It’s finally arrived. The day we all knew (dreaded?) would be upon us—the era of the machine.

Just last week Google released a suite of nine products: two new Google Home products, two smartphones, smart earphones, a smart pen, a laptop, a new AR device and a camera, all powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

And a few weeks prior at the Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity in Singapore, IPG Mediabrands’ chief digital officer for APAC, Scott McBride, declared that we’re currently “basking in an AI summer”. 

How to avoid awkward presentation moments
How to avoid awkward presentation moments
Convention centres need more trailblazers: AIPC
Convention centres need more trailblazers: AIPC
Brand experience secrets from the Mid-Autumn Festival
Brand experience secrets from the Mid-Autumn Festival

“The pace at which computing technology is evolving is driving change,” he said. “And now we arrived at the sweet spot, where AI can think beyond what it’s being taught—essentially, cognitive thought and learning.”

To demonstrate, McBride asked his personal assistant Alexa (developed by Amazon) a simple question: “Alexa, what is AI?”

Her response is sharp and informative. As part of her answer she says: “Artificial Intelligence involves mimicking human cognitive function, like learning.”

Reflecting on this, McBride informs the audience that he has been asking Alexa this question several times over the last week, and every time the definition becomes richer and more informed.

Big players like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, together with creative agency networks like Dentsu, TBWA and MEC, all spoke about the power of machine learning and how it can encourage creative thinking—ultimately helping to create immersive brand experiences.

Alexa, what is AI?

At the event, Microsoft’s Kunal Khosla introduced Cortana (Microsoft’s AI assistant) as “intelligence that transforms data into actionable insights”.

“We focus on language and voice, on being human,” Khosla added. “We want to create devices that inspire, not simply answering machines.”

Information technology is indeed revolutionising products and services. And as the oft-quoted Harvard Business Review report on smart technology says:

Smart, connected products offer exponentially expanding opportunities for new functionality, far greater reliability, much higher product utilisation, and capabilities that cut across and transcend traditional product boundaries. The changing nature of products is also disrupting value chains, forcing companies to rethink and retool nearly everything they do internally.

As a journalist, I’m acutely aware of just how quickly business models are changing… and that in a few short years thinking machines could power newsrooms instead of researchers and editors.

So after three days attending a festival on creativity, and after so much AI-fuelled discussion (both with and about machines), I was left wondering: What does it mean to be creative today? Is my creativity at risk of being challenged by a robot?

In coming years creative machines are expected to continue to transform our world. As complex problem solving becomes automated, AI will likely serve as a versatile source of on-demand talent. And with the ongoing talent woes of the events industry, perhaps it's time we all take AI more seriously? Working alongside a machine is no longer science fiction, it’s happening right now.

Humanoid, Pepper, can communicate with humans through voice and touch 

Adding more heat to the AI summer, the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cult classic, Blade Runner, was also released this month. Both films describe AI-powered machines (aka Replicants) as “more human than human”.

While Alexa, Siri, Cortana and their new Google cousins are a far cry from the Replicants in Blade Runner, the concept of machine learning is very real and has been slowly developing for decades.

And when we consider that most forms of creativity—be it visual, literary, performing arts, or brand engagement for that matter—are inspired by previous masters and appropriated for new audiences, then who’s to say a machine, made in man’s image, can’t learn do the same? 

Just look at the winning entries at this year’s International Robotic Art Competition.

Bold predictions... TBWA's Tuomas Peltoniemi

Back at Spikes, TBWA Asia president, digital and innovation, Tuomas Peltoniemi made a few keen predictions about the future of AI and machine creativity.

Imminent predictions (0-3 years) see AI used a tool to help with repeatable tasks and automation. The near future (3-8 years) will see AI-assisted creativity, but in the mid-term future (8-15 years) AI will be on par with humans, and capable of independent creative thought.

If you think this sounds farfetched, then consider how quickly computing technology has evolved in recent years.

MediaBrands’ McBride used a simple analogy to explain: The Apollo 11 rocket that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969 had a memory base of 64KB. The new Iphone X, meanehile, has 256GB of memory and a processing speed that’s almost 60 times faster.

So the question remains: Does AI nurture or stifle creativity?

Sure, data can help us make informed decisions and new tech can aid in making connections and creating immersive experiences, but will we soon have to compete with robots for our jobs?

The workforce of the future will undoubtedly feature greater automation and AI, but many commentators believe creativity will remain unscathed.

Twitter’s global creative director, Jayanta Jenkins, stands resolute behind the idea that the human brain is unique in its creativity and therefore technology will never become a threat.

I think (creatively) therefore I am? Maybe.

According to there’s already an 11 per cent chance my job will become automated, with a dismal -9 per cent projected growth rate by 2024.

Event planners, on the other hand, are slightly safer with an automation risk of 3.7 per cent and a 10 per cent growth rate... But now is not the time to be complacent.