With a few keystrokes the general public now has access to artificial intelligence (AI) that can write a book and generate works of art in a fraction of the time it would take a real person.
But what does this mean for writers and artists who rely on this type of work? Will AI end their careers? Don’t worry, Matt Frederick, Ben Bowlin, and Noel Brown are here to talk about AI on their podcast Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know.
“The big thing is, we are on the cusp,” said Ben. “Is this the cusp of a chasm into which civilization falls? Or is this more like the precipice of a runway? Are we on a plane or are we on a weird 'Thelma' and 'Louise' cliff run, right, with AI.”
First things first, what is AI? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines artificial intelligence as, “The ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”
While the hosts mention that there is some disagreement about what real AI is, if we use the above definition then both programs mentioned in the podcast can be defined as AI.
This program snuck into the mainstream over the winter holidays and took educators by surprise when classes resumed last month. ChatGPT is a program that was trained to respond to user questions and provide answers if possible. The AI’s abilities range from answering simple questions to writing code.
“My perspective is, I find it fascinating,” said Noel. “It really calls into question the nature of an idea. Right? Like if you are using one of these art rendering things and your feeding it an idea and it is enacting your idea based on your prompts, it's still your idea.”
This is probably the best way to describe using ChatGPT. The program is very advanced and can continuously have a discussion with its user by remembering previous chats. However, what it produces is limited to what is being put in.
It can probably write a 1,000-word essay on the American Honeybee for science class, but it isn’t going to follow the rubric. It is going to generate a very manufactured paper that will likely repeat itself to meet the requested word count.
There are several AI generators for both writing and art, but Midjourney is one of the more popular programs circulating the internet right now. Unlike writing based AI, these programs are trained by being fed a massive amount of artwork to imitate.
So, when a user uploads a selfie and gets a dozen photos that have been “recreated” using AI, the program is imitating the art and artists it was trained on.
This raises some legal questions, which the hosts cover in an episode dedicated to listener mail. A letter from a fan points out that while styles cannot be copyrighted, the person who creates the artwork immediately owns the rights to it. But what happens when someone uses AI to create impersonated artwork?
“Once you’ve made the thing, you own the copyright,” said Matt. “There is no law against impersonating.”
The three hosts go on to say that while at the moment copyright laws favor the individual artist, that could change with the right amount of corporate lobbying. For example, “Mickey Mouse” was supposed to enter the public domain in 1984 and in 2003. However, lobbying by The Walt Disney Company resulted in huge changes to copyright laws. Who is to say a major company won’t do the same to keep their artistic styles from being imitated by someone using AI?
Check out “Is AI coming for you?” and “Listener Mail: Stuff the Military Doesn't Want You To Know, Haunted Planes, 'AI' and Art” if you want to hear more about how artificial intelligence has made our future uncertain. Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know releases new episodes weekly and dive into the stuff most podcasts won’t touch.
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