Image of the mammoth meatball shown on a stone serving plate surrounded by smoke

How creativity can help demystify unfamiliar concepts

Bas Korsten, global CCO at Wunderman Thompson, talks about using creativity to challenge people to think outside what they know, and why human ideas are still unmatched by AI

It has been seven years since Bas Korsten worked on the Next Rembrandt, a project that used artificial intelligence to analyse Rembrandt’s genius and recreate a new 3D painting based on it. The Next Rembrandt arrived at a time when AI technology was still a fairly nebulous concept, and the same challenge of crystallising unfamiliar ideas can be seen in his latest project: a meatball made out of ‘mammoth’ meat. Mammoths have, of course, been extinct for thousands of years, so the meatball is derived from lab-cultured meat based on the DNA of woolly mammoths, along with supplementary DNA belonging to the African elephant, a close relative of the mammoth.

Korsten, who is global CCO at Wunderman Thompson, explains that the groundwork for the Mammoth Meatball was laid by a handful of organisations. For instance, the Dutch company Mosa Meat – whose co-founder Mark Post introduced the world’s first cultured hamburger ten years ago – as well as the US genetic rescue organisation Revive and Restore. By combining the DNA of an extinct creature and cultured meat production, Korsten wanted to know: “Could we then create meat of extinct species?”

Image shows a white paper package tied with string containing Mammoth meat

Fascinated by this question, Korsten connected with Tim Noakesmith, one of the founders of Australian cultured meat start-up Vow, which tends to look beyond what Korsten calls the “big three” – beef, pork, and chicken – to consider other varieties of cultured meat. “I was instantly drawn to the idea of zebra steak, or Galapagos turtle burger, or giraffe porkchops, just as a creative mind,” Korsten says. These options may have piqued Korsten’s interest, but they’re arguably not as accessible to new audiences as, say, a chicken burger, and a mammoth meatball hardly seems like a safe option either. If people already struggle with the idea of cultured meat, is a meatball based on a long extinct animal the best recipe to win over the general public?