Down the Rabbit Hole, Through the Briar Patch, We Have Crossed the Rubicon into the Brave New World

Enough Metaphors in One Title? Trust me – They All Fit This Discussion

What in the World are We Talking About?

Artificial Intelligence – AI. This thing has been with us for some time now but on several fronts, new ground is being broken at very important levels. I have no intention to try discussing all of the aspects in this topic – I probably would need some AI help to do that. Today we are going to briefly look at two AI phenomena that are hot topics in many quarters today. This is AI that can write creatively and AI that can create art.

Let us briefly examine what is on offer these days, what is or could be bad about them, and what is good or at least promising. There are plenty of notations worthy of both sides of that pro and con ledger.

Words by AI

AI that can write has been around for quite a while, but we are rapidly moving into a new era – some would say we are already in that new era. The most talked about version of this in the popular media today is something called ChatGPS.

This software, and many other variants are widely available at little or no cost. They can write a letter, a greeting card, a set of instructions, a story, lyrics to a song, or a poem. Basically, anything you can imagine is available. Your imagination is an important element here, but more on that later.

Art by AI

This set of software can take your request (type it in, speak to a mic, whatever works easiest for you) to create an artwork. You may specify the elements, indicate a particular style, talk about colors – whatever you want. In fairly short order, these things create an original artwork, often of startling quality and power.

Among the more recognized offerings are DALL-E2, NightCafe, Deep Dream Generator, and many, many others. There is already a large market to develop and sell these things and a growing market to buy and sell the resulting artwork, often as NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

How do they do it? By absorbing other artwork to understand what you mean in your request. The most powerful of these items may have access to over 6 billion samples of art, complete with explanatory or descriptive text, to draw upon in fashioning your project. You can go on to iterate further until you get just what you want. Some are pretty crude, but some are almost breathtaking.

I knew almost nothing about these things until I started thinking about this blog as I kept running into articles about the medium. I have to admit I am fascinated by them now. Cannot imagine what the coming generations will be capable of doing in partnership with humans.

What are the Problems with The Word AI Tools?

There are quite a few, but keep in mind this should be expected with any new technological breakthrough. Problems likely can be addressed over time; none are likely to kill the movement toward using these assets.

For the word programs, there is always the risk of plagiarism and in the case of academics, the risk of students not learning by doing the work of research and writing.  There are also legal issues of possible copywrite violations, as other work is drawn upon in the creation process (as is the case with human creators as well). Some worry that creative writing will die off, as these systems may well do the job as well or better than humans in due course.

As I will discuss shortly, I think that risk is manageable. People probably thought no one would know how to write once typewriters came about, but that did not happen. Of course, today, few people growing up know cursive writing, but that is more simply the absence of a need to use that writing form much anymore. Seems odd to those of a certain age, but times change.

What are the Problems with The Art AI Tools?

This seems a bit more complicated to me. For starters, the system is designed to draw on other work done by many humans. Trying to assess which works are used and designate some sort of credit/recognition/compensation system seems pretty much impossible. All artists are inspired and tutored by other artists. We often speak of someone who paints “in the style of X.” This seems pretty much the same relationship to me.

Some worry that artists will be replaced. The same was said when photography first came in. Some feared painters would become obsolete. Others said there was no way photography could be considered art. Both were 100% wrong. The opposite is at least as likely.

With these new tools, people with great imagination and vision, but no physical skill to paint, can now create with great fidelity what was in their head. I think we are going to end up with more artists. Most will not amount to much as artists, but some future greats are likely already in the pipeline.

The Fascinating Subtlety of the Human/AI Interface

Here is, to me, the most fascinating aspect of all this, and the center point of potential. How well the software does depends entirely on the quality of the request and direction from the human. Already, there is much talk about how best to provide the software information as to what you want. What is said, how it is phrased, can make huge difference. Your thoughts are your paintbrush, your shutter.

Some have already referred to this connection as an incantation or other mythological outreach. It is not hard to imagine the software advancing very rapidly very soon to the point that you and your AI have meaningful, fun even, conversations about what is to be created. Some artists already list their AI as partners when signing one of these creations.

What Next?

I do not know, but I can’t wait to see what is coming. I believe that all of this has already advanced much further than most of us could ever have imagined. There surely are risks, but the potential to create and to enable people to do things heretofore out of their reach is a wonderful thing to think about.

Already we have online “assistants” and call support center responders that are not people at all, but AI – robots if you will. Some, if not self-identified, could fool you into thinking you were engaged with a human. Get used to it. Much more of that is coming really soon. Imagine what it will be like to see all this AI installed in a robot that looks and act human, there to serve you, help you, etc.

Scary and wonderful all at once, isn’t it. It will be among us way sooner than most of us think. All of this should be quite a ride.

            Bill Clontz

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4 replies to Down the Rabbit Hole, Through the Briar Patch, We Have Crossed the Rubicon into the Brave New World

  1. Just want to know, was this article above written by Bill Clontz or by an AI computer?

    • Well, it’s hard to tell, isn’t it? The syntax is pretty good and no spelling errors. Sounds like AI to me! (of course, this reply could be AI also….).

    • He surely brings out good points- this pretty much the dialogue going on today/ what are the opportunities vs the risks. I expect we will see ample evidence of both as the power of these systems grow exponentially, perhaps moving us toward the much theorized Singularity.

      But his suggestion to go slow seems wasted breath. This is developing in so many ways in so many places/ there is no architecture to slow it down. We are in the ride.

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