The Generative-AI Eruption

A new dawn in how we build

[extract from an article by David Thompson in The Atlantic, Dec 2022]

The story of the year in technology might be the emergence of AI tools that seem to trace the outer bounds of human creativity. Image-generating apps, such as Stable Diffusion and DALL-E 2, turn text prompts into lush illustrations. Large language models, such as ChatGPT, can answer complex questions, spit out bespoke Wikipedia articles in seconds, write song lyrics, and even conjure—admittedly mediocre—essays in the style of well-known writers.

What are these machines? Are they an autocomplete for everything, a second mind for the creative class, a replacement for Google Search, or a disembodied superbrain that will one day destroy the world? In the short term, I expect they will serve as assistants for those of us in creative industries. As a journalist, I’m most excited by their potential to help me plow through complicated bits of writing. When I feel myself stuck on a definition or transition sentence, I could give a prompt to the AI, which, having feasted on a banquet of online writing, would generate sentences that I could edit back into my own voice. In fact, I adapted the previous sentence from the prompt: “Write an essay in The Atlantic, in the style of Derek Thompson, on the implications of GPT.” (These sorts of disclosures are faddish today, but in a few years, they may be rendered redundant because so much writing will be AI-assisted.)

DALL-E’s co-inventor Aditya Ramesh said the goal of his technology was to teach “AI systems to see the world the way humans do.” But, more spookily, I think these tools will also teach humans to see the world as AI sees it. We will over time learn how to talk to these things, become fluent in their alien tongue, and discover how the perfect set of words can generate a stunning piece of original art. These uncanny tools, having emerged from our mind, may change our mind about how we work, how we think, and what human creativity really is.


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