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Pondering the universe


Generative AI = Automated Indifference

There is a lot of attention to generative AI encroaching on the territory of creative artists, but is it really a threat?

AI like ChatGPT has hit the mainstream consciousness with its incorporation into search engines. While people had been interacting with AI in the form of voice assistants for years, they were pretty basic compared to the latest batch. Siri and Alexa weren't serious contenders for writing school essays or company reports, but the modern batch of AI is doing just that, along with making art and even movies.

The problem with using the new AI to produce new works is that it is just coming up with new permutations of existing works. This is not in the same league as being inspired by other works where a creator may find creative ways to juxtaposition elements from a source work, but applied in a novel way or in another paradigm or medium. The creativity comes from the understanding of people as experiencers of works and what might mean something to them now.

AI is always reliant on the past and knows nothing about what would drive people in the future, other than what is likely to be popular, but that is still based upon trends of the past. Human creators have their own psyche to draw upon, which AI doesn't have. It only has the past expressions of that psyche, and not what may be yet to be manifested.

Disney has been rehashing their old favourite animated movies into live-action versions, but are failing to achieve critical success. While they have changed some characteristics of some characters in a shallow appeal to modern sensibilities and expectations, they haven't really provided anything substantially different from what an AI would do if asked to remake those old properties as if they were live-action with a greater number of ethnicities. While many consider AI to be a threat to art, they are also a threat to executives if they cannot do better than this.

If people were really OK with just getting rehashed current content, it won't be long before an AI app will be developed that can produce such content ad nauseum, making the studios redundant. But movie studios have been churning out massive amounts of low-creativity content for decades, and if AI can churn out such content on demand, studios will lose a huge amount of their back-catalog customers.

This is what happened during and after Covid, where production of all content was so low that streaming customers quickly watched what was available, including a lot of lower-quality content, so they became totally reliant upon new content, which is still in short supply across all platforms. This has led to the current poor viability and losses of many streaming platforms. There is no longer enough content on any platform to last a whole month, even after delaying returning for several months.

If AI eats the studios or any other so-called creative industries' meals by supplanting the poor quality content, they only have themselves to blame. The constant result of any creative or skill-based industry being encroached upon by computers is that the lower bar is lifted to the point that people can make their own more cheaply and without the skill. However, only people can up the upper bar as that is the domain of craftship and inspiration, both of which AI lacks.

While many might be OK with the equivalent of elevator music being a backdrop to their lives, it doesn't count as entertainment in the long run. Unless there is something novel or inspirational, boredom results from the format-fatigue that seeing basically the same stuff over and over again produces. While children can watch the same things like that, adults want change that is more substantial than shuffling locations or ethnicities.

Creative industries are reaping the rewards of decades of trying to fob off low-creativity content on the public. While they used computers to give us fancier rehashes of the same content, there was always the threat of computers being able to do the generative process better as well, and that day has arrived. Covid showed that people could do a lot of the things that they had got used to being provided for them, like haircuts, after they stopped being caught up in the hyped-up mystique around them.

There are two parallel ways this will go. Many people will learn how to entertain themselves more of the time, and the depressed market for traditionally-generated low-quality entertainment content will lead to a severe pruning of the numbers of large-scale content creators. AI is showing that the emperor's wardrobe is looking much barer these days.

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