Today a plane pulling a banner that reads ‘Pay The Writers You AI-Holes’ flew right past my window. I live in Hollywood where the Writer’s Guild of America, a labour union representing writers who work in film and television, is striking for fair pay and protections against artificial intelligence which is already threatening jobs. Among other proposals, they want to ban AIs like ChatGPT from generating story ideas and shows.
A marketing email has also just arrived in my inbox today inviting me to consider a non-fiction book which was written by ChatGPT in less than twelve hours. It arrived together with a writer’s gloomy predictions on how AI will affect the book publishing industry. It’s now possible for a robot to write a book in the style of Jane Austen, thereby allowing an author who has been dead for over two hundred years to churn out a few more novels. I am an author and writer. The future is looking scary.
My husband is a composer who writes music for film and television. Fully AI-generated tracks are already being uploaded onto Spotify and Apple Music. Machine created music that mimics famous singers is already out there.
Developed by AI research company OpenAI, ChatGPT is based on GPT-3.5, a state-of-the-art language model that can be used for natural language processing tasks. Since its launch in November 2022, it has become overwhelmingly popular. Other AI tools have followed like Google Bard AI, Chatsonic, Bing AI Chat.
There are still limitations to what this new technology can do. But the chances are, even if the WGA are successful in their ban (which I dearly hope), it’s only a question of time before we are looking at books, films, TV and music, unaware that they have been computer generated.
Or will we? The million-dollar question remains will we be able to tell the difference between something created by a human mind or an artificial one?
I cling to the notion that the one thing that AI can never have is a heart or a soul. It might be able to imitate effectively, but what makes a film, book or piece of music successful is its soul and its originality. It is its relatability on a human level, conveying what it means to be human, which makes it worthwhile. A computer remains an emotionless chip, that knows nothing about being human. On that basis, how can it create something that is genuinely relatable? If it has to be fed material to imitate, how can it create anything authentic or original?
Human beings have always created art based on their emotional experiences. Although some art can be imitative, humans have always pushed originality forward. How else can we account for the difference between 15th century music and the current?
One of the reasons we value art, whether it’s a book, painting, TV show or piece of music, is because art has the extraordinary power of making us feel less alone. Its creator connects us to other human experiences. He or she moves us because he or she understands the frailties, vulnerabilities, and emotions of what it is to be human. It’s hard to see how AI can replace that in any satisfactory way. If I know something has been computer-generated, will I even care?
Perhaps I am being naïve, but my own prediction is that AI will be very successful at making generic, bog-standard, not very interesting entertainment. It will be imitative and of little value. The toilet paper of the art world.
Hopefully, original work will then hold a greater value and the future for artists will be in pursuing greater originality in their work, not for the sake of it, but by creating authentically human art, the one thing that AI can never do. I hope I’m right.