The Age of Imaginative Machines: The Coming Democratization of Art, Animation, and Imagination As recently as five years ago, the concept of "creative machines" was cast off as impossible— or at the very least, improbable for decades. Indeed, the phrase remains an oxymoron in the minds of most. Perhaps they are right. Creativity implies agency and desire to create. All machines today lack their own agency. Yet we bear witness to the rise of computer programs that imagine and "dream" in ways not dissimilar to humankind. Though lacking agency, this still meets the definition of imagination. To reduce it to its most fundamental ingredients: Imagination = experience + abstraction + prediction. To get creativity, you need only add "drive". Presuming that we fail to create artificial general intelligence in the next ten years (an easy thing to assume because it's unlikely we will achieve fully generalized AI even in the next thirty), we still possess computers capable of the former three ingredients. Someone who lives on a flat island and who has never seen a mountain before can learn to picture what one might be by using what they know of rocks and cumulonimbus clouds, making an abstract guess to cross the two, and then predicting what such a "rock cloud" might look like. This is the root of imagination. As Descartes noted, even the strongest of imagined sensations is duller than the dullest physical one, so this image in the person's head is only clear to them in a fleeting way. Nevertheless, it's still there. Through great artistic skills, the person can learn to express this mental image through artistic means. In all but the most skilled, it will not be a pure 1-to-1 realization due to the fuzziness of our minds, but in the case of expressive art, it doesn't need to be. Computers lack this fleeting ethereality of imagination completely. Once one creates something, it can give you the uncorrupted output. Right now, this makes for wonderful tools and apps that many play around with online and on our phones. But extrapolating this to the near future results in us coming face to face many heavy questions. If a computer can imagine things and the outputs can be used to create entertainment on par with and cheaper than human-created commercial art, what happens to the human-centric entertainment industry? __________________________________ Here's a basic, 3,000-word extrapolation of current trends to 2024, focusing on where image and video synthesis will almost certainly lead.