By Grace Toovey: Columnist
In the modern technological age of social media, it is not a secret that intelligent machines are at the heart of everything we consume; complex algorithms learn about the personality of the user, their likes, dislikes, their political affiliations, their taste in furniture, and even their sense of humour.
These machines identify patterns that can teach them things about us before we are even aware of them ourselves and, thus creating infinite online experiences that are tailored to every individual.
These algorithms are undoubtedly impressive, even if they have the potential to restrict the information that we are exposed to online, and we have become accustomed to accepting these machines into our everyday lives.
With almost Psychic anticipation?
Though it may be somewhat unnerving to see an advert on Facebook for a pair of shoes that you only thought about in your head, few would deny the convenience of the internet operating in this way.
However, the internet is about to become a little more unnerving still in a way that could potentially change the ways in which we engage with content online forever and the repercussions could be endless. This is all thanks to the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (referred to as AI going forward).
It has been announced that the United Kingdom will be holding the first ever worldwide summit on AI safety in this coming November as a response to rising concerns that AIis becoming too intelligent and that it has the potential to have implications towards misinformation, theft, fraud, and – some may claim – the safety of humanity as a whole. But what is AI?
Perhaps it is simpler to define AI in contrast to the afformentioned machine learning algorithms. While algorithms can only produce a finite number of outputs based on the information that they are fed by answering a series of pre-coded “questions” to identify patterns in information or to answer questions, AI algorithms have the ability to learn to operate on their own. In this sense, AI machines can gain knowledge over time and then begin to perform human-like tasks.
It is these tasks that are cause for concern and one area in particular that has started to suffer expeditiously in recent years is the creative industry.
Perhaps the most prominent problem at this current time comes from within writing industries – both creative and informative writing – and is being fuelled by the growing popularity of language-based writing bot, ChatGPT. The premise is simple: you feed the bot with prompts and the machine pulls information from the internet in order to produce a piece of writing. At first, this seems like a harmless – if not helpful – tool which collates information in one place to save time, using various sources.
This is where the usefulness begins and ends. First of all, the software can only use sources from as recent as two years ago so, presumably, most of the output is outdated and inaccurate, especially in this era of past-paced and ever changing information. Not only this, the software does not reveal the sources from which the information is gathered.
Therefore, it is not possible to check the accuracy of the information provided, nor is it possible to identify any potential biases; if the user doesn’t know where the information was sourced, how can they be sure it is balanced or reliable?
The increased popularity of writing bots is a particular concern because, already, it is clear that the software is being abused. Reports are coming out of educational institutions as students are using these writing bots to complete their assignments, professional bodies are using these bots to write their articles or to draft their emails or to write the entire contents of their websites. This is disheartening, largely because the individuals who were previously tasked with employing their skills for these purposes will no longer be required, subsequently putting them out of work.
Uses of such bots do not stop here, though, and they are beginning to encroach upon the creative industries, too. Now, instead of waiting for authors to painstakingly plan and write their novels, readers can feed prompts into bots and receive a personalised, unique, story within seconds. Why would people opt to wait when they can have whatever they want almost instantly?
Imperceptible from humanity?
For writers, the answer to this is obvious: no matter how intelligent AI becomes, it is not sophisticated enough to emulate the human experience, to learn empathy or display nuance or to question morality. The result is thousands of works that lack character and depth, leaving consumers content with vapid content, all to save them the inconvenience of waiting for a human.
The use of AI does not stop here. Programmes are popping up all over the internet that can perform every creative task imaginable. Do you want a bespoke piece of art that you don’t have to pay for in the style of your favourite artist?
Not a problem because there are bots that can provide this free of charge. Or do you want your favourite song sang by your favourtie vocalist? This is also possible as bots are learning to emulate the voices of every singer out there, with a level of sophistication that makes the product sound almost real.
What is next? This is the question plaguing creative industries. Could AI one day become so sophisticated that we don’t need writers at all? It is possible that in the not-too-far future, artists may be unable to find work because a cheaper alternative is available.
Already, companies are using AI to create their logos, publishers are using AI to create the cover art for books, and AI art is being sold. Could streaming services start to use AI to write their scripts in order to speed up to the production process and reduce costs? It is understandable, therefore, that not everyone sees the excitement in the growth of artificial intelligence.
The convenience of artificial intelligence is undeniable and it is not all doom and gloom. Human intelligence is limited and humans can only do so much. AI can harvest and anyalise mounds of data in a short amount of time, as well as being able to endlessly carry out tedious and repetitive tasks that humans cannot. AI can also detect anomalies in data and readicate human error entirely.
Cover Photography: Steve Johnson & Julien Tromeur