On AI...

My current musings on Artificial Intelligence.

On AI...
Image: DALL-E

I've been exploring BBC Maestro, which, yes, is a rip-off of Masterclass, but is actually pretty good despite that. One of the courses on there is by Mo Gawdat. If you don't know who Mo Gawdat is, you should totally look him up. He's a happiness guru (stop throwing things) with a really interesting science-based approached to improving the human condition. His course is fascinating, and he's one of the only (if not THE only) people in his field who takes the oncoming changes to be wrought by AI into account.

Now, I have made no secret in the past of my scepticism regarding the progress of Artificial Intelligence. I didn't believe ChatGPT and the other Large Language Models were anything more than parlour tricks with algorithms (and that's without getting into the morality of scraping data wherever they can find it), and I have laughed as much as everyone else about how many fingers Midjourney can fit on a human hand. But Mo Gawdat has turned me around.

Mo's point (and he used to run Google X, so he's at least coming from a place of some expertise), is that AI exists and it's only going to get better. As it gets better, it WILL start replacing jobs and it will change the world as much, if not more, than the industrial revolution did. We don't have to like that, but there seems little point in denying it.

I have always sat comfortably with the idea that, whatever clever things AI might be able to do, it can't write stories or paint pictures or create music that is worth a damn because human creativity trumps anything a machine can do.

And then I saw Fast X... Now that is a script that even the most unevolved Artificial Intelligence would be thoroughly ashamed of. (To be clear, I bow to no one in my admiration of Fasts 4 through 8). Sure AI might struggle to write Chinatown. But Chinatown wouldn't get made in the current industry anyway. I don't think we are very far from AI being able to come up with perfectly serviceable storylines, and even scripts, for the kinds of over-priced action movies that Netflix regularly churns out. Yes, there are protections in place for our industry, thanks to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, but I don't know how long the dam will hold. Already, AI is being used on all kinds of visual effects and that is going to have a big effect on the post-production workforce.

So what does the future look like? Well, we don't know. We never know. But Mo Gawdat makes one very good point; before you are replaced by a machine, you are going to be replaced by a person who knows how to use the machine. And that, I think is the real danger. Screenwriters use software, a cinematographer needs to know her way around digital equipment, most artists are becoming more and more familiar with digital media... Progress always wins.

It's tempting for those of us who feel threatened by AI systems to stick our heads in the sand and say we want nothing to do with it. But that might not be a very smart survival strategy (it has worked for literally nothing else that has happened in human history). Maybe we need to embrace these new elements for what they currently are; tools. They can help us visualise, to do research, to check spelling and grammar, to distil information...

I've been digging into this stuff over the last few days and, while I don't think a lot of the tech is very useful yet, some of it really shows promise. Mem AI is really not a bad writing and storytelling assistant (if you can get past its irritating personality), DALL-E is a fun tool for images (and is at least waging its own valiant war against deep fakes) and ChatGPT 4 is markedly better and more accurate than version 3. These are tools that can be used as much or as little as you want, and the use of them can enhance, rather than detract from, creativity.

But you don't have to take my word for it. I asked ChatGPT 4 to do me three hundred words on why creatives should embrace AI tools, and here's what it said:

"In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) tools represent a significant milestone in the realm of creative endeavors. The idea of embracing AI, rather than ignoring or fearing it, is crucial for creatives in various fields. This perspective is based on several compelling reasons.

Firstly, AI tools offer an unprecedented level of assistance in enhancing creativity and efficiency. For instance, artists, writers, and designers can use AI to generate ideas, draft initial designs, or even write portions of text, which they can then refine and personalize. This synergy between human creativity and AI’s capabilities can lead to more innovative and diverse outputs, as AI can suggest ideas that might not naturally occur to a human mind.

Secondly, AI tools democratize creativity. They lower the barrier for entry, making it easier for individuals with limited skills or resources to bring their creative visions to life. This democratization can lead to a more inclusive creative landscape, where a wider range of voices and styles are represented.

Moreover, AI tools are constantly evolving, learning from vast amounts of data and user interactions. By engaging with these tools, creatives can stay at the forefront of technological advancements, ensuring their skills and outputs remain relevant and cutting-edge. This engagement also allows creatives to influence the development of AI tools, ensuring they evolve in ways that are beneficial and ethical.

Furthermore, AI can handle tedious and repetitive tasks, freeing up creatives to focus on the more nuanced and emotionally resonant aspects of their work. This can lead to a deeper exploration of the human condition and more meaningful artistic expressions.

Finally, in an increasingly competitive market, those who leverage AI tools can gain a significant advantage. AI can aid in trend analysis, market research, and even predict consumer preferences, helping creatives to produce work that is not only artistically fulfilling but also commercially viable.

In conclusion, the integration of AI in creative processes is not about replacing human creativity but augmenting it. By embracing AI, creatives can explore new horizons of imagination, efficiency, and inclusivity, ensuring their work remains relevant and impactful in the digital age."

I'm not entirely sold on this stuff yet, but I see no harm in exploring the possibilities, using the tools where they're helpful, and keeping abreast of progress.