We are tool users. While this skill is not unique to humanity (Wikipedia has helpfully documented other cases of “Tool use by animals”), human civilization is suffused with tool use. We use tools to help us eat, tools to help us build homes and other structures, tools for transportation, even tools to assist us in getting exercise.
Awash in the many tools of our technological society, we are seeing a new type of tool on the horizon, one which is similar in some ways to what has come before and in other ways quite different. These are tools that augment human creativity. We are increasingly, as a society, building tools to help assist human creativity, whether in art, design, or even scientific discovery.
Obviously, we have long had tools in the cognitive realm: tools to help us store and retrieve information (paper!) and tools to help us better perceive the world around us (eyeglasses). And some of these tools have even been used to drive further discovery and creativity, such as when the microscope and telescope were invented. We would not have been able to see the wonders revealed by these tools on our own, but due to them, humanity reached new creative heights.
But these new computational tools for creativity are different in one particular way: they seem to be replicating some of the creative processes within our own minds. Whether the underlying algorithms actually faithfully mimic the processes in the human brain or not, their output is becoming increasingly human-like.