Is Creativity Our Last Bastion Against the Robots?

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Is Creativity Our Last Bastion Against the Robots

26 June 2018

I have written previously about how creativity needs to be the lifeblood of media owners, as we face the squeeze from clever, tech-driven platforms like Google and Facebook. At Offscript we are doubling down on delivering creative, high-production content in our advertising efforts. I really, really hope it's the right move to make and the market comes with us by investing in creativity and production. If not, I'll be looking for another job soon enough! But will there be any jobs for me in the near future? Or, indeed, for any of us?

It's not just the media industry and its people that are under threat from automated competition. The exponential rise of artificial intelligence, driven by machine learning, means that all of us could be out of a job within 25 years. I went for a run in the Dublin Mountains the other day, listening to the ever-enlightening TED Radio Hour. In the Digital Industrial Revolution episode host Guy Raz, interviewing leaders in machine learning and artificial intelligence, asks a similar question of all of the guests, all varieties on "are there any jobs out there that that machines cannot replace?" It's a really valid question, one that none of his guests can answer with any certainty. And frankly, it's a bit terrifying. And a bit exciting. Deep Learning, whereby machines can exponentially increase their learning in an unsupervised environment, is a particularly brilliant and powerful algorithm that enables artificial intelligence to outstrip human learning and capabilities in a very short space of time.

What can us fleshy anthropoids do in the face of such relentless progress? For some in service industries, the game is probably up already. People who work in call centres for examples - I'd be dusting off the CV if I were you. In fact, here's a handy test from the BBC as to whether a robot is going to take your job in the near future, the list below showing the jobs they believe are most at risk from AI.


But all is not lost. I really believe that a mixture of our creativity and intuition will be key to people keeping the robot horde at bay from our jobs. Now, I'm not saying that artificial intelligence cannot learn creativity (for example, check out Maurice Conti's talk on how machines can design better aerial drones that we ever possibly could) and spit something good back out. Inputting huge amounts of data; whether they be geometric shapes, works of art, brilliant poetry, into machines will allow them to reproduce works that could be considered genuinely creative.

For me, the application of human intuition to our creativity is what will set us apart from our robot cousins/arch-nemeses for a while longer yet. By that, I mean not only our ability to create but the context in which we create, recognising circumstances that require a creative solution and knowing the proper applications for our creative output will keep us ahead of the game for a short time. Maybe not forever, probably not forever, but while all around us are being made redundant and being replaced by more intelligent and efficient robots - my intuition (in your faces robots!) tells me that creativity can be the fortress that allows us to hold out for the longest.

There are so many brilliant applications for artificial intelligence, not least in the detection of life-threatening diseases, but there are so many unanswerable questions that lay ahead. I'm a foolish optimist in general, but I'm a bit unnerved at our ability (or lack thereof) to properly plan given the frightening pace of AI evolution going on around us.

I'd be interested to hear what the future of employment is going to look like, and what tools we have at our disposal to secure our own future. Will we all be able to sip caipirinhas on the beach in a few years while the robots to the work? Who's going to pay for the caipirinhas?