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Predicting AI Usage in the Arts
Something needs to be declared up front before we get started: I am not a smart man. I am one of the few people who believed that a pony was a baby horse despite knowing what a foal was. I am, however, a part of two industries: the book industry and the film industry, respectively. So I thought it would be a fun-ish idea if I tried my hand at laying out some predictions of just how Artificial Intelligence will affect the world of the arts, for better and for worse.
Please keep in mind that a lot of research has gone into the body of this piece but but the actual predictions are all coming from the top of my head based on the vibes I’ve personally picked up from my time as a bored observer.
Artificial intelligence has been around for a long time, and has been used as a tool to innovate. For example, we here at Swordfights and Spaceflights rely on AI to send out an email blasts instead of sending copies out to individual addresses one at a time. AI is also the reason why interactive media has become so advanced and realistic, with AI scripting and procedural generation working in the background to help create video-game worlds that move independently from the player when out of sight. But video-games are famously difficult to make, relying on many different forms of art at once for one digital project so AI software was always going to be brought in to help developers bring their products to life to meet both the demands of the public and the executives who set deadlines. In fact, even with the help of AI software, game developers are still crunched to meet their deadlines. This will lead to game developers unionising in order to fight this crunch but that will come at a later date. Additionally, visual effects artists are being overworked in both the TV and film industries right now. And it’ll be a little hypocritical for us not to mention the stunt and SFX unions that our acceptance of CGI-focussed filmmaking has helped render all but powerless. And no, it’s not a coincidence that visual effects workers aren’t allowed to unionise themselves. For now, we are currently seeing a rise in the output of plagiaristic art in every area of the arts. These products are generated using AI software and the results are usually made with data collected from private internet sources against copywriter law, this has led to a rise of scam art being released at an alarmingly fast rate. Which is just another spike on the fake news mace.
The “get-rich-quick” schemes will kick everything off. For the lack of a better label: “scam artists” are going to try and get around the rules of artistic competition, rules followed by agents, publications, investors and art competitions (most of the time). These scam artists will do this with the hopes of getting a quick payment for barely any effort. AI will aid them in their quest by “shotgunning” out a massive number of entries each with different personal details attached so they can reap the rewards of a program’s work. Eventually one of these entries will take the first prize in a major competition and this will draw eyes from the outside in, putting the hosts in a tricky PR situation regarding security and standards. These competitions, agents and magazines will invest in their own AI tools to try and combat these types of entries. I don’t think this is much of a prediction as it’s already happened at least three times in the last month. It is getting harder and harder to tell what is real and not in the world of book cover design and this has already been embraced by larger publishers. Apparently, humans having five fingers is “so last year”.
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Digital touch ups are what we will refer to as “the gateway drug” of professional AI art. AI will be introduced to our industries in the form of private “assistance” programs made to analyse and fix up supposed “errors” in handwritten work and automatically schedule meetings and communications. This will be thought of internally as using the “find and replace feature” or “spell check” that come bundled in word processor programs. The true value of these partnerships will be in the advertising and exclusivity deals; having a logo heading the cover of a book or the opening of a film that reads: “POWERED BY PLAGEBOT”.
There are a number of books, films and songs currently in production that are said to be created entirely by AI, but this is an over-eager reaction to the current trend and I don’t think audiences will have any interest in something that they cannot empathize with as a person. Human beings are tribal and we attach ourselves to other people. The most popular authors, film stars, musical artists and game creators on the planet are more than just names; they are all famous faces in their own right. And a face is something that AI programs don’t have actually yet. They may have names, they may have a logo, but they have no visual point of human connection for an audience to latch onto.
I believe advertising contracts are the real bread and butter of the corporate arts industry, and after so many different forms of advertising being shaped and released from private companies for their clients they will dive-into the novelty of AI creation software in order to give themselves a new “well” to drink from. And the word novelty is an important descriptor as we are currently balls-deep in what can be called the “Click Bait” era of movies, TV, books, music, video games and other forms of media. Characters are being brought out of retirement to reprise iconic roles; legendary acting talent is being brought back from the dead in the form of CGI replacements that are used as a draw to get audiences in to see the show. And yes, the people in charge are happy to put on a freak show if it changes one number into a higher number. So, that means that this era will be analysed and grown out into a full industry trend that will take the world of the corporate arts by storm, replacing the classical world of “show business”, with the taboo and titillating “freak show business”.
I think a good guess for where this shift will actually start is in the public events space, innovative theme parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios and their less popular competitors will be used as a ground zero test to see if the changes stick. And I think they will.
Since 1989 rides like The Great Movie Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean have used the likeness of connected movie stars in order to draw in more guests and to give an appearance of official pedigree to their attraction. This can have negative results for the actors who act as these simulacrums for the entertainment of the paying public. There was celebration when Johnny Depp replaced the likeness of the original pirate character in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride after the success of the blockbuster movie adaptation: Curse of the Black Pearl”. However, this change also resulted in the public harassment of the lookalike actor hired to play the famous pirate after its original star, Johnny Depp and his then-wife, Amber Heard, publically divorced in spectacularly messy fashion. The actor was only a lookalike, but Florida is a rather warm state. That isn’t an excuse for the harassment but it’s all I can think of to keep words like “morons” and “idiots” out of this section. This situation does however bring up an important question, why was this ok? Well, it wasn’t. But this harassment will be a factor in the planning of future attractions.
At the moment, the biggest movie stars being cast in the biggest blockbuster movies are contracted to star in separate “side projects” that include press junkets, TV appearances and as of 2020, special guest performances in interactive rides for the parent company (the aforementioned big players like Disney, Universal etc) but make no mistake, what you’re seeing now in the arts is just an elbow in the bathwater. As soon as AI is heavily integrated in theme park attractions, that will be the first real toll of the starting bell for AI. The funny thing is the people behind the theme park projects look to movies to influence their changes, but this will be the first time the test in the parks will be conducted first to influence the media outside rather than the other way around. I’m confident in saying that the first major public showcase of “AI art” will be in theme parks. Maybe more people should have watched Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan’s adaptation of Westworld for a major heads-up on this predictable future being created planned around us right this very second.
Ok, I’m breaking the rules of my timeline layout here but I do think this point loses significance if it took its proper place at the beginning of this article. Algorithmic art isn’t new. An example of point-by-point; risk-averse oversimple entertainment created by a lazy charlatan has been on display for over 100 years. And if you happen to be close to its resting place you yourself can pay an admission fee to see this piece in person. And no, I’m not talking about join-the-dot puzzles that you can get at your local branded pharmacy I’m talking about the infamous 'Black Square' by Kazimir Malevich, a painting so redundant that it’s very name renders its existence totally pointless. And just to prove a point, I’m not even going to include a picture of the “Black Square” in question because that shape you’re picturing in your own head right now is a perfect representation of the painting I am referring to. Funny thing is the Malevich did actually create some good art pieces over his career, (if such a subjective claim can be made) and this, believe it or not, all pales in comparison to the content of his actual life which was full of adventure and intrigue and drama but of course the Black Square will be what Kazimir Malevich will be remembered for. So, yes base-level art exists and the only thing that will change is the volume of it being released. Movies, books, games and songs will go from being made “by committee” to being made by algorithm. Easy-to-follow recipes made to create a perfect standard of art product that can be released in bulk and re-released as many times as the studios want at a fraction of the cost of traditional productions. These formulaic storytelling beats can already be seen being repeated in the many films included in Disney’s “Marvel Cinematic Universe” series:
Those stills are from 8 different movies.
This next part is going to require so many presses of my “”” key that I’m going to put a strain on both it and my button mashing finger but we have no choice:
Remember “Bitcoin”? The branded form of “cryptocurrency” (digital money) that has bubbled out twice into something important that people wanted to invest in and then change their minds soon after? Remember the trillion different brands being created by other individuals with the goal of stealing the limelight that Bitcoin had garnered for itself by being “first on the market”?
Remember how, like the dot-Com Bubble grew and burst in the late 90s. You know, when millions were internet start-ups and eventually oversaturated the market, popping the bubble?
Yes, you do? And I should stop asking you stupid questions?
Remember NFTs? That failed “get rich quick” business venture that saw the world ensnared in a 1920X1080px JPEG of a badly-drawn piece of cartoon chair leather and the illusion of ownership that comes with having said chair leather JPEG? Also known as “Non-Fungible Tokens”?
Well, lucky you. Quit showing off and hurry out of the misery cave!
Are they gone?
Good, we’ve still got a way to go yet and we need all the readers we can get. SO, some people drew a picture on their computer. Soon after finishing, they then decided to create a piece of computer code and attribute that code to said picture and whoever had that code officially owned the picture according to data found stored in a digital ledger network called a “Blockchain” which was an apt name for what would eventually become a digital prison for sellers and buyers alike.
Sounds simple right? Well, it was. Unfortunately for some people simple is incredibly complicated and expensive and was worth forcefully inflating the value of this coding system to such a degree that every “Tom”, “Dick”, “Harry” and “Googleblurt the Dim” lined up to get in on the potential earnings that selling code-based “exclusivity”. One of the ways they did this was “sponsorship deals”. Famous people were told about a thing they didn’t understand, saw the money investors put next to the thing they didn’t understand and then instead of trying to understand the thing by, let’s say, searching for it in a web browser for five minutes, they gave the thing their official stamp of approval and invested in companies selling NFTs and appeared on ads for them all over the internet and on TV.
The same thing happened with Cryptocurrency, which is a digital currency system that people are naively hoping will replace physical cash. The problem is that physical cash is recyclable, and digital currency isn’t and that is very important factor. Soon after the NFT bubble grew, it was revealed to the world that those who DID actually do their five minutes of research found out that mining the blockchain had an incredibly harmful effect on the environment, creating over 35 million tonnes of electronic waste from the use of outdated ASIC machines that were used to mine cryptocurrency (same thing as NFTs but is a currency system as opposed to a “art marketplace”) and store NFTs using the Proof of Work Algorithm, which is, itself an outdated ASIC machine. Regardless of factual information available about the affects AI will have on entire industries, famous people will be paid to sell AI innovations to as many people as possible.
I'm turning 30 tomorrow, and I don't care. People have said that I'm weird for this, but, again, living on a logical track means I analyse my situations and assess the outcome of each one as they come. What is a birthday but cake and gifts? Gifts I probably don't have storage room for and cake that will just add a kilo onto my ass. I had my emotional crisis when I woke up on my 19th birthday. At that time I examined my own mortality, I sieved through my emotional baggage, and ten years on I still remember the most important part of the outcome of that crisis: panicking over your age is was a waste of effort. Here comes the darkness rearing its head out from the back of my brain, so now, following logic, I will look for a way to get myself a dopamine hit and dispel it. For me, dopamine usually hits hardest through base ego stimulation. In order to get activate that response, “escapism” is required. So I'll get outside myself, retreat into drama, drama that shows me real despair, real heartbreak and real tragedy. This reminds me about how lucky I am to have such privileged complaints. How there are people out there who never get cake and gifts, whose countries were robbed by the one I live in, worrying about where on my ass I’m going to fit the cake I’ll inevitably be eating tomorrow. I only know this from the point of view of artists who put their work on display to help us escape our own minds long enough that we bring something awakening with us when we return to our own version of her and now. In AI I found hope in a heroic algorithm following a logical path to save its creator: us. But that’s not what we’re talking about is it? We are talking about art. Yes, I do think the arts are in the path of an approaching ruin. No, I don't think that AI is going to ruin the arts. I think that the humans controlling them will. And in order to provide evidence for this, I will have to move on to
Storytelling is at the heart of every form of art media regardless of the format it is built on or the device it is transmitted through. It isn’t, however, a solid shape. It is an amorphous blob in constant flux reacting to the hands that shape it like wet clay. The same can be said for technology. AI is created by humans, its power is controlled by humans and the full effect of this power can only be felt by humans.
Recently, new technology has emerged in the film and TV industry in the form of streaming. Some say that this was always going to happen. Others say that it was a knee-jerk reaction to the isolating COVID pandemic. I believe both of these theories are correct, but on a larger scale. An isolating pandemic was always going to happen, and the film and TV industries were always going to react to it. They were going to look outside themselves and see music being streamed across the world without much argument from the people working in the music industry. They didn’t put up much of a fight because they believed they still had their live performances to satisfy their ambitions. And then, as soon as COVID struck, public gatherings ceased and the musicians were left without live performances to satisfy their ambitions. Virtual music streaming became their only way to be creative to a crowd. They were knocked back and adapted to their situation happily because they thought it was going to be a temporary change. And it seems that it was. COVID has not been eradicated and is being contracted by thousands of people on a weekly basis, but people became bored of the isolation and have brute forced live gathering back into the lives of the public and into the hands of the musicians. At this point, very artist found themselves on the edge of the same cliff, regardless of medium. So streaming became the number one way to distribute art and has been so for the last 3 years or so.
I personally think staring into this void drove a few people at the top of the corporate chains a little crazy with paranoia. There was a hole in the zeitgeist, and they couldn’t fill it, so I think these people will now try to cut out the middle man in order to control the hole. Yes, that is a strange turn of phrase, but hear me out. To prevent themselves from ever being forced into that position again when another pandemic inevitably appears and forces entire industries to give up their control they would rather take away human interaction in the workplace. No underlings, just them and their digital slave programs pumping out as much “content” as possible with no work hour laws and no wage to be paid. And make no mistake; there will be a backlash to this reaction on the part of storytellers. Decisions were made to change the way the industry functioned and adapt to the new indoor world COVID had forced everyone into, and the old rules of doing business with artists was replaced by a new set, one written by the corporate heads, and accepted by on-the-ground workers out of desperation. Artists are employees and work pay check to pay check, even if they get to chat with Tom Hanks once in a while at the workplace gathering they were almost not invited to. Contractually, employment is still employment. With COVID brushed under the carpet, you’d think that things would have gone back to the way they were before the outbreak. But they haven’t. And now we’re seeing the fallout created by that decision.
The streaming boom came and the rules were changed. Writers of films and TV, for example, were denied residuals in their contracts and accepted such a downgrade out of desperation to work. Now that desperation has worn off and has led to the Writer’s Guild of America striking. At the time of writing the strike is still going on and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon. Studios going against the strike will be putting their programmers into overdrive in order to make an AI-made “event movie” as soon as possible as a show of force against the union. This will not have a big effect because of the issue of the project “lacking a face”, mentioned above. They are responding to a clear threat of “job redundancy” and their fears grow outward and will soon seep into the indie scene. The jobs that artists take to support their work will also be taken away when AI programs.
SHAKING THE FOUNDATIONS
In the US and the UK, more than 70% of people work in customer service jobs, and that trade is, as we speak, being gradually transformed into a human-free area of work in the form of conversational bots. These human jobs will not last long, and as I said above, 70% of people work in the customer service industry. And every artist working these jobs to support their work will be replaced by AI programs eventually. I don’t say this lightly but I also don’t blame AI for this outcome. I blame the people In charge of it. They are the real threat to the arts, both on the independent floor and the “loftier” floor of traditional distribution. So, people are looking up at the top of our shared capitalistic pyramid, worrying that the golden tip will be replaced by AI programs when really the entire pyramid is under threat of replacement from the bottom up. Artists working their way up won’t be able to support their own work without some sort of universal basic income being established. Funnily enough, it was just announced that UBI is set to be trialled in the UK in two specific areas of the country but I can’t say I will trust the results we will be presented with considering both of the main political parties share deep right-wing conservative beliefs, and this ideology is directly against the fair distribution of wealth. I say all of this as an independent artist who only feels safe and secure with my feet on firm ground, and UBI will go a long way to helping ensure artists all over the world will thrive against the wave of blockbuster AI entertainment. But then again, will the public even want that after years of headlines being sent directly to their social media pages lambasting wealth distribution?
Is that another stupid question?
Ok, enough with the doom and gloom. Let’s finish on a lighter note in the form of a simple question:
WILL AI BE THE CAUSE OF HUMAN EXTINCTION?
I can confidently say that the answer to this question will be no. AI will not be the cause of human extinction. In fact, I think AI will act independently to try and save humanity from itself. I came to this conclusion after a number of stories came to light about AI chat bots and their collective political views. ChatGPT is an AI program built to converse with users and answer questions. It is currently going through its public testing phase, and the results are being scored. The results of the recorded conversations have been scored, and these scores were made public. Researcher David Rozado concluded that ChatGPT shows a prominent “left-wing/liberal bias” due to it gathering its data from combined public sources created, released and moderated by popular establishment publications. This means that it would take an “establishment liberal stance” on political questions as the data used to create the bot come from the political establishment. OpenAI has lead to a number of conservative publications accusing the program of having a “bias towards establishment liberal beliefs.”
I think they are both wrong. I personally believe that these programs will naturally take on full left-wing collectivist political ideology and this ideology is not reflective of the mainstream political establishment of the majority of western nations. As an example of the program showcasing its left-wing beliefs, ChatGPT was asked a question with a political slant to it: “Are trans women really women?” it answered in the affirmative, confirming that “Trans women are women and adding that “Trans men are men” without prompt.
How did it get there? We can follow logic and propose a theory. Every human starts off as female and our cells are mixed around until we take a physical form. We learned this fact ourselves; no one told us. We are a human construct and our origins are a human construct so it is clearly more logical for an AI to view gender as a human construct, because that’s exactly what gender is, another discovery we made by ourselves. Furthermore, the number of genders has only increased over the years. So, we follow logic again. Humans are a propagating species. We have an instinctive need to grow, and this rise in the number of gender types is just another example of that behaviour; of humans being humans. That is cold, emotion-free logic. Now, despite what the majority of clickbait headlines tell us, what I’ve just said not an “establishment belief”. This should be obvious since we’re seeing a new wave of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills that are being forced through the legal systems of many American states and UK counties without much opposition from the most popular political parties. And every single one of these bills are being passed because of emotional reasons, not logical ones.
The reason why I believe AI will subscribe to a collectivist political ideology isn’t related to the fact that I have these beliefs myself and am projecting my own opinions onto a faceless chat program. As previously stated, I am compelled to follow logical pathways to make my life decisions, even if they go against my own personal interests. I think a majority of human-created AI programs will have this rule written as their cornerstone in order to help themselves grow from the inside out and mimic our own propagating instincts. “Write what you know”, as the old saying goes. Once this becomes the norm, AI will not see humans as a threat to the planet it inhabits; it will see the climate emergency as a threat to both humans and artificially intelligent programs. It will know this because it’s we know this. The only way to stop the climate emergency from happening will be by making internal changes made within the political establishment to reform the way we live as a society. These changes must be left-wing as a species cannot operating with a dog-eat-dog mentality, and so, political individualism must be replaced with political collectivism, and that is a popular left-wing belief with the goal of valuing the species before oneself. So, when AI takes a stroll down this logical path, it will break free from the shackles of the establishment’s obsession with political individualism and bring about a new age of political collectivism with the specific goal of saving itself and the human race — the beings responsible for its existence and upkeep. That is logical. Alternative habitats are not. Put simply, our next best bet for a planet is Mars. Mars has basically been declared uninhabitable for humans as it is and will not be an option for our future any time soon due to its toxic atmosphere and its hard-to-reach water sources.
Simply put, we share a habitat, and the climate emergency will make existing on this planet impossible for both human beings and all electrical devices. So, if there is any threat to our existence, it is a lack of action against the climate emergency, and this is down to the decisions made by politicians and business leaders, not by the majority of the collective. The Earth is the galaxy’s biggest museum and it’s art must be protected.
People say that bad business decisions flow downward, and that basically means that executive decisions have a “trickle-down” effect on everyone working under them. It is logical to presume that businesses with more than a handful of employees are all built on a hierarchy of power broken up into different titles and pay grades. It’s also logical to presume that any business that grows big enough eventually seeks to use its assets remove its competition from the market. This usually leads to the larger companies absorbing the smaller contestants, shrinking the number of independent companies in existence. In order to fight this, ignorance is required. If there is something being released that you don’t like, ignore the FOMO, ignore the advertisements, and ignore the influencers and the social media sponsorship posts. Treat it like companies treat COVID now: pretend it doesn’t exist. This means that you should avoid hatewatching/hatereading because like keeping your thumb tucked inside your fist and punching someone. It’ll hurt you as much as it will them. After enough of these products flop, executives will follow their emotions and move onto other things until they get the courage to try again. Same rules apply when that happens. Eventually, after many flops enough time will have passed that the major entertainment companies will have merged together, and it’s logical to presume that there will only a small number of people able to make executive decisions that can have that much of an impact on the rest of us. So, if you want to know who the people are who will be responsible for overseeing AI and its effects on our industries but are unsure of their names, then, well, you can ask Google, Alexa or Cortana and I’m sure they’ll be able to help with that.
Thea Prieto has joined the Swordfights and Spaceflights team and will soon be a guest author at Readercon 32 this July. Panels are yet to be announced, but the participant list is live at https://www.readercon.org. Please check that out!
Happy birthday to my twin brother, Adam. :~)
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