones are nothing but amusing amalgamations of data, not art, requiring the artsy hand of a human to make them worthwhile.



###


That’s it for today, folks. 


What do you think of this conclusion? Can you recognize AI-generated pieces as art? Let me know your answer in the comments.


See you next post,

Ra.


Was this post written by an AI?

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Carla Ra is a scientist by day, sci-fi writer by night.

You can check out her anthology ARTIFICIAL REBELLION here.

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