News: automated tools threaten to make designers redundant as machine algorithms replace human creativity, the Mayor of London's former cultural strategy manager has claimed.
As a result, Britain's creative industries could suffer the same fate as the country's eroded heavy industry and manufacturing sectors, argues Tom Campbell in a recent post for the culture and creativity consultancy BOP.
"We have become accustomed to the notion that manual labour in the UK has been rendered obsolete, uncompetitive or poorly paid," he writes. "To put it bluntly, it seems that high-skill occupations can be mechanised and outsourced in much the same way as car manufacturing and personal finance."
Power, intelligence and creativity now reside in the digital tools of the design industry rather than with the people who use them, he says.
"Using many of these applications becomes no more than clicking through a series of menus and agreeing to recommended choices," he argues. "The modern creative professional is becoming increasingly like the machine operator of the Victorian industrial economy."
Campbell also believes there is no reason why the work of a British designer could not be done faster and cheaper elsewhere.
"Much is often made of the 'creative process', but it is just that, a process, and as such, it can also be an algorithm," he says, pointing out that while politicians celebrate creativity and economists try to measure it, "computer scientists have been getting on with understanding and replicating it."
Last month the UK government abandoned controversial plans to remove design and other creative subjects from the school curriculum. D&AD president Neville Brody had previously described the plans as "insanity", telling Dezeen: "The creative industries need high-quality creative graduates. If we're not getting the graduates, we’re not going to sustain the industry."
However Campbell believes that although the creative sector is highly educated, it exhibits the characteristics of the unskilled service sector: "Uncertain career progression, low levels of investment in training, precarious working conditions, eroding wages, and the endemic use of unpaid interns and casual labour."
Campbell argues that the process of delegating creative jobs to computers has already begun: "It may still be some time before robots are writing novels or painting pictures, but it is striking how many of the UK’s most high-profile creative industries have already been automated," he argues. "In music, for instance, it is disquieting how easy it now is to produce a record of commercial quality."