ChatGPT and Creativity: is it peanut butter and chocolate or ketchup and red licorice?

The Secret Menu
4 min readSep 30, 2023

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When I was little I decided that I was going to run away. Undoubtedly my parent’s had put some reasonable restriction on me, which I deemed too much to bear and I decided to hit the road. I packed alunch, put it in a cloth, tied it on a stick and started walking. I’m also pretty sure I was inspired by some TV show I had recently watched, as I’m sure that I did not think that tying my lunch box to a stick with a red handkerchief was the best way to travel. My mom helped me get my lunchbox tied to the stick and off I went. You have to understand that my mom was not being callous; we lived on a farm, miles away from the nearest house, so she knew that I wasn’t going to hop on a train and never be seen again.

In packing my lunch I decide to make a sandwich combining two things that I loved. It was a ketchup and red licorice sandwich. After about five minutes of walking I decided it was lunch time. I ate my sandwich, got a stomach ache and headed back home. There were a lot of lessons to be learned that day, but one that really stuck is that sometimes things that are really good by themselves become really bad when they are combined, and in fact they can do weird things to us. Wonder bread, ketchup, and red licorice definitely fall into that category. Of course sometimes certain combinations are magical and launch candy empires, such as peanut butter and chocolate.

In leading an organization focused on teaching people how to develop creative purpose during a time when it seems as if ChatGPT is going to take over the world, I’m wondering if ChatGTP and creativity is a magical combination like peanut butter and chocolate or if it’s going to more like ketchup and red licorice.

Right now I’m in a bit of the ketchup and red licorice mindset and here is why.

First I think we should all acknowledge that there are no experts yet on how AI is going to change the world. There are a lot of ideas, but AI is too new to have the body of knowledge built up that is needed to support true expertise. Some people definitely understand how it works and its capabilities better than others, but we are all learning the implications together.

When it comes to ChatGPT and creativity, what I’m thinking about at this moment is how ChatGPT will impact the motivation needed for developing creative purpose. Creativity is not magic, anyone can be creative, but it does require learning a process and putting in a lot of hard work. It’s like pretty much anything else worth doing. The part I worry about is that as people start growing up using ChatGPT, and ChatGPT gets better, people may lose the drive needed to be creative because they feel that they can’t compete.

Daniel Gross’s study about competition and creativity in the graphic design field found that some competition can increase incentives for artists to create original designs but heavy competition depresses incentives. I worry that students who grow up with ChatGPT will view the “creative competition” created by ChatGPT as too heavy, and they will lose their desire to even try, much the same way that I don’t even try to understand the best way to go somewhere; I just type in an address on my phone and go. Losing the motivation to navigate is not that big of a loss, but losing the motivation to create is. And this nervousnesses is just in the context of ChatGPT 4, which makes me feel like I’m writing about why we should think carefully about the impact of Friendster, not even comprehending where Instagram and Tik Tok might take us.

I had learned how to make a ketchup and red licorice sandwich, but I did not think carefully about what it would do to me. I feel that we are in a similar situation with ChatGPT and creativity. We are very interested in learning how to use ChatGPT and understanding what it does for us but we need to understand not just what it does for us, but also what it does to us? We need to talk about this more than we are because unlike my five minute walk home, we could move too far and too fast to go back.

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The Secret Menu

A place to find all of the good stuff and wonder why these things aren’t on the main menu.