Robots: The saviours of creativity?

Robots and AI are increasingly illuminating the methods that lie behind being creative. Can they in turn help us become more innovative? 

Throughout history, creativity has been romanticised as ineffable or innate, born of a shapeshifting muse, or a gift from the Greek gods. Today, the word creativity is often used as shorthand for a specific type of cerebral individuality – the abstract, unexplain­able thing that makes one person a whizz with a grabby copyline and another a modular synth pioneer.  

Robots and AI change all that: they paint, write, compose music, and now even direct ads. Take Hanson Robotics’ creation Sophia, who last year ‘dropped’ a series of generative art NFTs (natch) created in collaboration with Italian artist Andrea Bonaceto, one of which sold at auction for nearly $700,000 (£517,000). 

Meanwhile, Ai-Da (created by a team dubbed The Oxfordians and conceptualised by Aidan Meller) recently created artworks and new ­poems based on Dante’s Divine Comedy using her AI language model to generate from the programmed source material – arguably in much the same way that humans have long drawn inspiration from, or paid homage to, ­existing art. Her drawings and selfies rely on cameras in her eyes – again, not dissimilar to her biological peers. The key difference is that she can’t create without responding to existing works, or at the very least human collaborators. Then again, can we?

Top: Ai-Da; Above: Sophia, created by Hanson Robotics