The power of emotional intelligence: Why AI and robots will never compete with human creativity

Matt Parkes
The Tokyo University Institute of Indust
Robots might be able to paint an apple, but they still lack emotional intelligence (Source: Getty)

There have been an increasing number of reports about the rapidly developing world of AI, where computers can learn to use big data independently.

Most recently, Google yesterday announced it would begin exploring whether automated machines are capable of creativity and producing original artwork and music.

Many people's gut reaction to this is that nothing, not even the innately human ability to create, is safe from the machines.

It makes me think of the "infinite monkey theorem": give a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time and eventually, it will type something that makes sense.

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So, if we give computers (AI) huge amounts of big data and time, they will eventually develop creative ideas that can compete with the likes being dreamt up by skilled creatives and brilliant agencies all over the world?

Right? Wrong.

The beauty of creativity is its ability to take the obvious or the logical and completely fly in the face of it.


Let’s take advertising as an example. No computer would ever have suggested that if you put a man in a gorilla suit and got him to play the drums to Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" you would sell more chocolate.

Likewise, no computer would have thought that throwing 250,000 coloured balls down a street in San Francisco would sell more TVs. And yet both of these ads led to huge success (and sales) for the brands in question.

Design, too, is a highly creative discipline which benefits from the emotional intelligence that only humans can provide.

Read more: Why design is finally having its day

Whereas a computer could be programmed with data and consumer insight and be led to a fitting design solution as a result, a creative would look at the same brief and come up with something relevant, evocative or moving, that may defy the data but would still be the best solution to bring that brand closer to its audiences.

There is no doubt that AI is developing at an alarming and impressive rate. The capacity of computers to absorb and analyse data, and produce a logical, effective solution based on that data is phenomenal.

But it’s not creativity.

AI will always do the expected as the offered solution is based on factual data. They won’t have that rebellious streak, that propensity for seeking out the charismatic ideas that will make people sit up and talk about a creative campaign or a brand.

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