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Rediscovering Creativity in the Digital Age of Data and AI | Personal Reflections Series #1

I was taking the Google Data Analytics course, and one exercise was looking at unstructured data. As we browsed through the website - Quick, Draw, we had to look, identify and flag as inappropriate the many different doodles that were made in 20 seconds, which didn't fit the cut. Then we had to play the game which became fodder to train the machine. This prepared us to look at unstructured data.

I noticed the need to fall in line, to win – the gamified way. Yet all about this course and data scream about the necessity to put them all into neat rows and columns, stack them one after the other in ways that would make multiple meanings as needed. The pattern it returns to– from how things are fed in, and output highlights them.

Some screenshots from the website. Yes, it screams microphone – one could arrive there because of the familiarity, precisely what I am deliberating upon, the patterns of knowing.

There are a couple of anomalies here – the 5th column 6th object and the 20th column 7th object. There are a few more that stood out (shown below). I need to read more on if these drawings were added because the user gave this as input without it being right or wrong, or these were taken as input.

Creativity in Life & Work

It made me wonder about creativity and how it gets seen in these cases. What happens to the need to differ and fall out of line? These can be considered vastly different topics, yet they stick with me. Non-conformity alone can mean 'bad behaviour', but coupled with creativity and context is often the basis of dissent or doing something new. We also see this in a child questioning what is – we invariably teach them structures because they need to live in a society. This stems from the work world. Here creativity is often looked into as means to problem-solve. While it does help in the arena, too often, I feel that the scope of creativity is narrowed down to conform, to fit into known spaces again. As we channelize, we go into an order; first, we must define the problem. It can't be the other way around – and what happens if the new way slows down the process? Is it even recorded? Now let's consider the creative solution hastens the process – what happens? Certificates upon the cubical walls. Perhaps then, we can say this creativity has to come with a motive – always. The burden we place upon it.

Creativity and Absurdity

When creativity breaks these neat little processes - the confines of what is already known, chances are something absurd and unthinkable is always at play - especially and not limiting to the first time it is said. It takes a while to rally the minds around these concepts – with the importance placed on patterns, I wonder whether we are being less and less flexible. Are we relegating the geniuses of the human minds to cages? Let's remember the very first thought of robots in the Czech play – it was a creative one, yes, bordered on absurdity. Yet again, the human mind went into conformity, given that we are terrified of borders and ownership and that the idea of robots in existence is the basis of the takeover? It leads me to wonder if there is such a thing as boundless creativity? Does it have the potential to become problematic? But doesn't everything come with a darker side?

Creativity that Empowers

Looking at the website, I fear the death of creativity and curiosity is closer. I could very well be catastrophizing it. The debate is more extensive; for instance, it empowers a person who cannot draw to contribute if they can describe what they want – aka prompts.

Written-language centred world

Yet again, this opens up a new dimension, the reliance on linguistics, language, and especially the written language. What happens when words fail? Or the most likely to happen – what happens when the images come up that are something that they haven't fathomed? One often piggybacks them, don't they? Yes, being able to choose from that is a skill – being able to curate.

On Speed

Next comes speed – the most valuable thing when we consider opportunity cost. Being able to create content in a jiffy – to suit a content-heavy world cost-effectively. Isn't that a win? It is.

Personal Experiences

Being a writer who turns to ChatGPT and Bard, amongst others – while they assist me in giving the first cut, I also fear sometimes losing the charm of discovery, and at other times, the formats it gives me the content again fall into, 'patterns'. It takes me back to days when I was small, when many children's magazines carried small blurbs on TV, being idiot boxes. Maybe now that I am at that age where I can write them, I wonder if AI and ML advancements are making us lose our creativity and curiosity and, consequentially, as idiots. For instance, before I started using Google, I used to pour myself into a dictionary – I used to know many words because I could discover them. Yet on the flip side, I often get distracted and end up looking at the dictionary than finishing my reading.

I have a long way to go to explore and understand AI and ML. There are my views as on May 22, 2023, and they will change as I learn more. I am open to discussions and would be grateful if you point me towards resources where I can further develop these thoughts.


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