Can robots be creative?

With artificial intelligence doing more and more human-like things, are they becoming 'creative' like us?
07 December 2021





Will there come a day when we can't tell human from machine?


Julia Ravey spoke to Junior research fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge Beth Singler, on how close we are getting to robots being taken as human...

Beth - Unfortunately, that day is long gone. In terms of our ability to anthropomorphize robots and forms of AI that appear on social media, or we see robots as being more person like than the technology actually allows. So underpinning that question for a lot of people is the fear about AI and robots passing for human, which comes from a lot of our science fiction accounts of where technology is going. There's that sort of underlying anxiety in that question, but in terms of day-to-day interactions with technology, humans are very easily convinced that they're already dealing with something that's human-like when it's not.

Julia - And Ajay wrote in to ask what is the difference between 'algorithms' and 'artificial intelligence'?

Beth - The term 'artificial intelligence' is much newer than the term 'algorithm'. You can think of algorithms like a recipe or a series of instructions. This has appeared in our human activities in maths and science for a very long time. But in applying this towards the goal of artificial intelligence, that is the overall field, and aim that people are heading towards. We didn't get to this point in our history until about the 1950s, where a group of computer scientists got together and said, "Hey, let's see if we can create intelligence in this artificial way." And that leads into a big debate about 'what actually is intelligence?' 'What kind of things are we aiming for when we describe intelligence?'' Is it the same thing exactly that humans have, which is so embodied and communal?' You can kind of think of the algorithm as the building block towards this thing we call 'Artificial Intelligence'.

Julia - We pride ourselves on being really creative and think that that element of us is safe from an AI takeover, but artificial intelligence technology managed to complete an unwritten symphony by Beethoven. So can our creativity be boiled down to just patterns that can be recognized?

Beth - I think we prioritize in our human definition of creativity things like originality and emotion, both on the creative side and the recipient of arts that we have a connection with art forms. There are originality elements when AI reformats and remixes things that we see spontaneous new emergences in the imagery that's created by AI, but that's still coming from a rather large dataset, so obviously with completing Beethoven's work, Beethoven data set would have been implanted in an AI to use that as the source code. In terms of the emotional response to AI art, some people are very into it and find it very emotionally engaging and other people find it completely just flat and cold. So again, it's that interaction with the human element where we decide whether something is artistic and whether something is genuinely creative or not.


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