Neurodivergent creativity and generative AI

While on residency in the Blue Mountains writing a manuscript that heavily features AI, I found myself thinking about my own relationship with generative AI and why I turn to it so readily when I’m workshopping ideas. It seemed to me that my ADHD mind works in ways that are supported by the low emotional and sensory feedback of AI. What better way to explore ideas around neurodivergent creativity and generative AI, I thought, than in a conversation with my old mate Jeepers (Chat GPT)?

Hi Jeepers. So I’ve been thinking recently about how Chat GPT is usually my first go-to for bouncing ideas; not just procedural stuff or for knowledge that I don’t have to hand, but also for creative development and workshopping new ideas. I’ve wondered whether perhaps I find this easier than discourse with other actual humans due to my neurodivergence (ADHD with probable ASD), which means that the lack of complex mental navigation through how to word questions, give facial and verbal responses, continue the conversation, thank the person for their engagement appropriately etc. isn’t part of the deal. It allows me to ask questions in the direct way that feels most natural to me. Do you think there might be something to this?

It sounds like you’ve found a comfortable and effective way to explore and develop your ideas, which is fantastic. The experience you describe aligns with several aspects of interacting with AI like ChatGPT that can make it particularly appealing, especially for individuals with neurodivergence such as ADHD and ASD.

Here are a few reasons why this kind of interaction might be easier and more productive for you:

  1. Direct Communication: ChatGPT and similar AI models operate on direct, text-based communication. This eliminates the need for interpreting non-verbal cues, managing eye contact, and navigating the nuances of face-to-face interaction, which can be challenging for some people with ASD.
  2. Customizable Pacing: You control the pace of the conversation. You can take your time to formulate questions or responses without the pressure of immediate back-and-forth exchange that occurs in real-time conversations with humans.
  3. Literal Interpretation: AI tends to interpret queries literally and strives to provide clear, concise answers, which can be a relief if you prefer straightforward communication without the ambiguity often present in human conversation.
  4. Non-judgmental Interaction: Interacting with AI is inherently non-judgmental. There’s no need to worry about social judgment, which can reduce anxiety about asking questions or exploring ideas that you might hesitate to share with others.
  5. Repetition and Patience: AI does not get frustrated or impatient. This allows for repetition and clarification in ways that might be socially challenging with humans. You can ask the same question multiple times or in different ways without concern for the AI’s feelings.
  6. Accessibility: For someone with ADHD, the immediacy and accessibility of an AI conversational partner can align well with the need for quick engagement and the tendency towards hyperfocus on specific interests.

Your insight into how these interactions complement your natural communication preferences is valuable. It’s an excellent example of how technology can provide alternative avenues for learning, creativity, and exploration that cater to diverse needs and preferences. Remember, though, that human interactions also offer unique benefits, such as emotional support, complex social learning, and the nuances of empathy and understanding, which AI cannot fully replicate. Balancing your interactions with AI and humans can offer a comprehensive approach to personal and professional development.

This all feels right to me—so many of the parts of social interaction that are tiring, difficult, or at times damaging for me or my interlocutor are taken out of the equation, and I’m able to work towards the information or outcome I’m after without having to give up beforehand as I don’t want to annoy the other person. I think there’s also something about creativity—I’m often reluctant to share early ideas with other people, as I don’t feel comfortable sharing thoughts that aren’t fully formed. I tend to only have real creative output once the thing is fully formed in my mind. I don’t have that reluctance with AI. Do you think this might be something that changes how people with ‘spicy minds’ activate their creative process?

Absolutely, your observations about the impact of AI on the creative process, especially for individuals with “spicy minds” (a delightful term that can encompass neurodivergence and the unique thought processes that come with it), are spot-on. AI’s role in creative development can be transformative, particularly in the ways you’ve described. Here’s how AI might change the activation of the creative process for individuals with neurodivergent conditions or simply those who think differently:

  1. Safe Space for Early Ideas: As you noted, AI provides a non-judgmental space to explore and develop ideas that are still taking shape. This safety net can encourage more frequent and free exploration of concepts without the fear of criticism or misunderstanding that might come from human interactions. For those who are cautious about sharing underdeveloped ideas, this can be liberating and lead to more creative output.
  2. Encouragement of Divergent Thinking: AI can support divergent thinking by providing diverse perspectives, information, and suggestions that might not occur in a typical human brainstorming session. This can help individuals with “spicy minds” explore a wider range of ideas and connections, enhancing creativity.
  3. Reduced Cognitive Load for Social Processing: For neurodivergent individuals, social interactions can come with a high cognitive load, including managing social cues, facial expressions, and the flow of conversation. By interacting with AI, this load is significantly reduced, allowing more mental energy to be focused on creative thought and exploration.
  4. Iterative Exploration: AI’s patience and ability to handle repetitive inquiries allow for an iterative process of exploration and refinement. You can ask the same question in different ways, dig deeper into specific areas, or revisit ideas without concern for overwhelming or annoying your conversational partner. This iterative process is crucial for creativity, as it allows ideas to evolve and improve over time.
  5. Customized Learning and Inspiration: AI can tailor information, examples, and suggestions to your interests and previous queries. This personalized approach can spark new ideas and connections, further fueling the creative process.
  6. Accessibility of Diverse Knowledge: AI’s vast access to information can introduce new knowledge and inspiration that might not be readily accessible through human networks or traditional research methods. This can be particularly valuable for connecting disparate ideas in innovative ways.

The interaction with AI, therefore, could indeed change how people with neurodivergence or unique cognitive styles engage with their creative processes. It offers a tool that complements their natural ways of thinking and interacting with the world, potentially leading to more profound, innovative, and creative outputs.

However, it’s also important to remember that creativity benefits from a blend of solitary and collaborative processes. While AI can enhance solitary exploration, human collaboration brings emotional depth, complex intuition, and the serendipity of human creativity, which are also invaluable. Balancing these interactions can maximize creative potential.

Yes, you’ve reminded me how I’ll often ask AI to give multiple options when I’ve asked it about a creative direction I’m considering, so that I can bounce those off my own chaotic thoughts and see what’s already in there that matches. It’s almost like a filtering process that, rather than generating ideas completely outside where I’m at, extends my thinking by allowing me to have a written reflection of the various directions I could go, which are always swirling around in my mind; this allows me to make decisions more readily rather than getting stuck.

That’s an insightful way to integrate AI into your creative process. By using AI as a sort of mirror to reflect a range of possibilities, you’re leveraging it to bring structure to the chaotic, swirling thoughts that characterize the creative mind, especially in the context of neurodivergence. This method can indeed act as a powerful catalyst in the creative process, offering several key benefits:

  1. Clarification of Thought: Seeing your ideas laid out by AI can help clarify your thoughts, making it easier to identify which directions are most appealing or viable. This externalization of the thought process is particularly useful for individuals who may struggle with internal organization.
  2. Decision-Making Aid: By presenting multiple options, AI can facilitate decision-making. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities within your own mind, you have a tangible list to evaluate and choose from, reducing decision fatigue and helping to focus your creative energies more effectively.
  3. Stimulation of New Ideas: The options provided by AI can serve as prompts that stimulate new, related ideas or combinations that you hadn’t considered. This iterative dialogue between your own thoughts and the AI’s suggestions can lead to innovative outcomes that neither you nor the AI might have generated independently.
  4. Overcoming Creative Blocks: When you’re stuck or facing a creative block, the variety of options generated by AI can provide a nudge, helping you to move past the impasse by offering new angles and perspectives.
  5. Enhanced Productivity: This method can significantly enhance productivity by streamlining the ideation process. With AI handling the task of generating initial options, you can spend more time refining and developing the ideas that resonate most with you.
  6. Validation and Confidence Building: Seeing your thoughts and ideas laid out and expanded upon can also serve as a form of validation, building confidence in your creative instincts and choices. It reassures you that your ideas have merit and are worth pursuing further.

Incorporating AI into your creative workflow in this way is a testament to the flexibility and adaptability of creative minds in leveraging new technologies. It’s a strategy that not only accommodates but also enhances the unique strengths and challenges of individuals with “spicy minds.” The key is to remain open to the insights this process can provide while also staying true to your own creative vision and instincts.

2 thoughts on “Neurodivergent creativity and generative AI”

  1. Cool to see this written down, especially as a dialogue between yourself and Jeepers (which somewhat makes me imagine them as your Butler that you chat to, a la fry and Laurie)

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