Nobody saw this one coming.
If ten years ago, you would have asked tech experts where AI would make the greatest impact in the first years of this decade, design and creativity probably would have been at the bottom of everyone’s list – if it even earned a mention. Yet recent developments in AI make the case for just that, catching many off guard while raising a host of unanswered questions about the nature of creativity, art, and the rights of those (humans) who make it.
Although it is up for debate as to whether what generative AI (artificial intelligence that can create text, images, audio, or other creative output) produces can be called art, the global response from concerned artists and creatives demonstrates it’s already having a powerful impact.
Despite the fact that companies are starting to enable some manual opt-out mechanisms for creators to remove their work from training sets (a collection of examples from which AI learns and perfects itself), their response seems too late, and puts the onus on artists to be proactive. These models are already too sophisticated to easily undo specific inputs. Just by interacting with these sophisticated programs as users, we are training them; excluding a few works from future iterations in the training dataset won’t significantly impact their evolution. How to properly credit and compensate artists whose work is sourced to generate AI images is just one important piece of the necessary conversations around AI and ethics that will emerge over the course of the coming years.
As this technology was developed and perfected through incorporating the collective heritage of humanity to inform new outputs – generating visual art from sources created by human beings, for example – it stands to reason that these AI tools should serve the common interest and seek to elevate humanity as a whole. So far, there aren’t best practices to ensure an ethical application of AI, and legal action is still in its infancy.
While such issues haven’t been resolved yet, industries like music or fashion are already turning to AI-powered processes, to compose lyrics or generate novel outfits, for example. And technological progress, as usual, closes a door and opens a window. Many people will have to navigate their jobs being transformed, or even made obsolete. Others will find creative ways and new angles to exploit these tools and deliver the most incredible products and services.
The hard truth is that this AI rise is, and will continue, moving forward, no matter what we think or feel, or whatever objections we may have. While new regulations may emerge over time, the only decision in our individual power is on which side of the revolution we invest: a choice between clinging to the past and resisting certain changes, or navigating the complexities of embracing an uncertain future.