We need to keep talking about AI Creative. The Rise of the Machines, or just another tech upswing?

Ben Weir
January 30, 2023

Everybody’s talking about Artificial Intelligence again.

The challenge when discussing AI is to do so without wheeling out the usual movie tropes focussed on the menace of it - Terminator movies, ex Machina, the Matrix Trilogy, 2001 Space Odyssey etc. Oops. Failed already. Then there’s that time two Facebook bots developed their own language and had to be switched off before they took over the world. (Not quite the true story btw).

Confession time. This article was written by a human. I know, right? I have had a play with the ChatGPT functionality. Not extensively, but enough to know that if I was 16 again, the app and I would become best friends and I’d be handing in my history assignments on time, every time (unlike in the 90s). 

I also want to confess that while researching, specifically while asking ChatGPT questions and reading its answers, my initial position - that of a suspicious Gen X creative - changed. My initial hypothesis - that certain forms of AI creative engines represent the death of creative learning - has definitely softened. This is because, mainly, I realised that AI assisted creative execution is everywhere, and has been around for a long time. Any kind of image filter, sound filter, motion filters and effects…. And so many more, while not ‘AI’ in the true sense of the word, are still automated tools that assist, embellish and improve on the initial creative vision. Humans had to create them too - with code, nous, and hours and hours in a dark room.

Have we gone too far when all you need to do to create amazing images is write a prompt, choose a style, and click generate? Where’s the learning? Where’s the understanding of the medium? The appreciation of form, movement, and all those other things they teach you in art or design school? Or is that irrelevant? Haven’t we just democratised access to creativity?

Well, we have definitely taken a leap. Some will say forward. “Now ANYONE can be an artist!” Others will say backward. I’m conflicted slash working through it with my mentors, and in the meantime, thinking about whether the value a writer brings to generating stories is under threat from platforms like ChatGPT, Jasper, and others.

Personally, here’s where my head is at: if we come to rely on AI to ‘help’ us create persuasive, narrative, expository, or descriptive written pieces, are we being enriched as authors? Are we getting better at our craft? By relying on the machine to do the research - pull the quotes, remember the dates, and eventually structure the sentences that we copy and paste into our blog post - are we learning? If the AI’s doing all the legwork are we even writers at all?

Will the audience even notice? I have to admit that some of the grammar and spelling accuracy I’ve seen generated by machines far outperforms some the churn and burn content of news outlets. No names. I can see the value of these platforms to create content churn - SEO, PR announcements, blogposts. If you’re not precious about originality, AI write away!

“Oh, but wait a second!” I hear some of you say, “You’re making the assumption that something created by a human is original! That isn’t always the case.” 

I agree. Not everything that comes out of a creative’s head is verifiably original. Ideas are likely inspired by a creative’s background, training, cultural exposure, personal experiences, years on the planet, childhood trauma, whatever. Defining originality is a philosophical rabbit hole I do NOT want to go down. 

What I will say is this: 

There is something connective between creative output and the audience it was created for. To me this linkage is as old as the scrawlings in Lascaux. Part communication, part feeling, all culture.

I don’t want to sound like a cranky old schtick in the mud, but I’m gonna. AI is not a replacement for humankind’s creativity or originality. AI is crap at imitating human output once you scratch the surface of perfect grammar, amazing lighting effects, and surround sound wizardry. 

AI is not teaching us to be better at our craft, and, call me old fashioned, but it’s human authors, not machines that inspire me to experiment with my writing.

If what Chat GPT has to say about itself is true, then it sounds like it was created with the best intentions. Unfortunately, it still relies on us to fill the ethical gaps that its existence has created, especially when it comes to educating young minds. Students are the next generation of me, of your family doctor, accountant, dentist… you name it. I am more than a little concerned about how easy it is to rely on technology to do the heavy lifting precisely at a time when it is the student who must do the proverbial lifting.

When I posed the question to the machine, “Please define your idea of what 'responsible use of ChatGPT' is for school students” it generated some reasonable answers, after which it said,

“In summary, responsible use of ChatGPT for school students involves using the technology in a way that enhances their learning experience, while also teaching them to think critically, verify information, and use technology safely and ethically.”

Nice one. The responsibility is still on us humans to define the role of this new tool.

This type of technology is constantly evolving - the result of the feedback loop between accelerating processing speed and increasingly complex problems. Ethically, I think there are 2 things we all need to remember:

  • AI is the innovation, not the innovator. And,
  • Humans live here. That means never losing sight of our responsibility to create the conditions for sustainable development - in the environment, in business, but crucially, in our minds. Why? Because AI is merely the innovation. We are the innovators.

When it comes to communicating in a meaningful way to your people - customers and staff alike - only humans should be doing that. This is because at Barefoot Citizens Consulting we believe that taking people on the journey of Purpose demands authenticity, transparency, and consistency. Your words must reflect your philosophies and your actions, and crucially, your tone of voice. Often, this type of communication will come from a leader within the organisation and it must feel like the words have come from them, from a human. And while some of the AI generated content sounds like it could have been written by a human, you cannot take the risk of signing your name to it. Put it another way. Credit ChatGPT as the author of your company Vision, Mission, Values, and Purpose. I wonder how people would react?

Barefoot Citizens Consulting understands that creating content to connect with people and keep them engaged can be a challenge and it takes time. We don’t recommend that you have a machine do the heavy lifting. Sure, there are many platforms like ChatGPT that will do a reasonable job of content creation for you. Google them if you like: Jasper, neuraltext, Sapling, Wordtune, among others. They have their applications and uses, just not with genuine expressions of Purpose. Not ever. Talk to the team at Barefoot Citizens Consulting instead. You won’t regret it.