AI and Creativity

2 minute read


After using ChatGPT for a few months, I’m developing a sour taste for the whole generative AI thing. It’s not because it’s not good at what it does. Most of the time, it’s incredibly proficient. I’ve mainly used ChatGPT to bounce ideas off and to give me suggestions – riffing on concepts. It’s an excellent tool for those tasks, usually generating a decent output. It’s not because of that. I’m beginning to dislike generative AI because it makes you feel like you’ve had anything to do with the creative process.

I get this uneasy feeling when I ask ChatGPT to “create” something more substantial than a list of ideas based on a prompt. There’s a voice that lingers in the basement of my mind while ChatGPT spits out another paragraph:

This prompt expresses my creativity, therefore the output is a product of my imagination; I made this.

I can fine-tune a prompt for hours to generate an output that resembles what I expect to see. I put in the effort, and the result improves over time. It is almost like I imagined it myself. And when I click the “Regenerate Answer” button, I receive something else entirely, but equally good.

It’s satisfying, but I still feel uneasy. Sure, though I’ve shaped the content through my prompts, I didn’t imagine it. It’s not even in my style. If anything, I’m simply passively consuming the output. Then, when I think it’s good enough, I can choose to distribute it, iterate on it, or use it in my own work. Creativity is not part of this process.

The basement voice objects:

Yeah, but given enough time and effort, I would have come up with something similar eventually.

No matter how much I want the idea to be my own, it’s simply not true. When I sit down and plot a story, it inherits my experiences, interests, and environment. ChatGPT is entirely separate from these things and will pull from the same sources every time, no matter how much you tweak the prompt.

But so do you!

Yes, but they’re my sources, not someone else’s.

I like ChatGPT because it makes it easy to feel creative. I like it because it’s this near-magical thing that entertains me. I like it because I don’t have to suffer as much through the blank-page period.

None of these things benefit me.

If creativity comes without effort, I’m not being creative. I’m not improving my creative skills if I ask someone or something else to do the work for me. At most, I’m commissioning a piece. At worst, I’m consuming someone else’s work and calling it my own. By definition of being externally generated, it cannot be a reflection of my personality.

So, am I rejecting ChatGPT and generative AI entirely?

No, I still think it’s a useful tool for validating ideas, especially non-creative ones. For example, it’s great for generating boilerplate code. But I will no longer use AI tools when what I’m creating is supposed to mean something to me.