Home Data-Driven Thinking AI Can’t Replace Human Creativity. But It Can Enhance It

AI Can’t Replace Human Creativity. But It Can Enhance It


Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Graham Wilkinson, chief innovation officer at Kinesso and Matterkind Global

The release of Google’s Imagen tool has certainly made my news feed more entertaining in recent months. Who doesn’t want to see pictures of a raccoon dressed as an astronaut or a corgi cycling through Times Square?

That said, while Google’s new text-to-image generator is a really interesting development that illustrates the potential of AI, this type of technology can’t replace human creatives in the advertising industry.

For one thing, there are some practical obstacles. For example, text-to-image models need such immense volumes of data that they rely on uncurated, web-scraped data sets.

A system that relies on pictures taken from the internet is bound to run into ethical concerns. Imagen’s researchers already say there’s a risk of encoding social biases and stereotypes. And without knowing the ins and outs of Imagen’s copyright setup, there may well be questions around ownership of the images the tool uses.

But even if these practical issues can be ironed out, AI tools such as Imagen will not be able to fully replace human creativity in the near future. This is because they depend on combinations of narrow intelligence, mimicking but not really achieving the unique intelligence that is innate to human creativity.

The abstract application of context

Throughout our lives, human brains organically absorb information to build complex neural networks. It’s this balanced learning that makes us creative, allowing us to innovate by abstractly applying knowledge gained in one situation to completely different contexts.

It is not yet possible to recreate this type of learning in machines. Developers have tried for years to codify things like culture and sentiment to feed creativity, but the results are always underwhelming.

Machines can masquerade as creatives. They can write an article or compose an image, but they rarely come up with original ideas. They are always following instructions or working toward specific goals from humans. They use elements that already exist within their training data rather than thinking up something new.


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Imagen might generate mind-bending images, but it still requires a human to suggest what to include in that image. The person is taking what they know and creatively applying it to a different context. The machine is just doing what it’s told.   

Using AI to augment creativity

There’s room for AI in creativity. In fact, it’s incredibly good at helping human creatives work more effectively, efficiently and ethically. 

Here are just a few ways AI can be used to augment the creative process:

Initial ideation: A machine can churn through variations of a campaign far quicker than a human. It can iterate on a creative concept before it is refined and finalized by a person. AI can also be used to generate wildcard options based on available data, even if the results are only used for inspiration.

Creative optimization: While AI is not yet up to true origination, it is exceptionally good at optimization. AI can recognize the features of ad creative, record them as metadata and then correlate these features to success. Whether it’s fonts, colors or image types, AI can understand which combinations of features resonate with different audiences and elicit certain emotions. These insights can then be used for creative optimization.

Bias identification: We know AI can perpetuate negative societal bias, but it can equally be used to limit bias in creative. Once AI knows what to look out for, it can highlight when an ad isn’t representative of the world or the audience you’re trying to reach.

Complementing creativity

One day, machines may be capable of the same level of creativity as humans. But right now, AI development should focus on areas where it can make a positive impact for humanity and for the environment. 

Within the advertising industry, the objective should not be to displace human creatives but to use AI for specific tasks where it can work hand-in-hand with people and add real value to the creative process.    

Google’s Imagen will ultimately find its place as a mechanism for complementing and enhancing creativity.

Follow Kinesso (@kinesso), Matterkind (@Matterkind) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

For more articles featuring Graham Wilkinson, click here.

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