Can machines actually be more creative than humans?
The Short Story
McCann Japan (an ad agency) created a robot that used artificial intelligence to create a commercial that was preferable to the one created by humans. If AI ‘bots can do creative work, is there any job that is safe? Insert paranoia here.
We’ve been hearing about artificial intelligence (AI) for a long time. You know, it’s that part of computer science where the computer learns and then teaches itself so that it’s always getting better information and making better decisions. We’ve all seen the horror stories. Either we all become floating puffs that do nothing, like in the Disney movie Wall-E, or the machines take over and decide we’re not necessary. Neither one is really a desirable outcome.
The reality of AI has looked a bit different than the dystopian nightmares of the movies. The personal assistant feature on your cell phone is an example. They “learn” from your repeated patterns and online habits. However, they don’t go out searching for larger and larger amounts of information on their own. They learn from what we give them. So, we limit the parameters of their learning and we stay safe, right?
Welllllll, not exactly.
You see, this brilliant person at McCann’s Japan office (McCann is a massively large ad agency), Shun Matsuzaka, created an AI bot that took massive amounts of advertising data, including response and expectation information and demographic data, and created a commercial. The commercial was for Clorets gum, emphasizing the 10-second burst of fresh breath one gets when first popping the gum. The commercial was compared to one for the same product created by humans. In an online poll, the human ad barely beat the AI ad by a narrow margin. When graded by ad executives, though. the AI ad won. Easily.
A robot not only did my job, it did all the jobs of an entire creative team, short of actually producing the commercial (real people had to get involved somewhere).
Okay, breathing deeply here, trying to not panic. The AI bot really only did data analysis and spit out a solution that then had to be fulfilled by humans who almost certainly made adjustments along the way. That’s not the same as actually taking a Creative Director’s job, except for the part where they … uhm, … well …
Yeah, this is fucking scary.
I didn’t mind AI too much when it was doing things like making dinner reservations and reminding me to pick up my laundry. I didn’t have anyone doing that for me before, so it was a help, not a hindrance.
AI taking over unskilled factory jobs hasn’t bothered me that much. We’ve seen it coming long enough to prepare for it, to help people in unskilled positions begin developing the skills they need to get better jobs that AI won’t fill until they’re dead, or at least retired.
But I’m growing increasingly concerned here. According to Forrester research, by 2025 AI robots of various forms will replace seven percent of the jobs that currently exist. Now, that number is misleading. That’s seven percent total job loss. What they’re slower to tell us is that sixteen percent of jobs, especially administrative and office support positions, will be gone. We’re supposed to be happy that nine percent of those jobs lost are replaced with other jobs, such as robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators. That seven percent is just the net loss.
That study was released last year, though, before Mr. Matsuzaka’s creative bot. This totally changed the equation. Creative services employee millions of people in almost every form of business in the world. If bots can take all those jobs, that number jumps much higher than seven percent.
Adding to the problem is the fact that other areas, such as engineering and construction, finance and service management, and logistics and distribution are all looking at ways AI can streamline their processes and complete them faster and more efficiently than do humans.
If there is any reprieve, it lies in the fact that there is a shortage of AI developers. For now. The biggest shortage at the moment in is the automotive sector, which is really trying to get something safe and driverless on the market ASAP. They’re spending millions of dollars on the bsst AI experts. If you’re looking for a career field, children, that’s the leader at the moment.
But where there is demand, there is always a market ready to fill it. If immigration becomes a problem, which is possible, companies will simply move AI development to where the talent is. The shortage won’t last for long.
Just this morning, after I thought I had this article finished, brokerage firm Charles Schwab announced they will begin using a hybrid robo-human method of dispensing investment advice. The human is just there primarily to keep investors from getting the heebie-jeebies working with an automated system. Those high-priced brokers could soon be without jobs.
Artificial Intelligence is coming for my job. For your job. For all our jobs. The bot at McCann’s? It’s going to try composing music next.
I can’t help but wonder if one day we all might forget how to think for ourselves at all.
With any luck, I’ll be dead by then.