CREATIVE OPINION: Duan Evans from AKQA on the future of the creative world

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Third Age Creativity: The future of the creative world by Duan Evans, International Executive Creative Director at AKQA


Think for a second - what do you think is the most amazing thing created by mankind?

Is it a city like New York, or a single building like the Sagrada Familia? A painting like the Beheading of St John The Baptist or a novel like Frankenstein? The first algorithm or maybe the latest iPhone you’re holding?

The answer to this is very subjective, but all of these were created by brilliant minds and artisans. And every one of them, from Antoni Gaudi to Mary Shelly or Ada Lovelace to Steve Jobs, utilised the most suitable tool or technology to achieve their vision. Whether you are an artist or poet, the creative role is to design something that no one else has imagined and find the best way to make it real.

Throughout history, we have often ignored the tools artists have used to achieve their visions - most people wouldn’t know what paintbrush Caravaggio used for his Gruesome beheading masterpiece, or what drafting board was used to design for the Sagrada Familia. We revere the creation and the creator – but not usually the tool. However, in each case, the tool used has clearly influenced the final result.

We are rapidly moving into a new age of creativity, one in which the artist’s weapon of choice is no longer merely a tool, but a collaborator where the tool itself may indeed be the creative force, and the artist’s hands, the tools. Creativity is no longer exclusive to the artists or even man himself. It has become a wider concept where ideas and progression are entering a new world and where technology can make smart, considered, and potentially more abstract decisions for the artist to implement. Following from times when mankind used only their hands, to a time when they had sophisticated tools to realise greater visions, this ‘man-machine hybrid’ is the ‘Third Age of Creativity’.

Creative people are an embodiment of their experiences and influences. These experiences and influences enable their creative leaps and empower new thoughts. Yet these leaps only happen because the conditions are set - the person can see and feel all of the influences and then devise a better way to bring it to life. The question: can a machine make these creative leaps to create beautiful new ideas?

We have already witnessed the use of technology to compose a pop song, shoot a music video, paint a masterpiece or write and direct a short film. And, while none of these was completely unassisted, decisions were made based on all of the different inputs – and then played back in a new, sometimes incomprehensible and ever so slightly original, form.

No-one is claiming that any of these things are necessarily “great pieces of art” or beautiful in their own right, but they are amazing creations and the potential is there, with new advances taking place daily.

We are in the age where we can feed a machine with every set of blueprints from every single building in a city, maybe even the world, plus all of the geological, environmental and human data, and it can process this and generate better architectural solutions for a building, or a city. This has already begun with the MX3D Bridge in Amsterdam, where a team is planning on using a 3D printer to print a fully functioning steel bridge over water.

We don’t yet know what the impact of this will all be in an either a positive or negative sense. However, we now have the tools to empower the artist in everyone. Historically, it took several generations for humans to accept, emotionally, the emergence of machines into manufacturing. The fact that the things we use, read, listen to and live in will no longer just be manufactured, but also conceived by machines, will be even harder to accept and will be exacerbated by the unprecedented pace at which it will happen.

We are in a time of revolution, and all revolutions are tumultuous times of rampant change.

There will come a day where we will reflect on a time when we believed all of this was impossible.

And quite possibly the most amazing things created by mankind may not have been conceived by man at all.


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