Thursday, June 20, 2024
CommentaryUpgrading creativity in the AI era

Upgrading creativity in the AI era

Will it replace or inspire creativity?

When did the world enter the age of artificial intelligence (AI)? Was it in 1956 through the gates of Dartmouth College? Was it in 1996 when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov? Or was it in 2023 when the world got scared of GPT-4 and started to pause or ban AI developments? We might even have been in it since the beginning of time; despite its lack of falsifiability, the simulation hypothesis gives a 50 percent chance to the fancy idea that we live in an AI-simulated world.

What matters is not the ‘when’ but the ‘how’: how to live in the new age? A new age means lots of changes. Unfortunately, despite our claim to be a species that builds complex systems, handling changes is not our strong suit. Handling the truth isn’t either.

Recently, a Life Wire senior reporter quoted me in an article about generative AI. The reporter asked me to reflect on three questions and only quoted one of my scenarios, the controversial one. Here, I will share the full version.

Why are writers using chatbots to publish their work?

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Three explanations offer insight: First, “laziness”: authors utilize chatbots as a shortcut to avoid work. Second, “progress”: recent breakthroughs have brought powerful and reliable content-generating AIs with human-like quality. Third, “lowered standards’: the grim possibility is that readers’ standards have decreased. Attention spans shrink, and video proliferates.

Have you noticed recent TV and movies often disappoint? Even a semi-intelligent ape could write a better script while fighting a lion.

What are the pros and cons for readers of AIs generating content?

If the cause is lazy writers, there are no pros! Readers get information created with cursory research that lacks depth and is potentially misleading.

If it’s the progress scenario, cons are temporary: readers tolerate a lack of depth, intuition, and the human touch that stirs souls until technology advances. However, the pros of this period will mainly be the speed of content generation. Readers can get information quickly.

During this period, the world should consider adding two key features to content-generating AIs: First, transparency markers that will clearly identify the content as generated by AI. Second, reputation markers that enable readers to teach and reshape the AIs. Perhaps, as a bonus, let readers control recommendation parameters and own the content ranking model.

The long-term pros will be accuracy, breadth, detail, and impartiality as the AIs learn to accurately digest and process facts before sharing content.

If the case is scenario three (‘Stupidity’), there are no pros and cons. These developments could lead us into uncharted territory and fundamentally alter the nature of writing.

Will AI supplant human writers?

The answer depends on the scenario: If writers are getting lazy, AI will likely replace humans. If AIs are improving, there are reasonable grounds to say yes, AI will replace human writers.

If readers are getting dumber, we’ll reach a point where we cannot distinguish good from bad writing. If so, comparing “which is better?” becomes irrelevant.

Another possibility is that we might end up unable to compare human and AI writers because culture shapes notions of great writing. What makes a great writer? One who creates a culture and trend. If AI finds its way to create a different yet generally good culture, we have no reason to avoid the new flow.

In Ethiopia’s case:

My view is not far from the above assessments. Obviously, our literary and artistic milieu cannot compete with the developed world’s content frenzy in terms of glitz and glamour. But we’ve got something unique too! Ethiopia’s creative landscape is strongly rooted in local languages and our unique writing system. This sets us apart from mainstream content created in the developed world.

Here’s an interesting twist: Our dominance in local languages and our distinct Ge’ez scripts may just save our creative output—for now—from the imminent invasion of generative AI. These AI systems are trained on major European language datasets. So they’re like lost tourists without a map when generating content in Ethiopian languages. For now, Eurocentric content creators in Ethiopia are the ones at risk. If you write in foreign languages, you’d better brace yourselves because these AI models could likely replace you faster than you can sneeze!

In the long run, any advantage is temporary—a mirage in the scorching desert of AI advancements. Upcoming content-generating AI systems will eventually incorporate our local languages and become proficient at generating Ethiopian content.

The generative AIs will cast a spell on our digital artists too! Again, Ethiopian artists blending traditional arts initially have an edge, but our Eurocentric peers face a tougher challenge. Tools like Midjourney can snatch their work faster than a rabbit disappears down a magician’s hat.

What should creative professionals do to mitigate AI’s impact?

I am tempted to say ‘pray’! Ironically, the best defense is to work with the new AI! Start mastering AI tools today. Creative professions require creative synthesis. Learn and master blending AI with the human touch.

The future will likely see the rise of more powerful and human-like AI tools that will undoubtedly match or surpass humans’ creative output. Moreover, access to these tools will become easier and more widespread. This will decrease demand for jobs in creative fields. Mass unemployment in the creative industry is an inevitable consequence of technological progress!

Yet on the positive side, when these tools become accessible to average people, creative art might stagnate; mediocre work could become the “new masterpiece.” Why is this positive?

As the adage goes, know thy enemy and know yourself. Those in creative professions today should begin working with AI tools to secure their positions in the future. Mastering these tools will enable truly talented professionals to set standards and maintain quality in their fields. Preventing creative stagnation and mediocrity will be the new advantage.

Soon, or even sooner, AIs will evolve into AGIs. That is the game-over point: there will be no question of competing. However, during the transition, it is crucial to prepare for potential threats like mass unemployment, inequality, and other existential crises.

I told you the truth would be hard to handle. Well, handle it before it handles you! Our current value system must change. A system that creates financial inequality creates monsters. Our system is flawed: if future AGI destroys you, the present me says you reaped what you sowed.

Hruy Tsegaye is the CEO of Mindplex and co-founder of iCog Labs.

Contributed by Hruy Tsegaye

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