How artificial intelligence is influencing creative fields
by Stu Elmes
6 minutes read time | 7 August 2019
Fun fact: AI is changing the world of work. Like the industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the digital revolution of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the unstoppable progress of this disruptive technology is driving a sea change in the very nature of the human labor and employment paradigm.
Many pundits and futurists have gone to great lengths to make this point abundantly clear. Headline-grabbing estimates on how much of the world’s workforce will be “put out of work” by artificial intelligence, automation, and robots run as high as 40%, stoking fear and uncertainty among the world’s workers. More positive projections indicating that AI is just as likely to create more jobs than it displaces, meanwhile, garner much less attention than their more fear-based counterparts in the clickbait-driven media world of 2019.
Despite the doom-and-gloom forecasts, however, the scope and scale of AI’s burgeoning capabilities continue to impress, and new practical applications for this powerful technology keep on popping up, seemingly by the day. Of particular interest to both the AI expert and the casual observer alike are AI’s recent forays into the creative realm, where creatives and artists are increasingly engaging with AI, in spite of what some may see as a threat to their livelihoods.
But what, exactly, is the creative potential of these new AI technologies, and how are they enhancing the works of their human counterparts?
Let’s take a look…
Image credit: 20th Century Fox
The quest to develop an AI capable of composing and producing music which is pleasing to the human ear has taken us down some pretty interesting roads over the years. From laughably bad lyrics to pure sonic chaos, AI’s frequent forays into the music world have been clumsy, to say the least. But that may all be about to change.
Google’s “Music Transformer” made headlines last year by generating relatively coherent piano medleys containing recognizable repetition. Although the results were far from perfect and Music Transformer struggled mightily with longer pieces, the attention-based neural network model showed great promise and paved the way for stunning progress.
IBM’s “Watson Beat” created the soundtrack for an actual Red Bull Racing ad, and Open AI’s “MuseNet” – a deep neural network capable of generating 4–minute musical compositions with 10 different instruments – is now regularly generating more than passable music in the style of some of history’s greatest composers.
While AI-generated music remains relegated largely to the novelty category for the moment, it is becoming clear that there’s a better than zero chance that artificial intelligence will have its part to play in the musical landscape of the very near future.
Image credit: Disney Pictures
Although artificial intelligence has yet to master the delicate art of long–form written content, its growing influence can be felt in many corners of the journalistic world.
The New York Times reports that AI plays a part in the writing of as much as a full third of the content published by international news agency Bloomberg News. Forbes, meanwhile, has been utilizing an AI-driven tool known as “Bertie” for some time now. Although Bertie doesn’t write actual copy for Forbes, it does recommend many of the article topics, headlines, and images used by the Forbes writers and plays a key part in how their articles take shape.
This is all part of a larger shift toward operational efficiency within the journalism business, as the evolution of the internet continues to push news brands to lower costs and stay ahead of the rapidly shifting digital news cycle. By rapidly identifying and tracking emerging stories and trends, AI tools offer news brands a crucial leg up on the competition, something every news brand is (or at least should be) actively seeking in an increasingly crowded news industry.
As the need to stay ahead of the story becomes ever more desperate, it’s a safe bet that such tools will soon be par for the course in the journalism game.
Image credit: Nickelodeon Animations Studios
Speaking of quality content, the marketing copywriting game has also been feeling the touch of artificial intelligence of late. Ecommerce megabrand eBay uses Phrasee’s AI marketing language generation and optimization platform to augment its email marketing program, which has resulted in a significant boost to the brand’s subscriber engagement and revenue.
By generating and optimizing its short-form marketing language at scale with Phrasee, eBay is able to implement more effective email subject lines, custom-tailored to the unique tastes and preferences of its target audience. The resulting uptick in email opens, clicks-through, and sales demonstrates the value that AI copywriting tools bring to the marketing table, and the eBay team have since made Phrasee a key part of its digital marketing strategy moving forward.
With understanding of the impact that AI-optimized language can have on campaign performance spreading across the marketing world, growing numbers of global brands are beginning to take notice. AI is helping brand-consumer marketing interactions become more efficient through language optimization, and it’s only a matter of time until every brand on earth is getting in on the act.
At some point in humanity’s distant past, a problem emerged. People who were standing up wanted to sit down. The solution: the chair. Some intrepid design-minded ancestor of ours invented this ingenious item to stylishly solve our collective standing versus sitting dilemma, and the chair has been with us ever since.
When French designer Phillippe Starck teamed up with an AI-driven generative design program this year to rethink the classic design of the chair, no-one knew quite what to expect. The resulting chair design – called “AI” – wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, and there was still a lot of human involvement in the later stages of the design process. However, this creative collaboration did present some very intriguing possibilities for using AI to aid the creative development process and to help designers think outside of their usual habits of thought.
Image credit: Netflix
Unlike design, much of art isn’t meant to solve a problem at all. It is meant to convey a message, evoke emotions, and be aesthetically pleasing. This makes AI’s forays into painting, illustration, film, and sculpture a much more complex programming problem to solve.
The concept of the autonomous “AI artist” remains a pipe dream for the time being, but human artists have been producing some really interesting work with AI’s help for some time now. Human/AI artistic collaborations run the gamut from the ironically ridiculous – like Ross Goodwin’s AI-written sci-fi short film “Sunspring” , to the eerily beautiful – like Memo Akten’s “Deep Meditations”, which tested the boundaries of the modern neural network and its ability to imagine.
As AI’s capabilities expand in the years to come, the concept of AI as an artistic tool will likely push the artistic world into new realms and open up new possibilities for humanity’s most forward-thinking creative minds.
A new paradigm
Amid the vociferous roars of “AI is going to replace us”, many people are beginning to see artificial intelligence for what it is: a tool. As the more open-minded creative thinkers among us find fascinating new ways to implement this powerful technology and augment their own considerable talents, the evidence continues to mount. AI isn’t here to take over, it’s here to help humanity be creative in new, exciting, and more efficient ways.
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