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Can AI be Creative? Testing the Idea Generation Capabilities of ChatGPT

So can AI be truly creative? To test this out, I asked ChatGPT in December 2022 to generate ideas involving multiple entities. This was not long after ChatGPT was launched as a prototype on November 30, 2022, and not many were aware of its impressive capabilities at that time. I posted the output on Linkedin. 

The initial prompt presented to ChatGPT contained two entities, and with each subsequent prompt, an additional entity was added. However, it was not specified whether the goal was to generate a product idea or a business model. Despite this lack of clear direction, ChatGPT was able to successfully combine the given entities to create unique and thought-provoking concepts.

For example, when presented with only two entities (a helicopter and a hairdryer), ChatGPT generated a product concept that seamlessly merged the two. While this may seem like a simple task for most humans, as we naturally tend to combine concepts to develop new ideas, what was more remarkable was ChatGPT's ability to identify a practical and useful application for the product - in disaster relief scenarios. This demonstrated its capacity to not only generate ideas, but also to think critically about their potential uses and applications.

However, the applications that ChatGPT proposed for the product, such as using it to dry out flood-damaged areas and wet clothing to prevent mold infestation, were not immediately practical or realistic ideas. These applications would be classified as "wild ideas." Nevertheless, there was a certain logic and method behind the wildness of these proposals, making them imaginable and potentially viable.

This made the idea both humorous and interesting, highlighting the fundamental connection between creativity and humor. Humorous ideas are those that, while seemingly sensible in some way, and can be visualized, are impractical given our current understanding of the world. In this case, the limiting factor that prevents the idea from being practical is possibly the power of the hairdryer. However, if a significantly more powerful dryer could be developed, the idea would move from the realm of a wild idea to one that is both feasible and innovative.

As more entities, such as a camel and a cow, were added to the task, the concept generated by ChatGPT evolved from a product idea to a business model. While some elements of the idea remained clearly ridiculous, such as using a camel to transport farm equipment, including the cow and hairdryer, to a desired location, there were also aspects that were somewhat logical, in a limited way. Furthermore, the idea, in its absurdity, was undeniably humorous. Most people would likely have struggled to come up with an idea that was more feasible or practical, yet still incorporated all the entities provided. The model demonstrates the ability to find connection between seemingly unrelated things, and uses it to come up with something that is not only unique, but also elicits a response of humor and interest.

I believe that by studying how AI generates creative and humorous ideas, we can gain valuable insights into the human creativity process. We can learn from the strategies and techniques used by AI, and use that knowledge to help humans become more creative. Humans have the advantage of being able to more easily assess the practicality of an idea and the potential impact it could have on their lives. Understanding the capabilities and methods of AI in terms of creativity can help us to better understand human creativity, both in terms of how it works and how it can be improved. With the rapid advancements being made in the field of AI, it is likely that we will continue to see new developments that will shed light on the intricacies of human creativity and offer new ways to enhance it.