Uphill thinking

My team recently posted this piece by John Maeda to Shortcut. When Carly sent the team an initial draft she and John had worked on, I was mind blown—it was the best thing I’d read all week. Here’s an excerpt:

Humans are innately driven to take the adventurous, longer route. Our distinct traits of creativity, innovation, and uphill thinking compel us to explore the unseen, unheard, and untouched, even when it’s seen as rationally “wrong” by conventional standards. This shared spirit, found in entrepreneurs, athletes, and artists alike, is demonstrated in our history of remarkable art, groundbreaking discoveries, and revolutionary innovations. This willingness to embrace challenges, endure setbacks, and choose “longcuts” over shortcuts underscores our unique capacity for uphill thinking. Even as AI excels at efficiently executing repetitive tasks, it remains rightfully constrained by our design for safety and lower risks, making it less suited for the daringly imaginative and transformative tasks that creatives undertake. This courage to venture in unconventional directions, to bet the farm on an irrational path, is what differentiates us from today’s AI. The uphill thinking that may seem suboptimal in an AI-centric view is, in essence, the core of human creativity.

Carly and John mention RISD in the post—RISD students have been recently using generative AI tools to more quickly explore concepts, not to direct the actual concept itself. Generative AI itself can be used for uphill thinking or longcutting; rapidly creating a dozen iterations of phrasing, so that the person can decide which is best. In other words, the person can edit and rewrite.

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