Artificial intelligence bots such as ChatGPT might be better than people at some creative tasks, according to new research.
Researchers looked at the robots' ability to perform a cognitive skill known as divergent thinking, which we use to come up with ideas by exploring many possible solutions – and found, in general, chatbots were better than humans.
Simone Grassini, associate professor in the department of psychosocial science at the University of Bergen and Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience Lab at the University of Stavanger said: "Indeed, this is a remarkable type of ability that AI chatbots display.
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"The findings show that AI is better than most humans in creative thinking."
Scientists used an exercise known as alternate uses tasks to assess the divergent thinking capabilities of both people and chatbots.
The task involves a person – or bot – coming up with as many uses as possible for a common object.
Boffins performing the study found chatbots, on average, outperformed their human counterparts.
But Professor Grassini was quick to explain that this doesn't spell the end for human ingenuity – the best human ideas were still as good as or better than the best AI-generated ones.
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"Our results show that, at least for now, the best humans still outperform the AI," he explained, adding that the study measured "a particular type of creative thinking and not creativity in general."
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, saw Professor Grassini and her colleague Mika Koivisto, of the department of psychology at the University of Turku in Finland, use four simple objects – a rope, a box, a pencil and a candle – to test how many ways participants could think to use them.
Some 256 human volunteers went up against three AI chatbots – ChatGPT3, ChatGPT4, and http://Copy.Ai.
The researchers then rated responses on both creativity and semantic distance, meaning how closely related the answer was to the object's original use.
And while the bots scored scored significantly higher across all categories than the average human, the best human response beat AI in seven out of eight categories.
However, humans also generated a higher proportion of poor-quality ideas compared to bots.
Professor Grassini explained he first came up with the idea to test chatbots' creativity while playing around with ChatGPT.
"I noticed that some of the answers given by the chatbot displayed a good level of creativity," he said.
"I knew that the chatbot would have performed well, but I think it performed even better than what I expected."
Before you panic about being replaced by a robot, researchers also said the work highlighted how AI could be a tool to enhance human creativity – but that humans' unique, complex thoughts could still give them an edge over their tech counterparts in many more practical areas of life, at least for now.
"It is still to be established whether these capabilities of AI will translate directly on AI systems, replacing human jobs that require creative thinking," Grassini added.
"I prefer to think that AI will be helping humans to improve their capacity."
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