Artificial Intelligence

LLMs and Creativity: Complements, Not Substitutes

LLMs and Creativity - This image depicts an art studio with walls covered in colorful graffiti and murals. The room is filled with various art supplies, including spray paint cans scattered on the floor and a crate. There are a few chairs and tables, some with equipment and art materials on them. Several large paintings are displayed on easels, featuring diverse and vibrant artwork, including portraits and abstract designs. The studio has a large window letting in natural light, and the overall atmosphere is creative and eclectic.

LLMs and Creativity – do they go together? Do you think Artificial Intelligence is (or can be) creative?

I don’t—not yet, anyway. When we get closer to AGI (if we do), the argument could be made that AI is / might be / can be creative, but at the moment, it is most definitely not.

So, why do we use Artificial Intelligence tools like large language models (LLMs)? Are we trying to replace the creative act of writing, programming, or design? Rather than using creativity to come up with a new marketing idea, we run to an LLM and ask it to ‘create an image’ for the marketing plan.

I use LLMs to help me when I’m stuck. When I have writer’s block, I go to chatGPT and ask, “Give me 5 ideas for blog posts based on XYZ.” It gives me five ideas in the blink of an eye. Is it creative in doing so? Absolutely not. The LLM is just putting words together in a way that is most likely to work together.

I use LLMs to create outlines and help in writing, although I tend to rewrite most of what I get out of the LLM. Is the LLM being creative? Again, no it isn’t. It’s just using probabilities to string words together. And 95% of people can tell that content is ‘spun’ by an LLM.

I use LLMs when programming. ChatGPT is very, very good at Python and SQL programming. Yes, it makes mistakes, but its mistakes are much better than mine, and they have become a force multiplier for me when doing any development work.  I’ve been able to crank out some code in 1/10th of the time it would have taken me in the past to do the same amount of work.  Does that mean the LLM is creative? No, it just means the LLM has seen a lot of code and can repeat that code based on the context in which the code was provided.

I try to use LLMs when trying to come up with ideas to post on LinkedIn. These days, you can’t just drop any old thing onto LinkedIn and get ‘likes’ and ‘comments’…you have to do all the things that the LinkedIn algorithm wants you to do so that it will show your posts to people. ChatGPT isn’t very good at this type of thing – it creates very poorly written and very ‘spammy’ feeling posts…I tend to use some of the ideas from its output, but I’m not that impressed with it for this use.  Again, not very creative.

How I think about LLMs and Creativity

I like to think of using LLMs in the same way I look at Lightroom and Photoshop for my photography. These two software products are tools that I use to improve my photographs. While some die-hard photography people argue that any post-processing in photography is ‘cheating,’ the vast majority of photographers do edit their pictures, especially outside of photojournalism.  Even the vaunted Ansel Adams did post-processing on his photographs, albeit in a much more manual way in the darkroom.

For each photograph that I think is worth processing, I have a workflow that I follow in Lightroom and Photoshop. I even use AI tools with both products to improve the image. I love the tools that Adobe has put into both software products, but they are tools that help make the image better; they don’t create the image from scratch. I still need some creativity to get to the point of using AI to improve things.

That’s how I think about LLMs and Creativity. They aren’t replacements; they are enhancers. They help me do what I need to do better.






About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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