Artificial or Average

Recently I took a hiatus from writing poetry or fiction for over an hour almost every day. It wasn’t really intentional. Originally, I saw the two weeks’ work shut down at the end of the year as a gleaming opportunity for writing four or five hours a day. So, I lazed until nine in the morning, fixed a huge breakfast and read a little bit. Then I, leisurely dug through items for my winter cleaning. I have a pre-holiday ritual of dividing the necessary from the no longer needed items in my closets to remove clutter. At noon I called on friends who I had been ignoring or took extra long walks (weather permitting) and photographed whatever caught my eye. I even managed to start interesting conversations with my children during their semester breaks.

I figured that with a couple of weeks break from work, there would be plenty of time for me to write with increasing originality. But, without a tight schedule that required me to set aside time to do this, I failed to complete any creative writing. After two weeks of this existence I sensed a bland, bloated feeling that was hard to shake. I missed the daily routine in which I created prose that played with insights, imagery and new styles.

One of my tasks during this time was to gather new data on creativity. First, I reviewed what I had collected for over a decade after completing my research on creative talent development. I recalled the professors in the school of education who imagined creativity among gifted students as our best chance to correct the ills of society. A fairly tall order to be expected of students, I thought. How could students become so creative and that they could come up with the solutions to problems that we had perpetuated for centuries?

No matter how impossible the task, building creativity for the result of benefiting humankind is more palatable than the other reason for doing it. Companies want innovative workers to make money for them. I often hear that artists deserve to be paid for their creative products. I whole heartedly agree. But creativity has not become the key to growing the economy, or keeping company profits pouring in. I find an increasing embrace of the concept of creative destruction–the idea that technological innovation will disrupt economic structure from within. 

One of these innovations is the use of Artificial Intelligence or AI to do the creative work involved in visual art and writing. This was developed in an attempt to find new ways to make money by writing more books faster. At this point, authors really should not be sweating about AI taking over this task. AI technology writes in a bland style based on “averaging” the work of human authors, which has been archived on the internet. Sometimes the nonsensical results of AI writing in the middle of a bland and ordinary piece is momentarily interesting. But, the writing is never really daring. I am disquieted at the idea of a mass of “averaged” work being used to replace creative work–much more disturbed than I was as an idealistic art student in the seventies worried about being able to make a living with my ability.

I do not understand all the reasons that I have this insatiable drive to create new visual art and new writing. It doesn’t seem to be for fame or solving the latest crisis for humanity or amassing wealth. All art is essentially unnecessary, or it would not be art. However, my child is constantly sketching, painting, photographing or writing, and is currently majoring in technology and art–hooked on creativity, too. Ultimately I realize that creating makes my life more bearable, and hopefully I add a bit of joy to others by sharing what I have made.

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