Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Mean Machines

By Nicolas Roope, Co-Founder at GGGGGGGGG ·

When a bunch of ambitious, artful friends decided to set up an agency over 20 years ago, we had one idea in mind: to demonstrate that if you pushed things toward the exceptional as an agency, you’d bear fruit. Despite having been in and out of a vast speculation bubble, digital was still nascent and still a deeply misunderstood and undervalued medium. After the crash, what was left of the young digital industry was churning out mediocrity by the bucket load. We believed that the potential of the medium needed to be discovered or invented because high standards hadn’t yet been set, and without these aspirational waypoints, they would stay where they were. 

Throughout my career as a digital pioneer, average has always been the enemy. Its gravity is immense because, numerically speaking, average is the natural target. It’s where the volume lurks – in the domain of the illusive everyman. The average provides shelter for the faint-hearted because the risk, in average, appears low. There is safety in these large numbers. 

In contrast, fast forward a few years, and we’re in the age of extremes, where cultural divides are exacerbated by social media, pushing users out to the edges in pursuit of an ever greater slice of their time and attention. The average has been out of fashion for some time. We’ve been living with the cultural and social consequences of this extremism. It’s written a couple of crazy chapters in recent history. Chapters many would like to forget. 

So it’s interesting to observe the averaging engine gain traction faster than any technology preceding it. In the pursuit of pattern matching in massive aggregates of content, LLMs must use the mean to centre and blend its view into something “accurate”. Sampling everything and moulding that into something coherent necessarily results in shaving off corners as every word, phrase and concept converges on a single answer from a mash of million samples. 

In my agency days, the battle with average was grounded in the belief that the comfortable, familiar and bland doesn’t move people, excite them, or inspire them to imagine something different and therefore fails to inspire the change you want to see.

So now we have an incredible technology that does average better than anyone or anything. The sum total of everything that has been said up until this moment. The ultimate soup of assimilation.

And while these models may make a pretty good guess about what will happen next, they don’t know for certain. We can always choose to take a sharp left turn, buck the inevitable, and do something outside of the predicted pattern. What I’ve described is essentially creativity. Lateral not inevitable. Conjuring, synthesising and inventing, not just following a fixed method, emulating, plagiarising or painting by numbers. This isn’t just a tension between creativity and AI but an age-old one between creativity and boring predictability; only these new technologies have brought it into sharp relief. 

The camera’s invention both rendered painting pointless and yet also liberated it by removing its former primary task of accurate representation. The result was an explosion of creativity that exploited this new freedom, that in turn created the space for culture to flourish. A new way to look at and experience the world spawned a new world. 

LLMs may have just nuked the tedious, average creative tasks we never wanted to do in the first place. But maybe these mean machines will also result in an explosion of creativity for our times? And finally, place a higher status and value on true creativity as the boring, bland middle ground has finally been commodified irreversibly. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to join me and others at “The Good, Bad, and Ugly of AI” breakfast event series on Thursday 25th May, from 08:00-12:00 at Soho House White City, London. This event, sponsored by New World Tech, will bring together experts from various industries to explore the impact of AI on our world. We’ll delve into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly sides of AI and discuss its applications, ethical concerns, and the evolving workforce landscape. Places are limited, so please book your ticket as soon as possible and enjoy a delicious breakfast and scintillating conversation and debate.

This event results from a collective effort of three highly skilled women spanning three decades working in technology and creativity. Katie Bell at Aligned Studios, Nicole Yershon at The NY Collective, and Emma Jackson at The 5Gs in collaboration with New World Tech

Update: Tickets are sold out, so please visit to be first in line to get tickets for subsequent events – the next one is in July at Home Grown, London – the private members club for entrepreneurs and investors.