The impending AI revolution will be the the most fantastic and monumental and mind-meltingly absurd leap we will have experienced in our lifetimes. I don’t think any of us can truly comprehend the scale and speed at which it will occur. But Moore’s law (basically, the exponential evolution of computing power) is going to throw the changes (and keep throwing them) at our faces so hard and fast it’ll feel like a heavyweight boxing match in the eleventh round. We’ll be staggering around, barely able to keep up, confused and trying to remember our own names.
As a creative, I used to think I’d be safe in one of the last strongholds untouched by technological displacement, even while the evidence popped up all around me. But I got my professional start in radio at the age of eighteen, just in time to watch as the entire industry changed. I witnessed technology make it possible to schedule music based on algorithms (taking away the need for someone to choose what to play), saw the inception of voicetracking (allowing any air personality to create a five hour show in twenty minutes and then upload it to any station anywhere in the world), and sat in on sessions where computers created the perfect formula for the next hit pop record. That was all before I hit twenty-two, and none of that technology even existed (at least, not commercially) when I had started just a few years earlier.
Now, as a writer, video creator, and terrible joke teller, I’m seeing the next phase of software technology do things I wouldn’t think possible just a handful of years ago. Yet as a writer, one of the first things you learn is the structure every piece of written work has to have. You know – hero, goal, obstacles – all that good stuff. And it’s that very structure that will make it so easy for R2D2 to bleep bloop his way in and take over. I’m sure there are already programs that can write better commercial scripts than I can. Thankfully, I probably have an additional seventeen weeks before they learn how to write novels, and I’m gunning to get my second one finished in sixteen. But the first film written by a computer has already been released. Yeah, it’s silly and nonsensical, but so is everything Terrence Malick has put out in the past decade.
Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something… they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
That quote used to piss me off. But we are just input/output machines. Nothing comes out of us that wasn’t already absorbed by one of our senses and processed internally. Any art we create is like matter. We don’t truly create or destroy things, we re-work what we’ve taken in into different configurations and put it back out so it can be tangibly experienced by others.
This is not to take away the blood, sweat, and tears spilled by the artist. But to think the magic we believe we, and we alone, can create won’t be first replicated and then improved by the same technology that tells us there are single and sexy women available in our area right now is setting ourselves up for a major existential crisis. Better to have that crisis now and prepare for the inevitable. The change is coming, and coming soon. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t even see it coming to the hard working women and men who gave their entire lives to a trade, only to have a robot arm or modified game of Q-bert swap in and send them to an early retirement.
It’ll happen to the creatives. The writers have like, two months left. And after that, it’ll be music. Maybe humor. The machines are already painting and drawing. Soon they will have taken over everything. Blue-collar work. White-collar work. The arts. And where will that leave us? The easy answer is to say we’re creating skynet or the matrix, and that we are the harbingers of our own destruction. The machines will simply decide we are slowing them down and get rid of us coldly, unsympathetically.
I prefer to think they’ll follow in our footsteps, and sometime around 2027 TMZ will be reporting that 1011011001, one of the stars of Real Nanobots of Intel Chip i73 will be celebrating its tenth de-fragmentation with itself and everyone will be shocked, because there’s no way anyone thought 1011011001 would still be together after throwing wine at itself during last week’s episode. What a time to be alive.