If I were to sum up tech news of 2022 it would be “Musk” and “AI Generation.” Enough has been written about Musk, but the use of AI to generate art and text is still fresh and needs to be discussed.
AI Generation is soulless, and I think that has not been adequately explored. In fact, its very soullessness explains the revulsion some people rightfully feel. There’s hatred for the use of work, for non-compensation for artists, the chance of lost jobs, but also we’re disgusted to see creative works called creative when there’s “no one home.”
I’m reminded of the Doctor Who episode “Robots of Death” with the amazing Tom Baker. Beyond being a murder mystery, it explored “robophobia,” rooted in the idea that surrounded by human-like but not human-emoting mechanical creatures is like facing the living dead. The Doctor was talking about what we call “the uncanny valley” these days – human-yet-not.
That’s what AI is. Shambling would-be-people, zombies, robots, no one home. That’s part of why we’re disgusted – but it’s worse.
Consider work that we feel connected to – some of that intimacy is shared with the creator as well. We know someone is on the other end, with goals, a style, a way of doing things. In turn, we have a sense of the person on the other end who did their work, or screwed up, or tried. We need that sense of connection to understand, feel safe around someone, or at least yell at them.
Creative work – from music to a news article – works when there’s a person there. We humans need to know we can trust (or at least find and criticize) the creator.
Now let’s consider works that are derivative or calculated. That knock-off work, that engineered political screed, they’re irritating to us because we can feel the manipulation. Someone is being false with us, there’s an estimation on what will trigger us or appeal to us. They might not even be who they say they are.
The person creating it is less such works is less reliable to us – unless we want to believe them. That’s our problem for wanting to believe them, of course.
Then there’s AI work which is all calculation and manipulation. A bunch of programs running math churns out a request that has “all the right parts,” and we perceive them as having meaning. There’s no bright idea or inspiration at the center, no human ideas, not even the assurance someone wants to con us. There’s a pile of words or pixels creating the illusion of value.
AI gives us a shambling zombie writing dead prose, or a robot pushing buttons it was told to, without the honor of having someone to hate directly for it.. It cannibalizes other, meaningful work without caring and gives nothing in return. It’s a simulation of a person bearing a bright idea or an understandable nightmare.
AI brings no human connection to the experience. It’s an attempt to create empty content, an illusion of humanity with no one to know or trust or criticize. It’s void of meaning except that which we accidentally give it because it didn’t mean anything to the creator. It’s a trick made by an undead set of equations.
These zombies are being used to manipulate us to drive advertising and sales. That horror you feel in your gut is warranted because people want to flood the internet with soulless crap, and it’s inhuman.
Your disgust is quite human – and warranted.