Creating with AI
A book currently being translated into English

What is the history of Machines and Creation?
What is at the bleeding edge of research and practice?
The author, a practitioner at the forefront of the field,
carefully introduces the topic while clearing up its misunderstandings.
Finally, the author attempts to answer the question
: how can we live with AI in a creative way?

Creativity and Beyond
Nao Tokui
AI as a tool to
extend human creativity.
AI as a mirror to
reflect the essence of creativity.
We are about to witness
the birth of new forms of creativity:
artificial, alternative,
and alien creativity.
Design:Shoya Dozono


AI is rapidly gaining traction in society and has become a common topic in our daily conversations. Mass media has projected that AI will soon surpass human capabilities and will replace us in our jobs, and we have seen many books discussing the skills needed to survive in the “AI Age”. In contrast to AI, which can perform mechanical calculations with superhuman speed and accuracy, it has been said that humans still exceed machines at being creative and that we need to cultivate creativity in order to survive in the AI Age.

The purpose of this book is profoundly different from such discussions. Rather than focusing on the dichotomy of creative humans and mechanical AI, we will first question the preconceived notion that “machines cannot have creativity”. Building upon this, we will proceed with the discussion based on the hypothesis that “AI can have creativity different from that of humans.”

What is AI? Is it just a tool, or how can AI expand human capabilities, especially creativity? What is creativity, anyway? While unraveling the history of how imitation by machines has expanded human creativity, we will look at ongoing efforts around the world to illuminate a richer future for AI and creativity. You will be amazed at how the act of creation can take on a whole new shape through the lens of AI.

About the Author

Nao Tokui

CEO, Qosmo, Inc. / Associate Professor, Keio Univ./ Dentsu Craft Tokyo, Head of Technology

With his vision of “Advance the creativity of mankind with Art and Technology”, Nao produces artwork and tools that expand the possibility of AI in the creative domain and also works with corporate customers in their R&D. Works such as AI DJ are highly regarded internationally and his past works have been exhibited at MoMA in New York and the London Barbican Center. In January 2021, Nao wrote a book “Create with AI - Computational Creativity and Beyond” in which he envisioned the future creative relationships between human and AI technology, summarizing what he learned over the years of working with AI.He continues to be active in the global multi-disciplinary intersection between technology and creativity as an artist, a researcher and a DJ. Nao received a Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Tokyo.

徳井 直生 nao tokui


  • As someone who thinks about the future and enjoys gardening and surfing,
    I was struck by the essence of this great book on AI and human creativity through the expression "surfing with AI".
    Why, I'm looking forward to the future more!

    Michiaki Matsushima Editor-in-Chief, WIRED Japan

  • When faced with the grand theme of AI and creativity, I tend to think of abstract writing.
    As an artist, the author has been creating works using AI, and he goes much further into what creativity is.
    This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to think about creativity in the future,
    not just about AI.

    Koichiro Eto Senior Researcher, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) / Media Artist

  • As the name suggests, it is a book about AI, but it is not a book with a bias toward technology.
    Any reader will find thought provoking relevance to their own field.

    Shuta Hasunuma composer

  • A wonderful book I can recommend even for those who are not in the field of creativity.
    The writing style is wonderful as well as the content.

    Kaoru Kawamoto Professor, Shiga University

  • Talking about the future of creativity without reading this book is like going surfing without a surfboard. Among the many books on AI, this is an unparalleled work and a historical milestone, combining outstanding technical understanding with futuristic thinking.

    Akira Shibata COO, Qosmo

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Can AI Be An Artist?

  • 1.1

    What is AI?
    — Making is understanding

  • 1.2

    Pictures drawn ‘by’ AI

  • 1.3

    AI cannot become an artist

  • 1.4

    AI is more than a tool

Chapter 2

The Library of Babel
— The essence of creativity through AI

  • 2.1

    Creation and The Library of Babel

  • 2.2

    Definition of creativity as seen from a computer

  • 2.3

    Text generation by AI
    — Burroughs, Bowie, and GPT-3

  • 2.4

    AI and musical-scores, performance, and sound generation

  • 2.5

    Is it true that “machines do not produce anything”?
    — 19th century AI

  • 2.6

    Evolution and Creativity-The Genetic Library of Babel

  • 2.7

    Can AI gain Creativity?

Chapter 3

A history of AI, Simulacra, and simulation

  • 3.1

    AI Hibari Misora and Impressionism

  • 3.2

    Edison’s Turing Test

  • 3.3

    Photography and Impressionism
    — Imitation is more than flattery

  • 3.4

    A failure to replicate changed music

  • 3.5

    Early AI art
    — a painter whose creation was a machine to replicate himself

Chapter 4

AI Aesthetics
— The Impact of AI on Expression

  • 4.1

    The Peacock’s Tail
    — AI-based optimization pitfalls

  • 4.2

    J-POP by Sinatra
    — The disappearance of embodiment

  • 4.3

    Between production and consumption
    — a world beyond “artifacts”

Chapter 5

Tips for creatively interacting with AI

  • 5.1

    Connecting the seemingly unrelated

  • 5.2

    Producing the uncanny

  • 5.3

    Embracing heterogeneity

  • 5.4

    Converting value by mistake

  • 5.5

    Tips for creatively interacting with AI


The future of AI and creativity

  • AI and Surfing

Author's note

Chapter Summary

Chapter 1

Can AI become an artist?

What is AI? How will the evolution of AI change "creativity," which has emerged as an inviolable domain that only humans can achieve? The first chapter is an introduction to the main theme that runs throughout the book.
In 2018, "Edmond de Belamy", the world's first work painted "by" AI, was exhibited at Christie's, the world's leading auction house, attracting attention as a work of art created by AI on behalf of humans.

"Edmond de Belamy" by The Obvious

On the other hand, Klingman, the internationally acclaimed artist and the creator of Memories of Passerby I (photo), which was auctioned at Sotheby's the following year, argues that AI is a tool, not something that can be personified as a creator.
I believe that both the position that "AI is an artist" and the position that "AI is just a tool" are inadequate. I believe that AI can reveal important hints for enhancing human creativity.

Chapter 2

The Library of Babel — The Nature of Creativity through AI

As one way of unraveling the mystery of creativity, this chapter will introduce several ways to dissect it. For example, the psychologist Margaret Borden classified creativity into three categories: "combinatorial creativity," which combines multiple disparate ideas; "exploratory creativity," which explores possibilities within a predetermined concept; and "transformative creativity," which expands the concept itself and creates a new genre.
In order to expand exploratory creativity to transformative creativity, a Korean artist group Shinseungback Kimyonghun has created a new method of expression by using a face recognition AI algorithm to draw portraits that are not recognized as faces. This is an example of AI extending creativity into a previously unexplored direction.

"Nonfacial Portrait" by Shinseungback Kimyonghun

The intervention of algorithms is not limited to assisting new developments in creativity, but I have witnessed on numerous occasions how algorithms can produce unexpected results and surprise people. In Carl Sims' "Galapagos," the genes of virtual life forms are crossed to create a variety of interesting virtual life forms, with the viewer choosing the candidates for the next generation of life forms. It is a good example of how even a simple algorithm can have emergent properties that humans had not imagined, and also a reminder that creative life forms such as ourselves were created from simple evolutionary algorithms of mutation and natural selection.

"Galapagos" Photo: Takashi Otaka Courtesy of NTT InterCommunication Center
Chapter 3

AI and Impersonators: A History of Imitating Machines

The criticism that AI is nothing more than an imitation of humans has been voiced many times before, as AI is trained by past human activities. Such criticism often implies that AI cannot have its own creativity. However, imitative technology has had an immense influence on human creativity. When recording technology was introduced, starting with the gramophone and later the camera, they were considered insulting because they threatened to replace the work of performers and painters with imitations. However, as the technology spread, it expanded human creativity instead.

In some cases, immature imitation technology has given birth to new ways of expression. The TR-808, released in 1980 by Roland, an electronic musical instrument manufacturer, mimicked the sound of a drum kit, and its initial sales pitch was that you can record a demo tape without a drummer, but the initial response was lackluster since it did not sound like real drums. However, the very fact that it didn't sound like a drum gave TR-808 a futuristic appeal, and it became widely used in hip-hop music, which was just beginning to emerge at the time. Later on, TR-808's unique kick drum and snare played a major role in the birth of dance music such as electro and drum 'n' bass, and today it is widely known as a machine that changed the history of music.

The painter who is credited with being the first to incorporate imitative AI into the creation of art is Harold Cohen. At the height of his career, he attempted to redefine art by creating a computer program called Aaron. By incorporating a series of decision-making processes for expression that he carries out into an AI system, he was able to clarify and formulate his creative process. During the creation of this system, as the artist himself stated, his skills have been further explored and refined.

Don't be fooled into thinking that AI is just imitating humans.

Cohen and Aaron (1995) SCIENCEphotoLIBRARY
Chapter 4

AI Aesthetics: The Impact of AI on Expression

While the previous chapters have demonstrated that AI can have a substantial impact on creativity, future developments in AI have the potential to bring about even more revolutionary changes to the creative process. AI will not only be able to mimic human creations, but also learn from the reactions of those who consume them, to create even higher quality output. A characteristic of AI-based creation is that it will be difficult to know where the author's domain ends and the collective consciousness begins. In this new paradigm of creation, even the structure of the "creator's" work being consumed by the "receiver" will disappear, and a world in which the creator and receiver continuously create contents via AI will be established.

The Impact of AI on Expression

In 2020, OpenAI announced Jukebox, which automatically generates songs like “Kanye West singing Elvis Presley in a hip-hop style” by learning from the audio of 1.2 million famous artists. As these songs become available on the market, we as listeners will begin to weed them out based on our tastes. In recent years, music streaming platforms have been collecting detailed data not only on listener attributes, but also on their listening behavior. By combining these parts and sending feedback to the AI, listeners themselves become involved in the AI's creative activities and become part of a system that produces superior music. At the same time, there are concerns that excessive feedback may lead to a loss of diversity.

The Impact of AI on Expression
Chapter 5

Tips for Dealing Creatively with AI

Influenced by the works discussed in the previous chapters, and expanding on their ideas, I have also been creating works that extend human creativity through AI.
AI DJ is a project that I have been working on since around 2015, in which an AI DJ and myself take turns selecting and playing one song at a time. The goal is not to automate DJing with AI. Rather, we wanted to develop a new realm of expression with a sense of tension that has never existed before. An early prototype that learned from the playlists of past DJs ended up with mediocre and unsurprising song selections, so I decided to learn purely musical impressions to break out of this rut. I'll never forget the goosebumps I got from the AI DJ's unique jazz selection after I had played a techno masterpiece at a performance.

AI DJプロジェクト
"AI DJ Project" Photo: Yasuhiro Tani Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM)

Another story in which I experienced the process of diversification of expression and evolution of understanding through "imitation" by AI is a project with Israel Galvan, who is considered a revolutionary in the world of flamenco dance. We developed an AI to perform with Israel, who is known to rarely dance with other dancers due to his unique style. When we converted his own steps into data for the AI to learn, Israel repeatedly told us that he did not want a degraded copy of himself. We developed a probabilistic interpretation of the output generated by the AI in order to deviate from existing patterns. After the performance with the AI, Israel's words left a deep impression on me: "I felt as if there was some unknown creature on the stage that didn't feel like a human being. It was very inspiring."

Israel & イスラエル
"Israel & イスラエル" Photo: Tomoki Moriya, Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM)
Final Chapter

AI and the Future of Creativity

I turn to surfing to find the ideal way to interact with AI. In surfing, you are passively "swept" by a wave, but you also take initiative to catch the right wave. Distinguishing between areas where we should give up control to AI and areas where we should not, and actively delegating those areas where we can, we can hope to achieve a richer culture and society. There is a big difference between riding a wave and being swallowed by one. We need to keep in mind that leaving everything to AI will not lead to a bright future.

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