Before we begin, a small caveat: the world of Artificial Intelligence is moving at such an astonishing rate that anything written below could well be out of date by lunchtime. But that certainly shouldn’t stop us from exploring and giving some thought to the future. After all, hasn’t that been what we have done for millennia? Through art, philosophy, science, history and more, do we seek our sense of uniqueness and attempt to decipher some meaning and purpose.
In this, it feels correct (and more than a little ironic) that Generative AI has taken us to a whole new level of questioning everything. Over two articles, we’ll be asking some questions and, maybe, even offering some food for thought. Because while we can’t predict the future, it’s never stopped us humans from thinking deeply about it.
After all, we learn and train, practice and hone, calculate and cogitate. All in the pursuit of excellence and, sometimes, answers. Visual arts, music and writing move us – positively and negatively – in ways that we often do not understand, but we look to psychology to try. At the very least, we improve. Has it not always been that our imaginations lead us to livelihoods in creative fields, where we are valued and admired in equal measure? These skills are the products of lived experience and a desire, no, need to bring our ideas into existence. So, it is fully understandable that the capabilities of Generative AI, while thrilling in so many ways, have left many shaken and fearful for the future.
The anecdotal evidence, at least, points at two reasons:
Traditionally, there’s been an invisible dividing line between ‘creatives’ (designers, photographers, artists etc) and ‘techies’ (developers, analysts, engineers and so forth) and, until recently, both have stayed in their own lanes, crossing paths as projects required, but neither having any real depth of insight into each other’s disciplines. Combine this with a near constant stream of social posts and news stories showing the ‘astonishing’ capabilities of tools like Adobe Photoshop’s new ‘Generative Fill’ or writers, illustrators and photographers sharing their frustrations and anger and, admittedly, it doesn’t look great.
Yet experimentation is happening and any perceived split between creativity and technology is disappearing, only to be replaced by two camps: players and stayers. Players seem to be having great fun trying out every AI tool they can lay their hands on and thrilled to be able to call upon a new trusty digital sidekick that can save them time or even do a task better than they can. Stayers are those who view AI with suspicion and a critical eye, viewing it as a potential new competitor of artists, writers and photographers. One only has to watch the debates play out on platforms like LinkedIn to see that it’s a ‘hearts and minds’ subject. But who is correct? If anyone?