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I've asked AI to generate one of my works and the results are terrifying

5 May 2023

We're on the border of a new chapter for mankind. The recent developments with Artificial Intelligence (AI) have sparked interesting debates, and rightfully so. But besides the remote threat of my microwave oven or camera growing ambitions for world domination tomorrow and enslaving all humans, the real implications of AI are much more profound.


Roughly 50,000 years ago, the first forms of art emerged. Rock paintings of animals, events like group hunts and even outlines of human hands, forever immortalising the presence of a conscious forefather across eons of time. These rock paintings were decisive point in the history of life on Earth where mankind started using creativity to share abstract idea and express emotions. A feat that decidedly separated us from the animal world since.

Enter 2023: the developments in the fields of AI are nearly exponential today, on many fronts. Programmed algorithms having access to the entire archived knowledge of the universe, our history, and human nature through the internet. Learning with every interaction, analysing all the possible data it can find and combining it to 'create' new things.
The very thing that made us so unique is being copied by our own lifeless invention. Passionless, calculating and devoid of consciousness, but it will become indistinguishable from human created content, and that is one of the most terrifying things for me.

What are my images and written narratives still worth when it can be made up by AI in the near future? What use to invest so much time and effort in my creative endeavours if an algorithm can do it in a fraction of the time and – quite possibly – even better?
What is my worth then? Being creative is part of my sense of purpose and makes life feel worthwhile.

Not to think of the difficulties in distinguishing real content from AI-generated content. The potential influences in media, on politics, on the world and our grasps of reality are about to be changed forever.
Many only mainstream media articles give me already a very strong hint of AI generated content, but this is just the beginning. Propaganda + fine-tuned prompts and voila, a new article to be consumed.

It terrifies me thinking of the long-term implications, but then again I know like no other how people have always been afraid of new technologies and eventually embraced them like an essential part of society. Cars (“who needs cars when we have horses?”), electricity (“who needs that dangerous electricity when we have candles?”) and of course aeroplanes (“who needs aeroplanes when we can move about by foot and horse?”). I know, but I do think that with the rise of AI we are treading in unprecedented territory and thus have to be careful.
Or to quote Jeff Goldbloum's character in Jurassic Park: “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”

Then again, I do know that the advancement of AI is unavoidable and perhaps fundamental to get humanity to the next level: managing our planet, it's resources and safely exploring beyond. It's just that those first few steps into the deep end of the proverbial pool with all of it's potential unknowns scare me to bits.

I'm finding solace in the elusive concept of consciousness though. No matter how far technology and algorithms might advance, no matter how complicated circuitboards and computer processing powers might become, I'm convinced that our sense of consciousness is unique to us humans. And I would neither be surprised that the rise of AI will invoke a whole new endeavour to come to properly research the inescapable fact of human consciousness and it's role in the world.
Creativity might become the very key to the long journey of understanding human consciousness after all, and I find that beautiful.

Anyway. I've asked Midjourney AI to create a 'cockpit photo based on this jpcvanheijst-style image' by uploading my own image and suffice to say, I don't have to worry quite yet. But things are going fast now and I feel we're on the edge of a totally new chapter. One that can either go from extremely uplifting and enlightening to our species and planet, to dystopian and anti-human very fast.

In the meanwhile I keep a keen eye on the developments of AI, including ChatGPT and Midjourney. I think they can work very well in parallel with present technology and actually enhance our understanding of the world and perhaps add something positive in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.

Let's hope the programmers of the algorithms know they are playing with fire and tread lightly.
We're living in interesting times.



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