Second of a Three-Part Series
This is the second of a three-part series on AI-driven content creation.
Part Two: Perspectives from Creative Pros
In Part One of this article, I provided some context and examples of why 2022 will be remembered as the year AI Content Creation finally went mainstream. I also framed the central debate: are AI content generators useful tools, or do they mark the end of creativity as we know it?
To broaden my own perspective, I spoke with some of the smartest, most successful content creators I know. Here’s what they had to say.
Chipp WaltersBACK TO TOP ↑
"The thing that I'm seeing is that most of the hate towards AI is from people who don't understand design. The simple fact is that everything in design is derivative.
Our minds are just like the AI mind in that it's a neural net, and we process using pattern-matching capabilities. It's just that AI is so much better than human brains are [at pattern-matching] and that, of course, intimidates folks. Still, AI's can not deliver the precise results that humans can when it comes to design. They do provide a good launching pad for brainstorming solutions. But, as designers, we already know there are tons of ways to brainstorm and come up with new ideas.
It's also probably necessary to understand the difference between art and design. My definition since grad school has been art is communication to self; design is communication to others.
Looking at AI art through this lens allows you to see that AI is only about design. And as Steve Jobs once said, "good designers borrow, great designers steal."
Lastly, to get any AI to provide you with any sort of meaningful and useful design requires you to become a master of text prompting. And acquiring this skill can take hundreds of hours. So, just like anything else, AI text prompting is another skill to be acquired and used when creating new designs."
Brian SykesBACK TO TOP ↑
“The best comment I have read on this subject is, "AI is not going to take your job. A person using AI is." The threat is NOT AI and the proliferation of content and ideas it will generate. Rather the problem is people's unwillingness to step outside of their comfort zone and be curious enough to try, explore and learn. AI content generation is a fast-moving train. I recommend people jump on while the momentum is growing.”
Lynda WeinmanBACK TO TOP ↑
“Witnessing the explosion of AI is reminiscent of the beginning of the computer age. The genie won’t be going back in the bottle, so there’s no turning back, regardless of what any of us think. So far, it can’t think independently without prompts, so humans still have a critical role in collaborating with the bots. I am fascinated by the technology and plan to utilize it in my work and art as it evolves.”
Michael DukesBACK TO TOP ↑
"The technology itself is very exciting. In spaces like Pharma/biotech, there’s incredible stuff happening already. But as for AI-generated creativity, it all still feels like zombie content to me. No life, zero soul. But clearly, we haven’t heard the last out of AI. If there’s one thing that impresses me, it’s how quickly this whole field is evolving. The way users approach it will continue to evolve as well."
Brent "BB" BarcusBACK TO TOP ↑
“AI is quickly affecting the VO space… text-to-speech generators are becoming very advanced. I see AI assisting audio mixing in the future but not taking over… for low-budget quick turnaround audio, I can see it being more prominent.“
SL: How do you feel about this? Help or hindrance? An exciting new tool or a threat to audio workers?
BB: “Like any technology… I believe you have to embrace the future and continue to be forward-thinking and find ways to provide value while innovating and being open to pivoting. It’s a “Help” if it speeds up workflow.”
Nick UgreBACK TO TOP ↑
“AI will be a game-changing tool for brainstorming, but if it brainstorms too well, it might cause creative muscle weakness, so we need to brainstorm on our own to stay in shape.
SL: Do you use any AI tools in your workflow?
Nick: “Ohh, I use it. Pretty much often. Usually, ChatGPT for idea generation and some copywriting. It's a game-changer. Asking it about basically everything.
AI is getting very clever, and it has already started changing the design industry. Yesterday, I saw a poster that was created by AI in the style of David Carson, and it was better than many junior designers' work...
Artificial intelligence will not completely replace designers, but it may replace many junior and mid-level designers…
It's hard to say for certain what will happen, but it's clear that AI is evolving quickly and will impact our jobs and careers. In the past, many professions were replaced because of technology, so we need to pay attention to what is happening now to evolve and adapt.”
Nik DaumBACK TO TOP ↑
“People are constantly working to destroy or save themselves. I think AI could go either way. Much like a knife, AI can be a tool, threat, or both depending on how you use it."
SL: How does the prospect of AI bot design make you feel? Do you feel threatened by it? Eager to use it? Have you done any experimenting with AI imagery?
NIk: “Like anything new, it’s exciting. I imagine at some point, AI could design basic things as well as a person could, similar to the way AI text generation is already pretty good. I’ve seen/tried some of the AI image tools for fun.”
SL: Do you see AI having a place in your workflow?
NIk: “Not currently, but possibly in the future.”
Pepe MorenoBACK TO TOP ↑
“I'm incredibly pleased with the rendering quality [of these AI tools]. Beautiful, smooth surfaces, fully shaded. The kind of stuff that, technically speaking, is not easy.
And the guys [behind it] are geniuses, but to be honest, I'm beginning to get bored of it. I've been doing it for a while, and I'm just getting to this point where my psyche says, boring. It's all beautiful, but it all has a particular look to it. And for me, that's sort of the beginning of, 'OK, it's boring.'
I mean, it's just the beginning, so I think that this opinion has to be tested over time. Because, considering what the people doing this sort of science have already accomplished, and I call it science, I only can imagine what they will be able to do in the future.
One thing this software is useful for is helping to visualize the characters for my video games. For example, we've been designing a character for BeachHead that I describe as a cross between Mussolini and Gingus Kan. We tried using conventional methods to design the character, and the results were just okay. Then, I decided to try again using AI prompts. The images were excellent, but the character was still not quite right. So I added “70% Mussolini” to the prompt, and suddenly the vision I had in my mind all along sprung to life: Muso Khan! So, this kind of tool fits into that process.
It recently became clear to me that, for now, AI is really only a designing tool. It's not a rendering tool; it's a design tool. Use it as a reference. It's a design tool. That's it. 100% full blast.
Beyond that, time will tell.”
Steven BlumenfeldBACK TO TOP ↑
“We are holding similar discussions at BurningMan: "Ethics of AI Art." I land similar to you. It is a new tech that isn't going away, and while some jobs may close, others will open. However, the question of AI algorithms and their use of copyrighted work scraped from the public internet is an interesting topic.”
Von GlitschkaBACK TO TOP ↑
“Artists are inspired and driven by a passion to create. An Algorithm isn’t. I’m not talking about tech; I’m talking about the specific algorithm that drives AI compositing. It couldn’t do anything if art didn’t pre-exist. It’s derivative-driven. A grad student I know is collecting images where the AI left signatures in the results.”
Reading Steven Blumenfeld’s remark about scraping the public Internet, along with Von Glitschka’s comment about embedded artist signatures, really got me thinking about the intellectual property issue. I started keeping an eye out for embedded artist signatures in the AI images I was generating. It didn’t take long before I started noticing artist signatures. Often they were distorted or otherwise obfuscated, but there they were.
While I was pondering all this, a friend shared a link to this timely Apple Insider article, AI art generators targeted in lawsuit for intellectual property theft. Per reporter Wesley Hilliard:
“The Joseph Saveri Law Firm LLP is seeking a class action lawsuit against Stability AI, MidJourney, and DeviantArt for DMCA violations, right of publicity violations, unlawful competition, and a breach of terms of service. The companies allegedly built "artificially intelligent" art generators using millions of users' intellectual property without permission.”
Is Anything Really New?
By definition, every one of the images we’re discussing is derivative. Neural networks create their massive pattern-matching databases by scraping millions of images from the Internet. Then, sophisticated compositing algorithms combine these to “create” something new on your behalf. This explains why the women in so many AI-rendered images come off as sex objects – clearly, the algorithms have been feasting on a steady diet of Internet porn, a sad reflection of today’s online content realities.
Clark PetersonBACK TO TOP ↑
“At the moment, Al-writing seems like a threat to mediocrity. If you are a mediocre writer, it appears that Al might give you some competition. But Al could also inspire you to get out of mediocrity and move closer to brilliance. Or at least excellence. I don't think that Al is threatening (yet) the truly talented creative professionals in our business, as AI is not yet able to write with the humor and emotional depth that a great writer can achieve.”
Scott BillupsBACK TO TOP ↑
“Here's the opening salvo from my upcoming book: The Last Invention: Surviving AI.
AI has the innate capability to be better than us in everything we do. It will never be less oppressive or intrusive than it is now. Scriptwriters are already being replaced; book writers are next. actors are next, and so on through every craft and occupation. The only option that doesn't leave you howling at the moon is to bitch-slap it into submission and make it do your bidding.”
Daniel SpirnBACK TO TOP ↑
“The answer is ‘Tool,’ obviously. Enhancing our abilities as creators. This next phase of AI development is moving faster than I anticipated. For years it’s been only theoretical; now it’s real.”
SL: Agreed. The whole AI topic has gone viral, and that’s driving development and adoption.
Carl BresslerBACK TO TOP ↑
“Is AI a tool or a threat? Like most physical (or metaphysical) objects, it all depends on the intentions of the hand wielding it. Even with the best intentions, we must be extra special, spidey-sense careful.”
SL: Right. You know what they say, "The path to hell is paved with good intentions."
Tommy YuneBACK TO TOP ↑
“I think AI may threaten artists who always churn out the same style. That said, it could be useful to artists who stay on top of things and embrace it as a tool to get busywork done quickly. Artists who try to push the envelope and innovate have less to worry about.”
I'm big into this — I think Topaz caught Adobe flat-footed by getting into the AI game before they started taking it seriously. I'm surprised they didn't buy them (yet).”
SL: Agreed. I’m a big Topz fan. I’ve been using their tools pretty much since they launched.
Marvin DeMerchantBACK TO TOP ↑
“Our Tools keep getting better, and AI is a tool that can help us execute our vision. My focus is on creating great user experiences, which requires much user empathy and understanding. I have not found an AI system that can understand the nuance of a user to improve the experience or create an entirely new experience that has never existed.”
Bryan TillerBACK TO TOP ↑
“I’ve done extensive work on AI/ML experiences. I should have a clear POV on this topic… but TBH, I’m torn. I'm not sure how to answer questions on the topic. Context is everything, and nuances abound.”
SL: I get it. That's an honest and fair response.
Mark MabryBACK TO TOP ↑
“Currently, AI lacks the charisma and nuanced authenticity required to build and maintain a strong brand. It also lacks the emotional intelligence to connect with an audience over time. Soon, more sentient AI will likely circumvent these obstacles, placing greater importance on intent and integrity within AI development and utilization.”
Mitchell BlockBACK TO TOP ↑
“In the field of documentaries, one of the more exciting uses of AI has been recreating the voices of dead people. Morgan Nevel’s terrific documentary, “Roadrunner,” about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, had two sequences in which he imperceptibly created the voice of the chef Bourdain and put it into the film. And until it came up in an interview where he mentioned he did it, no one was wiser…
The genius of AI is the idea that you can create something that doesn't exist without necessarily an army of artists and FX people…
So, to me, that's where it's going; to end up where you can have a movie with a Marlon Brando and James Dean and Gene Kelly, appearing to be fully alive and interacting with each other at any age in their careers acting in any fictional story that you can dream up. So I mean, that's the future in a simplistic sense.”
Marc CanterBACK TO TOP ↑
“With each new generation of technology comes another round of tools that enable humans to control that new technology. AI is the meta-tool we've all been waiting for. It's so Meta that the pundits can't even figure out if it's a buzzword du jour, a startup floor wax, or a next-gen Swiss Army knife. The answer (of course) is all three.”
SL: Thanks, Marc.
Marc: I am in direct connection with my "unconscious" nowadays. I literally just start typing, and it flows. (Instigate.ai :-)
SL: Whoa! Are you telling me this response came from instigate.ai? If so, color me impressed!
Marc: No, no. I'm saying that Creative people need a way to:
- Combine NLP with media storytelling = ✓
- Learn about semantic modeling, generative AI, and "Vocabs"
- Monetize their work and make a living off of using the tool (as work-for-hire gigs)
Joe SparksBACK TO TOP ↑
“Obviously, the answer to the question is BOTH (tool and threat). The implications are staggering.
Dependence on GPS navigation has led to a decline in our ability to navigate independently. Al dependence will lead to the decline of thousands of abilities. This is the chief danger we face: becoming less capable (and less intelligent) humans.
Meanwhile, those who adopt Al tools to increase productivity are likely to leapfrog ahead. I predict that all of us will be forced to adopt and learn to work with these Al tools. At some point, we will all have powerful executive assistants co-piloting with us as we accomplish our goals.
We must be wary of our dependence on these tools, our vulnerability to corrupt Al, and our personal development as we navigate this future.”
Bill GubbinsBACK TO TOP ↑
“While our species has many admirable qualities, accurately extrapolating the future that will be from the present that is has never been one of them (even by our most visionary members).
But the truth — even today — is clear: AI beats us creatives at our own game and will, in an order of time much shorter than we think, create plays better than Shakespeare's, paintings better than Picasso's, novels better than Jane Austin's, logos better than Raymond Loewy's, and TikTok videos better than Charli D'Amelio's, to say nothing of Woolly-Bullys better than Sam The Sham's ("Watch it now, watch it!"), and, speaking of shams, ShamWows better than Vince Shlomi's.
To think otherwise is to go against not just the evolution of our fair species but against the very story arc of the cosmos itself (and the infomercials embedded within it).
This leaves us 'mental laborists' in the good company of those 'physical laborists' — you know, the coal miners, factory workers, convenience store clerks, et al. — long ago displaced by AL ('Artificial Labor').
So, will there be a happy ending? Hell, if we know — we won't be the ones writing it.”
While the dialog with all of these experts was fun and engaging, it left me wondering how best to wrap up this ambitious post. The hour was late at night, and I was tired. So I figured I’d try prompting ChatGPT to write the closing summary. The results aren’t bad. But in the spirit of this debate, I challenged one of our senior copywriters to improve on the robot’s closer.
The conversations with creative professionals have provided insight that Al is indeed both a tool and a threat to the creative industry today. While it does have the capability to aid in the execution of design tasks and increase productivity, artists must be wary of the implications and dangers of becoming too dependent on it.
The opportunities offered by Al are vast, and the possibility of leveraging these technologies to generate innumerable innovative concepts and new designs are enor-mous. And yet, at the same time, Al cannot replace the power of human creativity and ingenuity, as it lacks the ability to reach the heights of human emotion, charisma, and brilliance.
As demonstrated by the responses, the current consensus is that while Al is a powerful asset, artists must still seek to tap into their own personal creativity and take caution that Al does not become a replacement for their creativity and intuition.
So if there’s one conclusion we can draw after checking in with a range of creative pros, it’s that there are no easy answers.
All seem to agree that AI is here to stay. A great majority acknowledge, sometimes grudgingly, that it has at least minimal value as a creative tool. Some of those same people are convinced that AI also represents the end of humanity as we know it.
For now, odds are it’s just a matter of time before each of us plays around with some form of AI content generation, even if only out of curiosity. And as we’ve seen with everything from cave paintings to cameras to digital audio, there will always be adventurous creative types who grab for the latest tools as a way to push the boundaries of their craft.
Thankfully, some things never change.
Ah, the human touch!
So what does the path forward look like? To hear my thoughts and others from the community, watch for my next installment: The Great AI Content Debate, Part Three. Spoiler alert: it’ll be written by humans.
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