First of a Three-Part Series
This is the first installment of a three-part series, on AI content creation.
Part One: The Debate
The Year of AI
2022 will go down in history as the year that AI-generated content finally went mainstream, becoming an undeniable (and unavoidable) fixture of pop culture. It seems that a plethora of AI content generation platforms sprang onto the scene. The list of AI image generators alone includes Midjourney, Artssy, DALL-E, Jasper Art, Pixray, Deep Dream Generator, Craiyon, Starry AI and many more. Of course, this has all sparked a mixture of paranoia, speculation and debate.
Feeling late to the party:
Get up to speed quickly by checking out these images created by two of the more popular visual Al content creators, MidJourney and DALL-E
Each of the images in these galleries was generated by Al algorithms. The way these programs work is pretty simple - a user/artist, often called an Al Whisperer, writes a series of text prompts that inspire the AI algorithm to create its "art." The Al Whisperer's input can include story details, style, lighting, mood, etc. Then the Al algorithm takes it from there, iterating its way to a series of images.
It's not as if the core technology powering this revolution is new. I've been using Al image tools from Topaz for several years to coax more clarity out of low-rez images and video. And it's been invaluable. But then as now, everyone has a different opinion on where machine-driven creativity fits into the big picture. I remember an art director friend attacking these tools early on. His take? "If you'd shot it properly in the first place, you wouldn't need these tools." I heartily agree. But out here in the real world, few of us have control over every pixel we touch.
More Than Just a Pretty Picture
At this stage, these software platforms mostly appeal to visual professionals. But a recent article from TechCrunch, AI art apps are cluttering the App Store’s Top Charts following Lensa AI’s, makes it clear that more and more consumers are beginning to join the fray, harnessing the impressive processing power of today’s smartphones to create fantasy avatars and more.
The evidence of the AI paradigm shift isn’t limited to imagery. Dozens of AI-driven writing platforms have popped up as well. These include ChatGPT, Jasper, Writesonic, Copysmith, Rytr, AI Writer, CopyAI, ClosersCopy and Writecream. And this is just the beginning.
And let’s not forget Grammarly. Not only does the OG AI writing assistant check your grammar, spelling and vocabulary, but it can also even comment on the tone of your prose and offer valid suggestions to improve your writing.
By now, you may be thinking something along the lines of, “Nerds will be nerds. Lots of tools for early adopters, but where’s the evidence that AI content creation has gone mainstream?” Admittedly, I wondered the same thing. So I decided to consult an AI expert, feeding ChatGPT the following prompt:
“Support the premise that 2022 was the year that AI Content generation became mainstream pop culture. Cite examples.”
And here are the results from that prompt, exactly as delivered:
- In 2022, the popular interactive show "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch" on Netflix used artificial intelligence (AI) technology to create an interactive decision tree that allowed users to control the outcome of the movie.
- AI music composition became a hot new trend in 2022, with the emergence of new AI programs that generated artful, unique and original new tunes popular among music enthusiasts.
- Podcasting saw a new rise in popularity due to an AI-based podcast generator, which allowed anyone to easily craft custom podcasts with a few simple clicks.
- Instagram also saw an influx of original, AI-generated content, as an AI-driven drawing and image editing app emerged which allowed users to generate colorful, aesthetic pictures and designs.
- Several exciting AI-based movies and shows, such as "Journey 2: the AI Odyssey" and "The Futureless Dreamer" hit the big screen in 2022, further boosting public awareness of the advancements in AI content generation.
Fact-Checking the Robots
I’d read that ChatGPT is notorious for making up information, so I asked our copy editor to fact-check the ChatGPT list. Here’s her review:
- FALSE: "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch" was released in 2018, not 2022. No mention of AI online.
- TRUE-ish: “AI music composition” is a thing. Awareness and discussion continue to grow, but it is probably overreaching to say it “..became a hot new trend in 2022.”
- TRUE: Google “AI podcast generator,” and the 24M results suggest this is true.
- TRUE: This article, “What Is Instagram's AI Photo Trend & How Can You Join In?” makes it clear that AI imagery is trending on Instagram.
- FALSE: Complete fabrication. No mention of either movie online.
So three out of five facts checked out. If you’re a human, 60% accuracy will earn you a “D” on most tests. Nonetheless, based on my personal experience, there is no doubt in my mind that 2022 was a pivotal year for AI content generation. For another data point, we ran a keyword search on the title of this article. The resulting keyword trend chart tells the story.
The Emerging Debate
Much of the emerging debate in the creative community seems to center around two broad (and complicated) questions: whether or not AI-generated imagery really can be considered "art," and what role this type of software should play in the workflow of professional designers and artists.
Some will say, "It's just another tool in our creative arsenal." Others seem to regard it as a threat to creative professionals everywhere, and maybe even to humanity as we know it.
Meanwhile, headlines like these add fuel to the debate:
- “Virtual Humans Empowered by AI” (Deepbrain AI)
- “Create videos with AI actors - stop spending your time on studios” (Colossyan)
- “AI avatars are digital twins of real actors.” (Synthesia)
- “90% of online content could be ‘generated by AI by 2025,’” (Yahoo Finance, Jan 13, 2023)
And of course, there was Stephen Hawking's famous prediction that future developments in AI “could spell the end of the human race.” To be fair, that ominous-sounding remark is often quoted out of context. But his broader perspective on Artificial Intelligence was only slightly more balanced: “It will either be the best thing that’s ever happened to us, or it will be the worst thing. If we’re not careful, it very well may be the last thing.”
Yes, this stuff is complicated, and the arguments never really boil down to a black-or-white proposition. But in the spirit of today’s topic, I thought it might be instructive to get some answers straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. Knowing that ChatGPT can act as a passionate debater, more than willing to support either or both sides of an argument, I went back with this prompt:
“Position the arguments for and against AI content creation.” ChatGPT dutifully came back with the following:
Arguments For AI Content Creation:
- AI content creation can reduce the amount of resources and time typically needed to create content.
- AI content creation has the potential to produce content that is more interesting and engaging than human-created content.
- It has the ability to improve the user experience by personalizing content based on individual user data.
- AI can help provide consistency in the content, ensuring it adheres to the brand’s voice and message.
- AI content creation can help companies to scale quickly and increase their reach.
- AI can create more accurate and objective content, providing readers with unbiased data.
Arguments Against AI Content Creation:
- AI-generated content lacks the creativity, nuance, and personal touch humans bring to content creation.
- Accuracy is often an issue with AI content due to its reliance on algorithms.
- AI content cannot replace human insight and can, therefore, not be entirely trusted.
- AI content creation can produce vast amounts of inaccurate and plagiarized content.
- AI lacks the emotional intelligence to truly understand an audience and create content tailored to their needs.
- Generated content does not possess the same level of creativity, originality, and quality as human-created content.
If ChatGPT were human, I’d be inclined to chalk up the against list to self-awareness. But AI is not human, and we may consider this either its greatest weakness or its greatest strength.
The Bottom Line
I understand why content creators and ethicists are deeply concerned. But while new tools can displace workers, even topple entire industries, I still adhere to the notion that by closing doors, other doors – new opportunities – are inevitably revealed. We must evolve to remain relevant. And that’s something that hasn’t changed.
AI content generators can produce artwork, music, podcasts and videos and do it with breathtaking efficiency. And whether you’re comfortable with this notion or not, AI does have the potential to be more exciting, unexpected and engaging than traditional content. Improving quality and accuracy is still a work in progress. But by now, it’s undeniable that this evolving technology has become a mainstay in our modern world. And that will only become more true as time passes.
So, should we feel threatened by these advances? Are there other, more nuanced takes?
To broaden my perspective, I sought opinions from some of the smartest, most successful content creators I know. Some of the creative pros I spoke to are household names, both within the creative community and beyond. Others are people I consider to be the best of the best, and a few are promising up-and-comers.
Watch for my next post: The Great AI Content Debate, Part Two, to hear what this star-studded collection of talent thinks about AI and its impact. I’m betting some of their comments will really surprise you.
Several people have asked me if I created the cover images above. That is such a loaded question... I suppose the best response is, "I prompted an AI content generator to create these images and manually knit them together using Photoshop."