Wednesday, March 22, 2023

evolution & revolution: machines vs. creatives


My social media feed these days is littered with AI woefulness and warnings, as well as people's forays into either just playing around with it or using it to help them do whatever it is that they do. Also articles about the revolutionariness of it, likening it to the printing press or the internet in terms of global, holistic changes that will transform our lives, not just in work, but in play and leisure.

While I think chatbots and AI art generators are interesting, I am not yet sold that they are anything but the latest novelty The thing you've realized after being on this planet nearly a half century is that lots of things come and lots of things go.  I can see it being revolutionary if it has real-world applications in people's lives in the way, say FB or Twitter, did. The way social media has embedded itself in the need for constant content and communication, something which has been satisfied throughout history, albeit in slower or faster ways. Plays and dramas led to novels led to movies led to television led to streaming and Youtube and Tik Tok. Letters led to telegraphs led to telephones led to e-mails led to texts. The content one would get by visiting a museum or flipping through a magazine became the content you can now get in your palm. 

They succeeded because there was a need. Maybe not a need we even knew about. Having seen technology evolve and change since the 80s I feel a certain sense of wonder at its scope and escalation.  The cassette tapes I would buy with birthday money and the videos I would wait to catch on early MTV are now at my fingertips all the time.  The movies I could only see in a theater or after a video store trip I can now watch in seconds.  Pretty much everything (if I am willing to pay for it.)  The need for content, for stories and visuals and human expression--those things are made better and more accessible by technology. Same with communication, developing so fast it makes your head spin if you ever used a rotary phone.  The same with developments that offered speed and efficiency. Online reservations and bill paying or banking. Online shopping satisfied a need so that we could spend the time we'd normally spend rolling through stores doing other things (apparently that thing was maybe watching Youtube thrifting vids while you wait for Amazon Fresh to deliver, but I dig it.)

I've also seen a lot of fools gold. Things that seemed cool, but didn't have practical applications. Simulation games we were told would be the next big thing in education,. Books pushed out by kindles. Google Plus. Cryptocurrency and the Metaverse. They failed to hit a certain amount of momentum among most of the population because they weren't particularly useful at satisfying a need unless maybe you were a gamer or dudebro trying to get rich.  Kind of like the avatar designers everyone was using circa 2014 and internet fads that fade within a few month. Even the AI selfie generators crested and died as a novelty a couple months back. People used them, said "oh yeah, cool!" and went back to doing whatever they were doing.

For designers, for content writers, maybe these things are stickier and more fraught with danger of replacement. But for most people, even the technologically savvy ones, they'd be onto the next thing when it comes around whatever that is, the next novelty, unless like cell phones or social media, it can somehow become necessary and useful to living a better life. Unless its sticky somehow. I've no doubt, on larger scale, AI will solve problems our tiny human brains cannot.  I'm not sure though that people will find applications, maybe beyond cheating on college essays, that really make it worth it (and even this can be remedied by better assignments.). Also accuracy is still not something you can completely depend on,.Though you could say the same about humans (and since many of these programs draw from collective knowledge, we all know how that goes.)

As for artists, as for creative writers, so much of artistic endeavor is about ego and the self. I mentioned in an earlier post the sci fi journal inundated by AI stories, and I suppose there will always be charlatans, especially when money is involved, or maybe "fame" whatever that is,. People who want the praise without doing the work. People who have no voice or creativity and somehow want the attention of being a creative. Or hell, even creative people who lack time to make their visions real without the assistance of something that will do the hard parts for them (see below). Except no. It's hollow and I doubt you will actually get those feelings you want. Will not get the work you want that satisfies those desires. Even with the shortcuts. And even then the shortcuts may not always render what you want. Case in point, in the midst of working on the sea monster collages, I knew exactly what I wanted, but wasn't sure how to make it work. I was going to see if I could get the robots to make it for me   I'd had some interesting generative pieces that spawned collages and gave me pastable bits with an earlier series.  I must have typed variations on the phrase "dress made of sea" or skirt made of water"  3-4 times before giving up.  Lots of seas, lots of skirts, but not even close to what I wanted.  


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