AI as a 21st century muse

We’ve all seen the headlines about AI killing human creativity. Or even worse, taking over creative jobs completely.

Based on my experiences, I disagree.

For me, artificial intelligence can give us opportunities to explore new channels and start our thinking in a different place.

It can augment our creativity. It can be our muse.

There are lots of examples of projects where AI and humans have collaborated to produce something that simply wouldn’t have been possible if either were to work alone.

The ChAIr Project, by Philipp Schmitt and Steffen Weiss is a particularly good one. Here, the two designers trained a generative neural network (GAN) using a dataset of iconic 20th-century chairs.

The designers then used the generated images as inspiration for a series of new chairs.

MIT students have taken a similar approach with their brilliant project “How to Generate Almost Anything”. Each week, the team have formed a new human-AI collaboration and have created everything from pizzas to fashion and truffles to perfume.

In each case, an AI was trained. Then a human took the generated pieces and used them to create fascinating, beautiful or delicious results.

To test the idea of using an AI as a muse, Tiny Giant recently worked on an AI-human collaboration of our own.

We called it cupcAIkes.

To create our GAN we teamed up with Derek at Sharpshooter Digital then trained a neural network using hundreds of cake recipes.

The resulting generated recipes were certainly interesting. Some ingredients like “troot” and “wof sprinkles” were somewhat offbeat, while other combinations including coriander, pear and chocolate, sounded surprisingly delicious.

Once we narrowed down the recipes, we worked with the Little House Kitchen, one of Bristol’s finest cupcake makers, to hone the machine’s suggestions and cook them up.

As a non-baker myself, taking the machine generated recipes and getting creative with them was the most enjoyable part.

My favourite generated ingredient by far was “twigs and wire for dusting”. This encouraged us to play with Flakes, spun sugar, liquorice, edible spray paint – and even a Play-Doh machine to get the final results.

Of course, we would never have thought of putting twigs or wire on our cupcakes. The AI gave us a new starting point, helped us explore unusual combinations and genuinely pushed us creatively.

I loved that.

To finish off the project we served up our five favourite flavours at our very own I’ll Be Back South West event on 6 December. The monthly meet-up, which explores the intersection between AI, creativity and advertising was the perfect place to see if our cakes were a hit.

I’m proud to say, the whole lot were gone by the end of the evening.

The Vanilla, Guinness and Marmalade combo proved to be the favourite.

So can AI be regarded as a modern-day muse? I think so, but do share your thoughts below.


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