In science fiction, artificial intelligence and machines are often portrayed as drones that take over much of the data crunching and physical heavy lifting from humans. In reality, however, we're finding that machine learning has been used to make art, music, and to hold conversations with us — reflecting the vast amount of content humans have created and shared through the Internet.
For many of us who spend time on social media and technology news sites, the explosion of machine learning-powered technologies felt dizzying. It felt like these technologies came out of nowhere and would "take over." As makers of tools and products, we faced the fears of missing yet another wave.
These user interfaces and technology advancements, in fact, live on a continuum. In 2015, I worked on SimplyInsight, where users could use natural language to ask questions about their marketing data and generate analytics reports. We innovated on chat-like natural language interfaces, integrations with large-scale data platforms, and user interface solutions for live data. SimplyInsight, like many other solution, have been a blip on the thousands of small iterations we have collectively performed to bring about the latest breakthroughs.
This wave, like all other breakthroughs of technology, is but a ripple in the journey of the human experience of being creators, makers & artists.
The Journey is the Destination
With the latest machine learning powered tools, the output is instantaneous, powered by a behemoth of machines. This is a big productivity gain, of course, despite the costs to enable the generative artificial intelligence services.
The focus on the output however narrowly scopes the human need & experience of creativity. In his seminal book, Flow, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines how being immersed in a process and finding one’s flow is crucial to fulfillment and happiness. Always optimizing for the end-goal & output dilutes this experience that we crave.
Further to this, an individual’s journey and story of pursuing a craft is a source of profound meaning to all humans. For creative tools to flourish, with and without artificial intelligence, they have to enable its users’ journey & pursuit.
Mastery Leads to Invention
Understanding the pursuit of mastery has been the practice of many traditions. ShuHaRi for example is at the foundation of Japanese apprenticeship. ShuHaRi describes the three stages of the journey to mastery & beyond.
Shu (protect) describes the early days of learning, replicating and practicing a craft by following its rules and honing its traditional practices. Ha (detach) is the ability to bend & break from the rules of a tradition once someone has learnt the practices of a tradition. And finally, Ri (leave) is achieved when inventions are brought to a tradition by someone who has mastered their craft; usually involving the amalgamation of multiple traditions and unique life experiences.
This process of invention has been a part of the human experience for eons and it is what continues to propel us forward. The mediums that artificial intelligence will enable will be yet another craft that humans will master & invent against.
Invention is Evolution
Throughout history, when anything new was invented, it was often followed by a period of hype, fear and uncertainty. As the dust settled, the applications of the invention became clearer and eventually people adapted their skills and mastered the new.
The hype that everything is dramatically changed with artificial intelligence will be fast to wane. The fear that artificial intelligence will outpace us will slowly dissipate as we discover the evolution we humans undergo in the face of this invention.
In the words of the great Rumi, “You will come to see that all evolves us.”