Generative AI Still Needs Your Creativity

I remember the first time I saw a Prezi presentation.

It was 2009, the same year they launched, and Juliette Powell, author of 33 Million People in the Room, was speaking. She started by saying she had never created a slide-type presentation before, and proceeded to absolutely blow us away.

I had never seen anything like it. The slides were not like pages in a book -- they were a landscape she traversed on a jetpack. She zoomed in and out, flew here and there… It was stunning.

The second time I saw a Prezi presentation, I thought, “oh, there’s that awesome presentation software again.”

By the fourth or fifth time, I was over it. It had lost the desired effect. Here we go. Another Prezi. Eye roll.

In 2019, Pierre Morsa commented on Prezi's failure to revolutionize presentations.

“[I]ts over-reliance on movement effects quickly became a visual nuisance, making the audience feel as if they had been on a boat caught in a category 10 hurricane…Audiences are not bored because of PowerPoint, but because of how PowerPoint is misused by presenters, and adding more zooming in and out ad nauseam is not going to solve anything.”



I agree with him. I also have an additional take: it's very hard to maintain global relevance with a singular, powerful style.

What? Surely having a singular, powerful style is a good thing?

Maybe. If your singular, powerful style is applied to your own work, excellent. Banksy has a singular, powerful style.

But if your offering is about giving others the ability to create, then having them tied to a style is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it prevent them from, well, creating, but it means you saturate the market as soon as you reach any kind of scale.

I had a birthday a couple weeks ago, so I went on Facebook (a place I rarely visit anymore) to thank people for their well wishes. The first one I saw was from my friend Hana: a cool avatar of her celebrating and wishing me a happy birthday. Nice one, Hana, I thought.

Then another friend posted me the same avatar. And another. And another. By the end the avatar had lost all coolness, all meaning.

It had lost the desired effect. Here we go. Another FB-generated avatar. Eye roll.

I am seeing this now with Midjourney, with the high-end DSLR “look” that lots of people have been going for, despite the potential for near-infinite creativity by varying your prompts.

Nowadays, when I see this style of image on a social media post, I don't think, “Wow, what a stunning image! What high-quality photography!” I think: Here we go. Another Midjourney image. Eye roll.

Any style, no matter how creative or beautiful, can become saturated -- and as a result, there is no tech hack that can replace creativity. As soon as one exists, volumes of people start using it, and as soon as volumes of people start using it, it loses its power.

Where Generative AI excels is as a tool for the execution of creative ideas. You no longer have to be a brilliant photographer. You no longer have to be a skilled illustrator. You no longer have to know the details of how to implement your vision. 

But you still have to have a vision. Otherwise, you will just end up provoking the same reactions as Prezi, as the FB birthday avatar, as the Midjourney DSLR images. 

Generative AI still needs your creativity. Otherwise, all it will generate is eye rolls. And surely that’s not the desired effect.

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