Is Creative Golden Age Over?

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I’m from the creative industry and I mainly work as a lecturer. I guess it explains why I wasn’t feeling so concerned by AI — or “The Great Job Replacement” so widely prophesied.

Actually, I haven’t been scared. So far.

Pipelining the creative process

In April 2019, an AI “Designer” has won runner-up and the public choice award in a major fashion design competition in Shanghai.

According to its creator, the DeepVogue system combines “real” designer involvement and deep learning. Human designers must provide inspiration images, themes and keywords to enable the DeepVogue system to produce original designs. The designers are then able to filter out the results based on cost and other preferences.

It seems that this creative AI system still needs talented humans to get inspired. Good news.

But it seems that providing machines with inspirational inputs is not a sustainable human competitive advantage.

Back to early 2017. In a Harvard Business Review case study “Predicting Consumer Tastes with Big Data at Gap,” author Ayelet Israeli covered The Gap’s CEO Art Peck’s attempt to replace his creative director with big data.

Facing intense competition of fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M, the goal was to reduce The Gap’s time to market of a chosen design. And Peck was betting that intelligence fueled by big data could outperform a fashion industry creative director at predicting the future fashion trends and tastes of consumers. The idea was to gather data from its own website, shops, social media, and Google Trends in order to understand what people are searching for, what people are interested in, and then use that kind of mining to understand what the current trend is. As a consequence, the designing process starts with an identified trend, not a creative director inspiration.

Can you still pretend to be a fashion-forward brand if you are following the average trend in the market, or spotting a trend that already exists like other fast fashion brands?

But it seems that being a fashion-forward brand maybe is not necessary anymore to make people buy your garments.

Choosy is a New York- and China-based startup that designs and manufactures apparel “inspired by” what is trending on Instagram. The company produces only items that customers have preordered and can manufacture in batches as small as a few hundred.

Is the startup able to scale up its business model and be really competitive with other fast-fashion brands? Hard to say.

So, yes, connecting these different innovations together could create, in theory, a “creative pipeline,” sadly incremental, always proposing minor iterations from the existing.

Selling more won’t make you more creative. Instead, you will be always vulnerable to human creativity, coming from the unexpected, the unknown.

I’m not afraid to see AI replacing creative jobs

I’m afraid of AI people: experts, gurus and other CEOs who don’t understand what is creativity. Its value. The real competitive advantage it is. I’m afraid to see tons of cash pumped into the research of new processes to shortcut this eureka step you cannot code.

Instead of trying to disrupt (or hack) this wonderful and sometimes unexplainable ability we have, we should care about creativity and feed it at every level of education.

But it seems that’s not the path we are following, unfortunately.

Written by

Head of Education @epfl-ecal-lab

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