ChatGPT made me wonder what it means to be a creative human
I don’t say this lightly, but this technology is one of the most amazing and terrifying technologies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been writing about technology for almost two decades. Not just because of what it is capable of today, with its ability to produce truly “creative” text (or at least text that looks creative), but because of what this technology will be able to do in a year or two – and how many jobs it could (or should I say “will”) replace when it does. For example, when I asked ChatGPT to list 50 professions that could be replaced by ChatGPT, it spat out this list in less than a second: account manager, technical support specialist, salesperson, receptionist, data entry clerk , call center agent, transcriptionist, legal secretary, medical secretary, executive assistant, personal assistant, journalist, novelist, travel agent, insurance agent, retail salesperson, accountant, court reporter, marketing manager, manager public relations, publicity manager, and so on.
Although there are already examples of crude AI writing simple articles for news outlets today, some basics inventory reportssports updates and weather-related stories are written by bots – the advent of ChatGPT and future iterations of this technology illustrate that in the coming year my editor (if he or she has still a job) might not ask me or another journalist to write an article with an analysis of this Elon Musk will take to Twitter, or a detailed look at how people voted in Georgia to determine how they might vote in 2024; instead, they could just type a prompt in an app like ChatGPT. The same goes for art, design and illustration, as we have seen a series of other new AI products launched in recent months that threaten all areas of the arts and creative careers. There are varieties of text, like GPT-3, which is the basis of ChatGPT and is able to read and write like a human. And then there are the amazing image-generating capabilities of computers, like DALL E 2 and Stable Diffusion, which can draw or paint anything in seconds, in any style you want, based on a single command.
Already I hear anecdotal reports from friends with kids in high school and college that some professors and teachers who discovered the technology are freaking out after seeing ChatGPT and what it is capable of, with some proclaiming impending death of high school and college essay. ChatGPT is already used to automatically generate essays based on a prompt or topic, making the traditional process of brainstorming, researching, and writing essays obsolete. Why waste your time doing all that when you can just put your assignment as a prompt in ChatGPT and get a full trial in seconds? You might think that a professor or teacher could decipher the difference between something written by an AI and something written by a human, but that’s impossible, and it’s also impossible for an AI to tell the difference. One of the things you can do with ChatGPT is to give him a paragraph or a sentence and have him continue writing the rest of the essay. I did it with a made up science fiction story and asked people to tell me which parts of the essay were written by me and which were written by AI. No one could tell the difference; it was a bit like the Pepsi challenge. Then I sent the same text back to the AI and asked he to tell me which parts were written by a computer and which were written by a human, and ChatGPT guessed wrong.
In 2017, a research paper titled “Attention is all you needlanded on the internet with little fanfare outside of the esoteric technical circles of people interested in the cutting edge technologies of natural language processing and artificial intelligence. The article talked about ‘dominant sequence transduction patterns’, an idea called ‘transformer’ and ‘recurrent neural networks’, and for 99.999999% of society trying to read the theories in this report from 11 pages would be like trying to read a book written in a language you’ve never heard of while wearing a blindfold. But the paper, written by a team of researchers from Google Brain, an AI research team that is part of Google’s AI division, offers a new approach to natural language processing, the branch of artificial intelligence which aims to give computers the ability to understand human language. much the same way human beings can – it arguably changed the field forever.
The paper essentially reinvented the way to model information processing. The researchers argued that traditional models – which functioned like a librarian who carefully sorts each book into its proper place on the shelves, ensuring everything is organized and easy to find – were ineffective. Instead, they proposed an “attention-based model.” It works like this: when a reader is looking for something, he scans all the books and focuses his attention on those that contain the information he needs, without worrying about arranging all the books on the shelves.
These programs have since been fed with millions of examples of human writing, art, music and creativity, and machines have since learned to reproduce these styles. All of this got me wondering: what does it mean to be human in a future where robots can potentially be more creative than us? Can the next iteration of AI (or the one after it) have better ideas than humans? Or will these things just become tools that will help us?
Members of the pro-AI tech ensemble agree that this technology has the potential to automate many tasks that today require human creativity, but they point out that machines aren’t really capable of understanding or appreciating art in the same way as humans. Machines have no conscience; a computer can’t feel what it’s like to fall in love or lose a loved one or be so tormented that you have to cut off your ear. The argument goes: machines can mimic our creations, but they can’t really understand the emotions and experiences that drive us to create. But, to me, if machines are able to imitate art with emotion and depth because they learn from things that humans have created over hundreds of years, then machines are, in turn, a extension of these human emotions. A machine does not need to be conscious or able to experience emotions to create art that makes sense to us. The value and meaning of art lies not in the ability of the machine to feel, but in the ability of the viewer to appreciate it.
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