Is the rise of AI generated content the beginning or the end of an era for the creative economy? We went straight to the source.
Disclaimer: This story is evolving.
Some of the images are remarkable. Like looking into the reflection of a pool within the deepest reaches of your imagination run amok. Your mind’s eye, unincumbered. Vibrant, surreal, highly detailed landscapes, concepts, even human portraits that seem to have (mostly) bypassed the uncanny valley generated from digital ether in mere seconds flat. The impressionist expression of a powerful proprietary artificial intelligence program.
We’re talking of course about the incredible recent AI breakthroughs in text generation and image creation.
Unless you’ve been in a self-imposed media blackout, you’ve probably heard a lot of the (extremely frenetic) buzz about this current phenomenon of AI employed for creating art and language models. Like everything else in tech, these novel innovations are derived from building on earlier paradigms, in this case machine learning and chatbot training, resulting in an exponential influx of AI content generators sprinting madly into everything from submitting college entrance exams to ghostwriting commercials for Ryan Reynolds.
Even before the present rush to the center of attention, late last year it was declared that the golden age of AI art had arrived, and since the proclamation went out, many of us serving in the creative economy are asking the same thing, “what does it all mean?”
The Next (Really) Big Thing
“It’s pretty astonishing what you can create,” says Mike Monahan, director of Design Services and the Media Studio North America, who’s been advocating for creative artists to think of AI as a next generation suite of tools the same way Photoshop and Illustrator became a part of standard operating procedure back in the early 2000s. “It’s part of challenging yourself as a designer and creator. Take some design risks and have fun with it, and overall embrace AI. I foresee that AI will be big for creative teams and to achieve a more targeted reach of our customers – it’s a new way of storytelling for SAP.”
If Monahan’s observation seems to ring as an obvious truth given all the debate on this subject in the last few weeks, it’s not. When we first started researching and writing about this topic a few weeks back there were only whispers of the technology’s potential; what started as an article theorizing a preview of the next big thing for the creative economy in 2023 has now become the RIGHT NOW big thing in the room everyone’s talking about.
Monahan goes on to reinforce the benefits of AI in reaching customers and the SAP Community as a whole. “It will help with writing, creating mockups, and finding new ways of creating art. It will not replace anyone; it will enhance and accelerate what we do and make us even more effective than we already are.”
And for now, as the technology, resources, and service offerings continue to materialize, many commercial artists are trying to do just that: Embrace the bots.
To Beta or Not to Beta (Test)
In the last few weeks, our team has been dabbling in DALL-E, Blue Willow, and Mid Journey as workable options for creating custom images on demand. Of the team members that experimented with the technology, most everyone agreed that once these platforms become more regulated (which is already starting to take place with resources like Shutterstock), the potential for commercial application will only continue to expand.
Kelly Kirk, a designer, tested out NVIDIA’s Canvas with a similar reaction. “Landscapes can be generated from any level of user’s input by drawing basic shapes using a platform as simple as Microsoft paint. If this could evolve to other types of imagery, then the possibilities for creating are limitless to any audience, not just to professional creatives.”
When it comes to text generating tools, we’ve popped the hood and kicked the tires on a slew of different chatbot language models coalescing around Copy.ai and ChatGPT, the latter which was used extensively as a citation for drafting this article. Engaging ChatGPT like a source was possibly one of the most practical applications we could pursue.
The Context of Innovation
As with any rapidly evolving technology, there’s the tendency to get caught up in the hype and lose sight of historical precedents. So, we asked ChatGPT to list the most important technological communication milestones throughout human history. Its response (verbatim):
1. Invention of language (35,000 BCE) 2. Invention of the alphabet (3000 BCE) 3. Invention of the printing press (1450 CE) 4. Invention of the telegraph (1837 CE) 5. Invention of the telephone (1876 CE) 6. Invention of the radio (1896 CE) 7. Invention of the television (1927 CE) 8. Invention of the personal computer (1975 CE) 9. Invention of the Internet (1983 CE) 10.Invention of the smartphone (2007 CE)
Then we asked, what was the technology most feared by artists when it was first introduced to the public? Its response (verbatim):
“When the printing press was first introduced to the public in the 15th century, it caused fear among many artists who saw it as a threat to their work. They feared that their artwork would be copied without their permission and that it would lead to the devaluation of their work.”
But it’s not just a fear of the unknown that’s causing a stir. There’s a genuine concern for a blurring (or full-on erosion) of the lines between the artistic principles of ownership, copyright, and intellectual property. In a story that originally appeared in The Verge, a group of artists has recently come forward with a lawsuit against several AI image generators. The plaintiffs claim the foundations on which the systems were based is a direct threat to their work because the machine learning used to train the algorithms “scraped” millions of images and text from the internet. And therefore, in the process copied their intellectual property without their permission (or compensation).
On the academic front, a similar paradox is developing as students use these sophisticated interactive chatbots to author entire essays and expound thesis statements whole cloth. The stunning human-like quality to sound like an apt pupil is facing pushback from both educators and journalists — it’s also spawning a potential wave of counterbalancing apps currently in development.
The AI Art of the Possible
For one final question, we asked ChatGPT to define the art of the possible? Its response (verbatim) was:
“The phrase art of the possible means to strive for the best possible outcome, even if it requires a great deal of effort and imagination.”
For now, when it comes to creating the art of the possible: Stick with your gut. Then ask the bots. And always maintain a sense of curiosity. There’d be no printing press without something to type. There’d be no internet without something to search for. There’s no image worth generating or text chattering-chatbot without an imagination to give it purpose.
In short, there’d be no AI without evoking the human experience.
The last 35,000 years of written, visual, and oral language history were built on technology that was both feared and revered at the time of inception. Will AI content generation join the same hallowed list of innovations somewhere between the future of neurotechnology and the ubiquity of Smart Phones? Probably not. But maybe so. This story is evolving – and we’re here for it.