We came across a very interesting article about AI that everyone should consider before, well, laying off an entire design team or in-house marketing group. It’s by Jonathan Zdziarski. In the piece he writes that AI isn’t artificial intelligence, it’s someone else’s intelligence.
We’ll quote liberally here because these points are important:
The danger of this type of ML is not that it will take jobs (it definitely will, and already is), but why it will take jobs. It will take jobs not because the computer is replacing the thinking of one worker. It will take jobs because the computer is competing with that one worker, using the experience of a million others – how could anyone compete with that? Training material is, at a deconstructed level, the critical patterns of other people’s thoughts, ideas, writings, music, theology, facts, opinions, poetry, and so on. ML has proven wildly successful at identifying these critical patterns and gluing them back together in some different way that delivers the desired result, but at the end of the day, all of its intelligence indeed belongs to the other people whose content was used to train it, almost always without their permission. In the end, generative AI takes from the world’s best artists, musicians, philosophers, and other thinkers – erasing their identities, and assigning credit to its output. Without the proper restraints, it will produce the master forgeries of our generation, and blur the lines between what we view as human ideas and synthesized ones.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Stealing from one person is considered plagiarism. Stealing from everyone is considered research.” As is always the case with new technology, legislation is far behind. I expect that this type of formative AI will face numerous challenges of copyright infringement – as it should. Answering the question of how to define a derived work has been a problem long before AI came along. Case law can be found in the music industry, publishing, art, technology, and in virtually every other place, where humans are accused of copying some initial work from others. Results produced by generative AI today are largely still considered a novelty, however, it is very likely that many of its results are already infringing the copyright of others, or at least stealing those ideas. By calling it “generative AI”, the industry is personifying something to try and gain acceptance for the notion that it actually creates new things. A better term for this should be “formative ML”, as it develops concepts and content only based on its learned training inputs and feedback cycle. When a copyright war does start, it will likely be a very long battle. Due to the hidden layers of AI by nature, it will be very difficult to prove the provenance of the different training material that contributed to a work.
Zdziarski includes a very nice primer on the technology as well, showing us that, in short, AI is producing content out of a cloud of other content and that content, thanks to the work of actual humans, is designed to please us. That’s all that’s going on here: AI is essentially a kaleidoscope that creates pretty patterns. In truth, they have no real meaning but, to our eye, they are deeply pleasing.
As we move into a world of AI, consider the following before you chuck your PR team and comms gurus into the swamp: they are the producers of the content that the AI is using on a daily basis. Their input is integral, their editorial and curatorial skills are vital, and their judgment – though it may be human – can run circles around any you’ve met.
To be clear there is some cause to reconsider investment in the creative arts. Outsourcing might be cheaper than having a plethora of folks in-house and using AI tools like GPT4 will be part of everyone’s arsenal in the next year. To use a military analogy, AI is a force multiplier. In the hands of a great marketer, writer, or creative director, it’s a sniper rifle – precise and effective. In the hands of a dilettante or someone with less scruples, it’s essentially a landmine – destructive and random.
Don’t ignore the tech. Don’t fire your marketers. Do use AI. Just remember: it’s you who is feeding the models that people say will one day replace you. Don’t let those people be right.
If you want to learn how to implement AI tools in your team, check out John’s interactive seminar on AI content creation.
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