Collaboration, Artificial Intelligence and Creativity

We are thrilled to publish this guest blog by Dan Faggella – a writer with a focus on the future of consciousness and technology. ai-one met Dan online through his interest in the beneficial developments of human and volitional (sentient) potential.  Dan is national martial arts champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Masters graduate from the prestigious Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. His eclectic writings and interviews with philosophers and technology experts can be found online at www.SentientPotential.com

Artificial Intelligence as a Source for Collaboration

At a recent copywriting event in Las Vegas, I heard a nationally renown writer of sales letters and magazine ads mention something that resonated with me. He said that copywriters are generally isolated people who like to work at him on a laptop, not in a big room with other people, or in a cubicle in an office – but that some of the absolute best ad agencies were getting their best results by “forcing” (in his words) their best copywriters to work together on important pitches and sales letters – delivering a better product than any of them could have alone.

Some people in the crowd seemed surprised, and the copywriter on stage mentioned that many “a-list” copywriters tend to think that their creativity and effectiveness will be stifled by the pandering to the needs of other writers, or arguing over methods and approaches to writing. In my opinion, however, this notion of the “genius of one” is on the way out, even in fields where creativity rules.

If we take the example of sports, the need for feedback and collaboration is for some reason more obvious. A professional football team does not have one genius coach, they have offensive, defensive, and head coaches with teams of assistant coaches. In addition, top athletes from basketball to wrestling to soccer are usually eager to play with and against a variety of teammates and opponents in order to broaden their skills and test their game in new ways. The textbooks on the development of expertise are full of examples from the world of sport; especially pertaining to feedback, coaching, and breaking from insularity.

The focus of my graduate studies at UPENN was in the domain of skill development, where the terms “feedback” (perspective and advice from experts outside oneself) and “insularity” (a limited scope of perspective based on an inability or unwillingness to seek out or take in the perspective of other experts) are common. In sport, insularity is clearly seen as negative. However, in literature or philosophy, it seems that the “genius of one” still seems to reign.

Why might this be the case, when in so many other fields (chess, sports, business, etc…) we se collaboration proliferated? I believe that the answer to this question lies partially in the individual nature of these fields, but that new approaches in collaboration – and particularly new applications of artificial intelligence – will eventually break down the insularity in these and many other “creative” fields.

What is Creativity & Collaboration All About, Anyway?

Creativity, in short, is the ability to create, or to bend rules and convention in order to achieve an end. Collaboration is working jointly on a project. Both, in my mind, imply the application of more intelligence to a particular problem.

Just as three top copywriters can put together a better sales letter (generally) than one copywriter, three top chess players are more likely to defeat a computer chess program (generally) than one top chess player alone.

Technology allows us to bring more to bare when it comes to applying intelligence. Even in the relatively simple task of putting together this article, I am able to delete, reorganize, link, and research thanks to my laptop and the internet. I bring more than my brain and a pen on paper could do alone. I may not be “collaborating,” but I am applying and the information and research of others to my own work in real time.

Artificial intelligence ads an entirely new level of “applied intelligence” to projects that may extend beyond what internet research and human collaboration could ever achieve. For our purposes today, the progression of “less” to “more” applied intelligence will be: working alone, working with others, working with others and researching online, and applying artificial intelligence. We already have tremendous evidence of this today in a vast number of fields.

Applications Already Underway

I will argue that, in general, collaboration and the application of artificial intelligence will be prevalent in a field based primarily on: the competitiveness of that field (in sports and business, for instance, competition is constant, and so testing and evaluating can be constant), popularity / perceived importance of the field (trivial matters rarely hold the attention of groups of smart people, and are even less likely to garner grants or resources), and the lucrative-ness of that field (such as finance).

In finance, for example, the highly competitive, the highly lucrative and high-speed work of number-crunching and pattern-recognition has been one of the most prominent domains of AI’s applications. Not only are human decisions bolstered by amazingly complex real-time data, but many “decisions” are no longer made by humans at all, but are completely or mostly automated based on streaming data and making sense of patterns. It is estimated that nearly 50% of all trades in American and European markets are made automatically – and are likely to increase.

Anyone who’s visited Amazon.com, Google, or Facebook knows that advertisements or promoted products are calibrated specifically to each user. This is not done by a team of guessing humans, individually testing ads and success rates, but is performed by intelligent, learning algorithms that use massive amounts of data from massive numbers of users (including data from off of their own sites) to present the advertisements or products more likely to generate sales.

The above applications seem like obvious first applications of the expensive technologies of AI because of the amount of money involved, and the necessity for businesses to stay ahead in a competitive marketplace (generating maximum revenue, giving customers offers that they want, etc…). Implications have already been seen in sports, with companies like Automatic Insights providing intelligent sports data and statistics in regular, human language in real time. My guess is that in the big-money world of professional sport, even this kind of advanced reporting will only be the very tip of the iceberg.

However, the implications will soon also reverberate into the worlds of more “complex” systems of meaning, as well as fields where the economic ramifications are less certain. I believe that the humanities (poetry, literature, philosophy) will see a massive surge of applied intelligence that will not only break the mold of the “genius of one,” but will also open doors to all of the future possibilities of AIs contributing to “creative” endeavors.

Future Implications of AI in “Creative” Fields / The Humanities

It seems perfectly reasonable that more applications for AI have been found in the domain of finance than in the domain of philosophy or literature. Finance involves numbers and patterns, while literature involves more complex and arbitrary ideas of “meaning” and a system of much more complicated symbols.

However, I must say that I am altogether surprised with the fact that there seems to be very little application of AI to the domain of the humanities. In part, I believe this to be a problem of applying AI to complex matters of “meaning” and subjective standards of writing quality (there is not clear “bottom line” as there is in finance), but the notion of the “genius of one” invariably plays a part in this trend as well, as even collaboration among humans (never mind collaboration with an AI) is often comparatively limited in these fields.

Not being an novelist, I can hardly say that if writers collaborated with other expert writers more often, they would create “better” overall works. I have an inkling, however, that this might be the case.

In the world of psychology, I believe that outside the desire to “hog the glory,” expert researchers would almost certainly take on the opportunity to collaborate on their most important projects with other expert researchers in the field. In the world of flowing data streams, applying AI and statistical models might also seem more applicable.

In philosophy – where works are generally still seen to be completed by lone, pensive thinkers in dark, pensive rooms – I believe that collaboration and AI will eventually transcend the “genius of one,” and rid us of the notion that the best work is done by solo minds.

If one philosopher spent 12 months aiming to compare and find connections between the ethics of Aristotle and Epictetus, I would argue that 12 very smart philosophers working together for 12 months might achieve much more insight.

Similarly, if intelligent algorithms could be created that could detect commonalities in terms, symbols, and meanings – entirely new connections and insights might be made possible, and much more vast reams of philosophical text could be analyzed in a much more uniform fashion – producing an objective perspective completely unattainable to human beings without an AI aide. I believe that this is already possible, though it’s applications in philosophy and the humanities in general seem almost nonexistent outside of a few events and experiments.

I believe very much in the power of the individual mind, and mean no disrespect to human capacity or to individual thinkers when I say that the era of the “genius of one” is going to progressively evaporate. In 1920, you might be able to win the Nobel Prize in your 40’s with a small team of researchers. In 2020, you’re more likely to win the Nobel Prize in your 60’s with a global research team that’s been hard at work for decades. Even the more “creative” domains of the humanities will experience a similar shift as collaboration becomes more common, research becomes more simple, and intelligence becomes more and more prevalent and nuanced.

Conclusion: Robot Shakespeare?

It is interesting to pose that at some point – potentially within this century, the best prose, the best novels, and the best philosophical insight will come not from individual geniuses, not even from teams of researchers, but almost entirely from AI.

This is not to say that I believe a “robot Shakespeare” will be in our midst anytime soon – but rather that we aught keep our minds open to the idea of AI being something other than calculators and cars that drive themselves. The nuanced connections of meaning can already be used to supplement human efforts with insights in so many domains, an in a period of 20, 40, or 60 years, we may see all elements of human capacity (not just statistical number-crunching) enhanced a billion-fold by AI’s of the future.

The ethical, political, and other implications aside, let us keep our eyes open for the implications of applied intelligence across all fields of human endeavor. We may question technology’s ability to contribute, but remember that it was less than 70 years between the early flights of the Wright brothers and landing on the moon. Might we seem a similar time frame between the advent of Amazon’s intelligent product offers and the replacement of humans at the helm of creative endeavor in writing, philosophy, poetry, and beyond. Only time will tell.

Thinking forward,

-Daniel Faggella

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