I haven’t given artificial intelligence a lot of thought until recently. It seems I’m always late to the party, and now I’ve got a dog in this fight, if that’s what it is.
I’ve been building a business for the last half-decade, principally writing content for small businesses. It isn’t overly glamorous, and the subject matter can sometimes be mind-numbingly dull. But I’m pretty good at it, and while I’m not expecting to be on the rich list anytime soon, it was developing into a high, reliable income earlier. So much so that I had to make some difficult choices about how I wanted to spend the next half-decade and beyond.
I could either continue on the safe route I was on or follow my heart and work at creating something I was proud of. We all want to do something like that in our own way. I’m no longer a spring chicken, and my days of “working for the man” or simply existing to consume are long past.
For that reason, I dialled many of my work activities back, kept a few long-term clients to whom I feel some loyalty, and dusted off that creative part of me that had lain dormant for too long. There were the beginnings of a novel sitting in my drawer and a dozen half-worked ideas that had never come to fruition. I needed to bring all of those things to light.
The need to create and express myself was overwhelming.
I don’t think I’m any lone ranger there.
The need to create is the very essence of being human.
I’ve gradually become aware of how Artificial Intelligence could impact how we create and who we are. This awareness has increased as my knowledge of an AI chatbot has grown. My history with freelancing perhaps gives me an increased perspective on where the development of Artificial Intelligence is leading.
Are AI chatbots the thin edge of the wedge?
Over the past several months, I’ve been assailed with marketing material telling me how great these AI chatbots are and how easy it will make my freelancing work. Theoretically, I could double or even triple my output without doing any research or writing, for that matter.
Great. I could replace myself with a robot and make more money.
Does anyone else see the problem?
Writing content is no longer a skill. Any fool can get hold of the software and generate all the unique, up-to-date content they need. This ability extends beyond the written word. A colleague has been sharing some AI-generated artwork on social media. The images are fantastic and perfect for websites, book covers and probably any material that requires perfect-looking images. I’d be concerned if I was an artist or photographer who relied upon commercial sales with advertising agencies, for example.
This leads me to a rather disturbing question in a creative sense. If artificial intelligence can produce quality content, can it create artwork, music and stories better than a human can?
Art for art’s sake. Money, for God’s sake
The entertainment industry has captured art in all its forms. The big bucks are invariably on offer for people capable of producing what I like to call “lowest common denominator” content. If you don’t believe me, spend an hour listening to commercial radio. Seriously, it’s about as original as a cheap Taiwanese dinner set. As the late great Frank Zappa once said, the music industry is full of people who can’t think, signing people who can’t write to produce “music” for people who can’t hear.
Keep it simple, give it a beat and some lyrics that won’t make you think, and you’ve got a hit record—the lowest common denominators in action. Hollywood is no different. Scripts are produced according to formulas and agendas. No deviation or experimentation is allowed. Books, when adapted for movies, are dumbed down.
Everything can be dumbed down, marketed to the nth degree and popularised. If you’re force fed shit long enough, you’ll begin to enjoy it.
It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee Artificial Intelligence mass-producing content of this type. I have no sympathy for entertainment content producers who might be replaced by AI. They sold their souls a long time ago. AI can and will produce the regurgitated pap that they’ve been producing. It will do it better and will be bang on the target market every time.
AI takes everything that has been before and produces the best example available.
But Can Artificial Intelligence Push the Artistic Envelope?
Now we get to the million-dollar question. All great art/music/fiction is produced by individuals that have tapped into the deep well of their humanity. Many have dared to push the envelope. I cited the example of Eddie Van Halen recently. He went where others had never thought of and revolutionised the guitar. Similarly, someone like BB King can play a single note, and you know it’s him. Artists put their stamp on things. I’m not sure that AI can do that.
Over twenty years ago, the aforementioned Zappa stated that a computer could give you the exact mathematical formula, but it will leave off the eyebrows. I think I get what he means. The best way I can explain why I think there will always be room for the creative process is to cite my recent experience.
I’m now about halfway through writing a novel. It may surprise you that I have no idea how it ends. I have a loose construct in my head, but the details are more than fuzzy. I get up, write my quota for the day, and follow my nose. This day, I was helping one of the characters get from point A to point B. The story demanded that I do this, so I started him on his journey. I’m not quite sure how the creative process works, but it sought of unfolds before me. Halfway through, he was beset with a problem I’d never contemplated. It just came out of nowhere. How he dealt with it revealed more of his character and personality than I’d known previously. It’s a kind of magic. I doubt if Artificial Intelligence can ever replicate that.
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