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The art of creation
4 min read

The art of creation

The Merriam-webster dictionary defines the act of creation as "to bring into existence" [Something that didn't exist before].

There are traditionally three ways that we as human beings have been able to wield this supposedly godly nature.

1. Creating with Constraints

When I was working as the head of Incubation in IIT Madras, now and then we would meet officials - either from the government or corporations that would give a brief that would sound like this :

We need to expand financial services into rural India. The way we can do that is using ATMs, but traditional ATMs cost 7-8L INR (Approx 14-15K USD), need air conditioning, consume a sizeable amount of power, and do not have a vault size that can have enough cash to sustain for a few days so that it doesn't have to replenished everyday.

And so the brief would be to build a machine that would cost one tenth the cost, wouldn't require air conditioning, can survive in a dusty environment, would require far less power so that it can be powered using UPS and solar power when there is power failure and a sizeable single denomination cartridge that wouldn't require refilling for a few days.

The result, you get a low cost ATM machine that went on to be deployed all over rural India.

2. Creating as a Craft

There is also a way to create by developing your craft. If you become sufficiently proficient in your craft, you can push the envelope and iteratively evolve something into something else. Rafts become boats, and boats become ships and ships evolve into submarines, and submarines evolve into aircrafts.

Also read: Mastery through re-creation.

3. Creating by Design

The third process of creation is through a design framework. Companies like IDEO and Stanford's D-School have come out with processes to create something as an answer to solve a problem. This truly has been the decade of Design thinking.

But there is a new process emerging.


4. Creating with Process and Iteration

A few days ago, I came across this website called thispersondoesnotexist.com. At first I wondered if this was a missing person's website, but in fact it is actually a site where an AI is used to generate photos of people - none of which are real.

This Person Does Not Exist
This Person Does Not Exist

The system uses an algorithm called GAN - Generative Adversarial network which has two parts. One part creates a lot of samples with all possible combinations (called the Generator) and the second part looks at all the outputs and like a diligent school teacher accepts and rejects the samples (called the discriminator).

The feedback loop from the discriminator's discarded samples essentially then tell the generator what is "right" and what isn't, so that it stops creating samples with faulty and unacceptable elements, and in return starting to churn samples that mostly start to get accepted.

If you've ever tried to submit a form and played "prove that you are a human" by selecting bits of pieces of an image, that was essentially inputs for the discriminator to determine what passes and what doesn't. The machine only needs to be trained once.


This concept isn't new though. The heart of all electronics is what is called an oscillator - everything that has a clock in its heart is an oscillator and an oscillator keeps everything working in a synchronized manner. At the heart of how it works is a similar generator - corrector mechanism. GAN is just the AI version of the same concept, that can create samples that we can relate to.

One way to react to all this would be fear.

The other way to react to it would be to see it as a tool that would significantly aid us in our creation process.  In order for the AI to be able to create something that passes as legit as a real person, it does millions of iterations - it is evolution accelerated. We can manually do the same, but probably would spend a lifetime just getting halfway through.

A few weeks ago, someone showed me an AI tool that is being used by architects that can analyse the footfall of usage of public spaces and design optimised plans that look organic. We can use tools to create cities and neighbourhoods where we can ensure that there is a local market, school, emergency services all within walking distance of the residential areas so that we live healthier lives and less reliant on transportation for everything. As of now, we've been limited by our ability to factor in all these moving variables into a design.

There are certain mental expectations that we have built in ourselves as to what a home, car or even an appliance should look like.  When form follows function, we will start to see some really interesting creations.

I strongly believe that we would be a species that makes inter-planetary travel in our lifetime and we are going to see a new frontier of design, in the way we design space crafts, and also in the way we design living habitats in an environment of constraints - much of which will reflect back into making life on this planet far more sustainable.  And these new tools are going to play a big part in all that. Or at least that is the hope.

And there is one more type of creator. The Perfectionist.

Creators who are perfectionists are extremely into analysing everything they possibly can - sizing up the market, understand what all the types of customers are, positioning all the competitors and will want to get the requirements specific to a dot. The only problem is that they are such perfectionists that they never ship. Don't be that. Get going, and iterate it out along the way.

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