Artificial Intelligence News

If art is how we express our humanity, where does AI fit in?

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The rapid advance of artificial intelligence has generated a lot of buzz, with some predicting it will lead to a beautiful utopia and others warning it will end humanity. But speculation about where AI technology is going, while important, can also drown out important conversations about how we should handle the AI ​​technologies available today.

The rapid advance of artificial intelligence has generated a lot of buzz, with some predicting it will lead to a beautiful utopia and others warning it will end humanity. But speculation about where AI technology is going, while important, can also drown out important conversations about how we should handle the AI ​​technologies available today.

One such technology is generative AI, which can create content including text, images, audio, and video. Popular generative AI such as chatbot ChatGPT generates conversational text based on training data taken from the internet.

Today a group of 14 researchers from a number of organizations including MIT published a commentary article at Science which helps set the stage for discussion about the direct impact of generative AI on creative work and society more broadly. MIT-affiliated co-authors of the paper include Media Lab postdoctoral researcher Ziv Epstein SM ’19, PhD ’23; recent graduate Matt Groh SM ’19, PhD ’23; MIT PhD candidate Rob Mahari ’17; and Media Lab research assistant, Hope Schroeder.

MIT News spoke with Epstein, the paper’s lead author.

Q: Why are you writing this paper?

A: Generative AI tools do things that even a few years ago we never thought would be possible. This raises many fundamental questions about the creative process and the role of humans in creative production. Are we going to be automatically out of work? How are we going to preserve this aspect of human creativity with all this new technology?

The complexity of black box AI systems can make it difficult for researchers and the wider public to understand what’s going on under the hood, and what impact these tools have on society. Much discussion of AI anthropomorphizes technology, implicitly suggesting these systems exhibit human-like intent, agency, or self-awareness. Even the term “artificial intelligence” reinforces this belief: ChatGPT uses the first person pronoun, and we say “hallucinating” AI. These agent roles that we assign to AI can reduce the rewards to creators whose hard work underpins system output, and can shift responsibility away from developers and decision makers when the system causes a crash.

We are trying to build a coalition across academia and beyond to help think about the interdisciplinary connections and research fields needed to address the immediate harm to humans that comes from the spread of these tools, such as disinformation, job displacement, and changes to legal structures. and culture.

Q: What do you see as gaps in current research around AI and generative arts?

A: The way we talk about AI is broken in many ways. We need to understand how perceptions of generative processes influence attitudes toward outputs and authors, and also design interfaces and systems in a way that is completely transparent about generative processes and avoids some of these misleading interpretations. How do we talk about AI and how does this narrative cut lines of power? As we outline in the article, there are themes around the impact of AI that are important to consider: aesthetics and culture; legal aspects of ownership and credit; labor; and its impact on the media ecosystem. For each of these we highlight a large open question.

With aesthetics and culture in mind, we consider how the technologies of the arts of the past can inform the way we think about AI. For example, when photography was invented, some painters said it was “the end of art”. But instead it ended up becoming its own medium and eventually freed painting from realism, giving rise to Impressionism and the modern art movement. We say generative AI is a medium in its own right. The nature of art will develop with it. How do artists and creators express their intent and style through this new medium?

Issues around ownership and credit are complex because we need copyright laws that benefit creators, users and society at large. Current copyright laws may not give artists sufficient rights when the system rehearses their style. In terms of training data, what does copying mean? That’s a legal question, but also a technical one. We’re trying to understand whether these systems copy, and when.

For the economy of labor and creative work, the idea is that these generative AI systems can speed up the creative process in many ways, but they can also erase ideas from a blank slate. Sometimes, actually good things start with a blank page. We don’t know how this will affect creativity, and we need a better understanding of how AI will impact different stages of the creative process. We need to think carefully about how we use these tools to complement people’s work, not replace it.

In terms of the effect of generative AI on the media ecosystem, with the ability to produce synthetic media on a large scale, the risk of misinformation generated by AI must be considered. We need to protect the media ecosystem from massive fraud on the one hand, and people who have lost faith in real media on the other.

Q: How do you expect this paper to be received – and by whom?

A: Conversations about AI are highly fragmented and frustrating. Because technology moves so fast, it’s hard to think deeply about these ideas. To ensure the benefits of using these technologies, we need to build a common language and begin to understand where to focus our attention. We hope that this paper can be a step in that direction. We’re trying to start conversations that can help us build a roadmap to understand this fast-moving situation.

Artists are time and time again at the forefront of new technologies. They played with technology long before there was any commercial application. They explore how it works, and they grapple with that ethics. The art of AI has been going on for more than a decade, and during this time these artists have been grappling with questions we now face as a society. I think it’s important to raise the voices of artists and other creatives whose work will be impacted by these tools. Art is how we express our humanity. It is the human core, the emotional part of life. In that way we believe it is at the heart of the broader question of the impact of AI on society, and hopefully we can base that discussion on this.

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Written by Zach Winn, MIT News Agency


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