AI Content Generators Will Not Replace People

AI content generators like this cute white robot will not replace people but change how many people will work.

We have all heard the hype that the new AI content generators are going to put artists and writers out of work. Why use a human author or illustrator when the machine can do the work cheaper and quicker? So, I played around a bit with ChatGPT (an AI writer) and Dall-E (an AI artist) to see what all the excitement is about. Then I read an article by Kevin Kelly in Wired Magazine that put in perspective that these technologies are useful tools that can make the work easier, but still need human intervention to produce acceptable content. He refers to AI as a partner, not a replacement. Are these tools amazing? Yes. Will they be disruptive? Defintely. Will they replace people? Not likely. AI content generators will not replace people, but they will change how they work.

AI Content Generator Hype

There is a great deal of hype around AI that it will eliminate the need for people because it is able to produce art, music and writing. Having played with it myself, it occurs to me that the excitement might be a product of over-valuing the unexpected. I first heard the metaphor talking platypus at a conference in the 1980s, “if a platypus talks, everyone is so amazed that they pay no attention to what it says”. Someone did an experiment of the effect to investigate people’s evaluation of the unexpected. He took a technical research paper about an engineering problem and asked engineers to evaluate its quality. Half were told it was written by and man and the other half by a woman. The engineers rated the quality better when they thought a woman had written it. The explanation was that there were so few women in engineering at the time, that it was surprising to find a technical paper a woman had written. That surprise affected their judgment of quality. Is the same phenomenon happening with AI content generators? Everyone is so amazed that an AI can produce art or writing that they ignore how well it can do it.

My Journey with AI

A few weeks ago, I decided to give ChatGPT a spin. I first asked it to write a blues song about the Witcher (my favorite computer game) in BB King style. It produced the rhyme, but no one would mistake it for the legend himself. It was crude and simplistic and uninspiring. I next asked it to explain job satisfaction. I could quibble, but what it produced wasn’t bad. I then asked it “who is Paul E. Spector”. It got some facts right, but I learned that I was president of a society I wasn’t even a member of and was editor of a journal that I doubt exists. I would rate my experience as mixed.

I next tried DALL-E. I tried for a while to get it to produce a picture of Geralt of Rivia (the Witcher), fighting a wraith by a lake in the rain. I tried several tweaks, such as turning off the rain. What it produced was recognizable as a man with a sword near water fighting something, but no one would mistake it for a screen shot from the actual game. I asked it to draw a picture of a man at a computer desk with a gaming computer—basically a self-portrait. I tried it several ways including a cubist and impressionist style. All the elements I asked for were there, but at the level of the average kindergartener.

AI Content Generators Will Not Replace People

My conclusion is that these tools are amazingly fun to play with and could be helpful in generating content. But what they produce tends to be primitive and nowhere near a final product. They are best considered to be digital tools, not unlike word processors, that can make the work easier, but cannot produce final content. As Kelly notes, AI is not going to displace humans, although it might change how we work. He explains how it takes a human artist to get AI to produce good art. That artist will need new skills in how to use the AI, but it is the artist’s creativity and vision that AI cannot replace.

AI will make a great partner and can expand our capabilities. For someone like me with limited art talent, for example, it might help me produce a passable illustration that is better than I could do by hand. But I still need to given the AI details of what I want, and I need to edit it, and I need to decide when the product is final. This will not necessarily save time, but it will allow me to produce something I could not do with a pencil and paper. At the end of the day, AI content generators will not replace people, and as with many past technologies, it might create new jobs for individuals who are skilled in using AI content-creation tools.

Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels

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