Creativity is something we all need. It’s not just about making art, and it certainly isn’t all about making art for money. Nurturing a garden is a creative thing. Parenting, being part of a community, even just socialising can call upon us to be creative. Anything we do in the course of the day can be approached creatively and enriched by that.
For most of human history, we’ve engaged with each other around the things we’ve made, individually or together. Making and sharing food is a really powerful thing. Making clothing, shelters and essential things is really bonding, and sharing in this way puts people into powerful and cooperative relationships with each other.
For most of human history, music, stories, art and dance were things we did together. This is one of the major reasons I’m worried about how AI ‘art’ is going to impact on us all. I worry about the loss of paid work for creative professionals, and I think we’re all going to be considerably poorer if we don’t have access to new ideas from creative people. However, I think the cost around our understanding of what art is, is already much higher.
Art where you push a few buttons and a computer makes you a picture or writes you a story doesn’t allow you to meaningfully share yourself with other people. How interested would you be in the fiftieth poem your friend has got a computer to write for them? How exciting is it if your sister has made her 700th piece of AI art? Why would you even care? The first few might have the merit of novelty, but that’s all they really have. It’s not the same as going to an event and listening to a poem your friend has written. It’s not the same as watching your sister grow as an artist, image by image as she learns her craft.
Creativity should be something we do for ourselves, and to share with other people. I want everyone to have opportunities to do that. I feel strongly that we should be using the technology to free up time so that people can spend their lives doing whatever they find interesting and rewarding. What is going to happen to us, as humans if instead we use the computers to give ourselves less scope to create in meaningful ways? What if we undermine this whole aspect of what it means to be human so that a small number of people can make a profit out of it?
Shared art gives us access to beauty and joy. It is however more than that. Creativity is how we express to each other what it means to be human and how we make sense of our human experiences. When we can dance and paint, tell stories and share songs we’re sharing references for how to live and what life is for. Culture is built of our shared ideas about what matters, what’s good, meaningful and desirable. What happens to us as people if we stop doing that and have machines do it for us? There are already too many pressures on too many people making it harder to connect and share in this way.
I think there’s a lot at stake here for us as a species. I think our compassion, co-operation and relationships are greatly enhanced by sharing creatively with each other, and that if, culturally, we start thinking that art and stories are things we make by feeding a few keywords to a machine, we’re going to lose far, far more than we could ever gain.