Friday 24 February 2023

Technology is already driving inequality, now the AI bots are eroding human creativity

The rise of AI art and chat bots is getting deeply concerning.

The problems are obvious.

If you can generate artwork for your blog, for example, by typing a few prompts into an AI art bot, to almost instantaneously generate free, or ultra-cheap content, why expend the time, effort, and money on commissioning a human to do the job?

As an online writer it's vital to keep hitting the zeitgeist, because the content that shares most is usually the content that's about the topic of the moment, and because these days the news cycle moves incredibly quickly. So it makes sense to generate images as quickly as possible, rather than going through the lengthy process of commissioning real artists to do the work.

Under these circumstances what happens to the human artists, especially the emerging ones who haven't yet built up a client base or sufficient fans to support their work?

Artists were amongst the first to begin feeling the pressure from AI bots, but the AI chat bots are on the rise, and encroaching into written communication too.

Several of the chat bot issues have already been covered in detail by others, like the use of chat bots to cheat exams, people prompting the chat bot to produce hate speech and extremist content, and the fact that chat bots have no morality, so they're capable of outright lying, to the extent of inventing a load of made up citations to add fake legitimacy to their lies, but there's also a growing threat to writers' livelihoods.

The Science-Fiction magazine Clarkesworld is one of the best places for aspiring sci-fi writers to submit their work. They're not only really quick and efficient at dealing with submissions, they also pay well too.

Over the last couple of months they've been completely inundated with AI-generated content, submitted by scammers seeking to get commission fees for bot-written stories.

There's not really much chance that they'd actually succeed, because the bots have a long way to go before they can generate content that's good enough to pass as the kind of high quality sci-fi that Clarkesworld specialises in, but the sheer number of bot-written submissions has overwhelmed them, forcing them to close all new submissions.

As the magazine has outlined in a Twitter thread, there's no obvious solution:
  • Chat bot detectors are too unreliable.
  • "Pay-to-Submit" policies sacrifice too many legitimate writers, especially those from poor countries and under-privileged backgrounds.
  • Third party identity confirmation tools are too expensive, and would create regional holes which would amount to effectively banning submissions from entire countries.
  • Paper submissions are unrealistic in this day and age.
  • Restricting submissions to those who have already submitted would effectively ban all new authors.
If these are the problems faced by just one publication, then it's obvious how bad things could get across the publishing industry.

For now the main problem is scammers ruining opportunities for real writers by overwhelming submission systems with junk, but as time goes on the fake submissions are going to become more and more indistinguishable from genuine content.

And this problem obviously won't just apply to aspiring authors, it could potentially impact anyone who writes for a living.

As an example, why would media outlets continue to pay substantial wages to so many journalists if future chat bots become capable of writing news articles, reviews, opinion pieces, rabble-rousing polemics, etc, all at the click of a button?

The philosopher Bertrand Russell used to say that if capitalists could be prevented from extracting all of the gains for themselves in unearned profits, improvements in technology could eventually reduce the need for human labour to such an extent that humanity could focus more on the things that make life worth living, such as the creative arts.

Sadly things haven't gone in this direction at all, to such an extent that the 1% minority now takes a bigger share of new technology-generated wealth than the rest of humanity combined; retirement ages are being driven up across the world; wages have been stagnant in real-terms for decades; and ultra-exploitative low-pay gig economy exploitation is rife.

Consider Amazon and food delivery apps.

The technology isn't being used to alleviate humanity from mundane low-paid labour by automating processes, it's being used as a means of extracting obscene amounts of unearned wealth by making workers subservient to the demands of in-work apps.

As workers toil away for a pittance, the owners of the technology that directs their tasks generate literally £billions.

And to make matters even worse, the technological advancements that could have saved us from poverty and the drudgery of mundane labour are now encroaching on the creative arts, and undermining the already limited scope for people to make a living through creativity, rather than unfulfilling grunt work.

Not only is the technology making workers ever more machine-like, it's now also eroding the possibility of escaping this kind of mundane toil by usurping our creative arts.

It used to be the case that humans told the machines what to do. Now the machines increasingly tell us what to do. And as we are forced to become more like the machines, the machines become more like us.

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