Applied Imagination – Your AI Superpower

Could AI threaten your job, your role? Could artificial intelligence ever do what you do?


Yes… Maybe… One day…. But for the foreseeable future, AI will always fall short compared to human beings in one vital way. Our imagination!

AI can perform automated tasks incredibly efficiently. We know that. It can analyse data at unbelievable speeds and make informed decisions on what it discovers. It can make predictions based on the algorithms we feed it. But where we will always have the edge is in shaping the future through our imagination. Having ideas. Doing things differently.


AI cannot (yet) come close to our ability to be creative.


We can see this most clearly, I think, in the world of comedy.


Here are a few AI jokes….

I can’t find my keys, so I’m going to be late to my job as a keyfinder.”


I went to the doctor and told him I was losing my memory. He told me the problem might be due to my drinking. Then he told me this three more times.”


“Two dogs and a cat are walking down the street and they say to each other, “Wow, we’ve really got to lay off the meth.””

You might laugh. But try taking that material down to your local open mic night!

Now, for exactly the same reason that AI can’t do comedy, it’s also hopeless at innovation. That’s because jokes and ideas are made from the same stuff. I believe they share the same DNA – surprising truths that resonate. And only humans can know which surprising truths will resonate with other humans. We feel it in our gut. That feeling you get when you think “this’ll make you laugh” is the same feeling we get when we first think up a new idea. Believe it or not, there’s some really solid science behind how and why we get that feeling. And, more importantly, there’s a way of getting brilliant at it.


I’ve run hundreds of idea generation workshops, where we get teams together to bounce ideas around, and every single time there’s a moment when the magic happens. It’s always the same. It’s when somebody suggests an idea that makes everyone laugh. That unleashes our collective imaginations.


I’ve written over 50 episodes of award-winning TV sitcoms, and I’ve seen the same thing happen in comedy writers’ rooms. Laughter does something magical in our brains. It releases serotonin and dopamine and it activates an amazing part of our brains called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. The ACC helps us with a whole host of cognitive functions including emotional appraisal and reaction. How we feel about something. And machines don’t have and Anterior Cingulate Cortex.


When we laugh we’re reacting to a surprising truth that resonates with us, that makes us feel something, whether that’s a funny joke or a great idea. And the more we laugh, the more tuned in we are to our gut feelings, and so better equipped to have and judge new ideas.


That’s why advertising legend David Ogilvy was right when he said “the best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible”.


In my talks and my training sessions I explain how we can all make more of our natural ability for “funny thinking”, and why learning how to apply our imagination will be the superpower that will always give you an advantage over AI. Because AI is no laughing matter. That’s it’s problem.

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