Tim Leake: Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Creativity and Artificial Humanity

We’ve connected with members of the Creative Technology community to hear about their projects, the way they integrate with traditional agency executives and what they see for the future of the advertising industry. We hope you’ll find them as illuminating and provocative as we did. This time out we’ll hear from Tim Leake is SVP / Creative, Marketing & Innovation for RPA, a Santa Monica-based agency all about People First. So it’s somewhat fitting that Tim would have an opinion on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence in the creative community. 

Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Creativity and Artificial Humanity

I put a cheeky little post up on social media last week:
 
“Artificial Intelligence will eliminate a lot of jobs in the coming years. But if you’re worried, remember AI sucks at being creative.”
 
Nearly immediately, the Internet told me I was wrong. (Thanks, Internet, I can always count on you for making me feel good.) AI has already written songs, “painted” paintings, edited movie trailers and made films.
 
I’m going to go ahead and double-down on my assertion, though. Tweets aren’t the best medium for clarity, so perhaps my use of the very broad word “creative” wasn’t the right choice. But in the above examples, AI was used as a production tool. These works were “created” but they aren’t “creative.” They’re original, but not unique. They are derivative of whatever existing works were fed to the system to mimic. And AI mimics very well.
 
Niklas Badminton makes an interesting point that most people won’t care anyway, and most popular art today is already derivative and repetitive. First of all, that’s really sad. Second of all, I know it seems true, but I don’t think it really is. (I love the challenging thinking, though, Niklas!) Music and art evolves, spring-boarding from what was into something new. And while AI might be able to replicate the “sound of the Beatles,” I am highly skeptical that it could ever write a song as good as the Beatles and even more skeptical that it could ever make the stylistic and creative leaps that they made over their career.
 
But can AI create ambient, droning music that is awesome as background noise while working? Yes – it’s fantastic at that. I do not believe it will ever write the equivalent of “God Only Knows,” however.
 
That spark of what makes something interesting, brilliant, entertaining, fascinating and engaging — that’s hard to capture. It requires humanity, and likely always will. Because “what makes great art” and “what makes great ideas” is soft and fuzzy. It can’t easily be programmed. There may be trends, but there are no rules.
 
This, I believe ( I like to think it’s more than simply “hope”) is what will keep us relevant in the future. Creativity still needs a push, a poke, a nudge, and sometimes a shove. Artificial Intelligence will help us clear out all the boring, menial tasks that creative people don’t really enjoy doing anyway. Developing a truly fresh and breakthrough style for a brand? Needs humanity. Applying that style to hundreds of different display ads? That’s your job, AI. Though, for the foreseeable future, anyway, even those hundreds of ads will still need a human eye to oversee them and make sure things didn’t accidentally come out ugly. When the world develops the AI to consistently create 120x240 display ads that don’t make me want to vomit — that will be a watershed moment. Even humans haven’t cracked the code on that. Do you hear me, Google? I’m counting on you.
 
AI will help us scale our creative ideas faster and bigger than we could before. It will help create first drafts, that we then tweak and edit to give a fresher personality and perspective. It could even deliberately trigger “happy accidents” that break the rules – but it won’t be able to tell if those happy accidents work or not.
 
I’m fascinated by the potential of Artificial Intelligence to add humanity to marketing and brand interactions that currently suffer from being utterly devoid of humanity. But while I’d much rather interact with an intelligent chat-bot than talk to a less-than-intelligent customer service rep reading off of a script anyway, at their best, these bots will simply be mimicking humanity. When every single experience we have is with a perpetually positive, funny-but-not-edgy, cool-but-not-distant, culturally-neutral voice on the other end, will they all just blend together? Will we crave the good ol’ days when someone was rude to us for no reason?
 
Humanity is funny. We don’t always know what we like or why we like it. Humans are hard to predict. * cough * the 2016 election * cough * Creativity works because it surprises us. Because we didn’t see it coming. Creativity is novel and unusual and it breaks the rules. It makes us feel something in a way we didn’t before. We relate to something creative in ways we didn’t know were possible before we saw the creative thing. Creativity is random. It breaks the rules in just the right ways.
 
And that is why AI sucks at being creative.