Human agency and creativity

Free will, the cornerstone of human agency and creativity, underpins our daily life in many ways. One is our freedom to make choices that are related to our private life, our economic consumption habits, politics, and so on. The ability to choose is essential for human dignity, well-being, and societal progress. For a long time, the internet has been a great enabler of choice by helping people overcome geographical, social, gender, and other limitations.

However, commercialisation, the power of tech companies, and AI-driven social platforms bring the risk that technology may constrain our choices. By relying on digital assistance, we may lose our capacity to think critically and make our own choices.

One example is our orientation in space. Our reliance on global positioning systems (GPS) to move around overcomes our need to read maps or other orientation techniques developed over centuries. This risk is recognised by the UNESCO Recommendation that calls for assessments of the ‘sociological and psychological effects of AI-based recommendations on humans in their decision-making autonomy’ (UNESCO, 2021).

Human agency is also expressed in the search for meaning, which cannot be based on machine calculations even when they are performed by powerful machines. Machines can find patterns and even explain our meaning, but they cannot generate meaning in understanding societies and complex phenomena.

Creativity is another expression of human agency in the fields of science, technology, arts, and culture. Behind innovation in technology is the creativity of engineers and entrepreneurs. In addition to personal talents and free will, creative artefacts also emerge through interaction with others on personal, social, and institutional levels.