Can the roles of creative people be automated using technology?

Various distinguished futurists hold the view that digital immortality will be achievable by 2045. This is a disturbing thought. In this instance, the scenario is that the worlds most creative brain (a modern day Plato, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci) will be there to use forever, wherever. It raises the question that if the mind of a Leonardo could be replicated and put to work in any office whether there is a job for everyone else?

Most creative people today feel fairly safe when it comes to being disrupted by technology. “Technology isn’t capable of being creative because it needs to be told what to do” is what you will commonly hear from designers, creatives, artists etc. But is that true? Will technology ever be capable of replacing a creative mind? Will mind-uploading allow us to create technology that surpasses human creativity?


Certainly the majority of creative today is assisted or complimented in some way by technology. In movies like Disney’s frozen the CGI snow effects are quite incredible, as this making-of clip shows. In this instance though the effects are just a small part of the bigger product. The art of storytelling for instance is a very human task. Music, costume design, art direction – all require significant understanding of human behaviour to converge to create a great motion picture. This is an incredibly complex process when you think about it. But technology loves a good challenge – and recently TED announced a new Xprize for the first TED talk to be the entire creation of a robot/AI. Perhaps this is an indication that creativity and origination is one of the next glass ceilings for technology to break through.

There are a number of big hurdles before technology can compete. Empathy is a human attribute that allows us to recognise and process emotion. In many ways it is empathy which differentiates humans and technology most of all. In order to emulate empathy fully, you need to emulate a human brain. As you can see below the butterfly images are arranged perfectly – a task that might have taken a designer many hours takes seconds. It’s a process that can be automated but is it obvious this was the work of a computer, not a human? Is human imperfection part of the way we perceive creative perfection? But can’t imperfection be emulated too?
via KurzweilAI

Final thoughts
Brain uploading is still theoretical, but there’s less science fiction involved than one might think. There will be disruption in the creative industry in years to come and many more tasks will be automated. Already simple tasks like banner ad creation already have programmatic elements which removes the need for a designer to make changes. I can certainly envisage areas like architecture being heavily disrupted by technology. Photographers will probably be affected by drones.  Music may one day become more about performances than who or what made the song. But the important thing to remember is that creative people are very adaptable. Creativity is in evolutionary terms another survival technique. Truly creative people find ways to differentiate themselves no matter what happens. Creativity in many ways is simply an ability to think differently to what others are doing – even if the others are machines. Either way the next 100 years looks like it will be interesting to watch.

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