Is our creativity going to be taken over by artificial intelligence?
Like it or not AI is going to secure a place in the creative sector. What this place looks like and how it will impact creative teams, only time will tell. The human race has always strived to do more, to utilise every available resource to save time and money, and to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. So, it stands to reason that AI will establish itself firmly in the creative world.
It’s hard to think that electronic paintbrushes powered by algorithms can in fact produce standout designs, but that’s probably because it’s an uncomfortable truth for so many of us.
Without even realising it, AI has muscled its way into so many elements of our lives, from online shopping to space exploration. It’s frightening to think of how unaware we are of its persuasive behaviour, and how much we rely on it in our daily lives. But it’s true. You can bet that every time you open your phone to send an email, interact with social media posts, search for something on Google, and check your bank statement, you’re plugging into AI’s functionalities – and feeding them.
AI may not fully infiltrate the creative world next month or next year, but it is inevitable so we might as well start talking about it now. I don’t know how it will impact designers – no-one does, but what we mustn’t do is leave it too late to have this conversation. We need to start exploring how we’re going to let go of what we believe a designer to be today, and look forwards to what a designer of the future looks like.
Do you remember Deep Blue?
This purpose-built chess-playing supercomputer blew my mind when I first heard about it in the ‘90s. ‘A machine that can learn, predict and make strategic chess moves?’ No way! But it happened, and Deep Blue became almost unbeatable. I say almost, because Garry Kasparov, a World Chess Champion, managed to beat its intelligence on one occasion.
But surely, the way IBM programmed it to work out moves based on every possible permutation and calculation was purely number crunching. It didn’t show any creativity or original ideas.
Its genius was determined – and limited – by the rules that had already been set.
Midjourney AI Artwork
There are several programmes that generate striking images and pieces of art based on textual descriptions, but the one that has my attention is Midjourney. It’s still in its beta stage and the small team behind its success continue to improve the algorithms every day and release new versions every few months.
On Instagram they have a very bold strapline, “Who’s the better artist, man or machine?” A tough question to answer when you see the breath-taking quality of some of the generated images. It wasn’t a total surprise when The Economist magazine used Midjourney’s artwork for one of their front covers earlier this year.
It’s affordable and simple to use too; the user provides themes then sits back and waits to see what the bot comes back with.
Did you notice my careful choice of wording in this section? I didn’t use the word ‘create’; I used the word ‘generate’. While each piece of artwork is unique, they can only be as good as the originality and quality of art that has gone before.
With that in mind, should designers be fearful of the future? Surely, we’ll still need original designs to be created to fuel these AI art generator tools.
The future designer
This phrase from a Microsoft article stopped me from scrolling, “Designers will become behaviour or system designers.” It suggests that today’s creators will become tomorrow’s curators. As the production side of designing may lessen, the designers’ time will be taken up setting parameters and goals for algorithms.
This isn’t some freakish nightmare, it’s reality. Humans have always learned to evolve and find their place. The best thing we can do is to not be afraid of the inevitable but to consider AI to be a valuable future member of our team that’s yet to be recruited. A team player that will empower us to extend our capabilities and creative boundaries.