Artificial Intelligence has always been a subject of debate, especially among creatives. After all, those of us who work on creating narratives (either with visual images, text or audio) would generally hate to think that what we do can be easily replicated by a machine. And because a huge part of art lies in the “craft”, the idea that years of experience and practice can be broken down into formulas and algorithms definitely stings.
At the last Adobe Max Conference, Adobe showed off even more innovations from their incredible Adobe Sensei team. This technology powers all the intelligent features across Adobe products, and is largely responsible for what we know to be the Adobe magic.
Sensei uses a combination of machine learning (where programs improve their performance when you feed them more data) and deep learning (where machines learn to work and adapt to new data the way our neurons do) to identify and process information that might otherwise be lost in the mass of data that’s the internet..
THE COMPUTER KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED
For example, Adobe Sensei can search through the over 100 million assets in Adobe Stock to find you images that have just the right lighting, color palette and aesthetic quality just by getting a query like “family on a beach at sunset”, or better yet, by matching a picture that you upload. The latter option saves you from having to guess the exact keyword combinations needed to find just the image you want.
Adobe Sensei can also be used to recommend ideal edits to exposure, contrast and other settings by comparing the image information (EXIF) on your photo with the thousands of professionally edited images in Adobe’s database, saving you time by applying these settings with just a click.
Some of Photoshop’s newest features like Select and Mask are even better than before, making intelligent selections of complicated subjects possible in minutes rather than hours. Impressive for sure, but you can’t help but feel like these technological advances take away from the “craft” as much as they save you time.
BUT, CAN THERE BE ART WITHOUT CRAFT?
One of the advances shown at the recent Sneaks even turns a voice recording into notes played by a selected musical instrument, so you can just hum a song and AI will create a recording of the instrument playing it. So if you have a tune in your head, you can have it played by any musical instrument without spending a single minute learning how to play it.
Suddenly it seems as though anyone with the access to the right software will be capable of creating incredible works of art. Give anyone the powers of Adobe Sensei, and a mediocre photograph can be turned into a great one… or can it? Adobe has taken great pains to stress that creativity is “profoundly human”, and that no technology they can create will replace it, even commissioning a study by Pfeiffer Consulting to find out what creatives thought about AI and technology’s role in creativity.
It turns out a good 74% of the creatives interviewed said more than half of their time is spent on repetitive, uncreative tasks; In other words, things that could be performed by an AI assistant. 89% said they would be interested in a creative AI assistant that reduces drudgery, and only 16% could not imagine working with an AI/ML based creative assistant. When asked if they were afraid of AI threatening their jobs, 54% of creatives answered “Not at all” compared to just 9% and 7% who replied “Extremely” and “Quite a lot” respectively.
The overall consensus was that creativity is profoundly human. It’s not just about what you create, but why you created it. As such, AI can enhance creativity, but never replace the human creative spark.
THE VALUE OF AN IDEA
Perhaps the most difficult part in all this is in getting us to recognize the value of our own ideas, and that’s a fundamental issue with creativity.
How many of us have decided from an early that we weren’t artistic simply because our sketches looked nothing like the real thing? Aesthetic has always gone a long way towards determining the value of “art”, but history has also been littered with artists going against the grain, like Marcel Duchamp and his works that are merely concerned with making a statement rather than being “beautiful”.
Maybe Adobe Sensei is just the thing we need to diminish the emphasis on “craft” and refocus it on “art”. More people tapping into their creative selves can only be a good thing.
After all, the best inventions have always come from crazy ideas. And where best to find crazy ideas than in the arts?
Creativity is profoundly human. It’s not just about what you create, but why you created it. As such, AI can enhance creativity, but never replace the human creative spark.