Artificial intelligence: threat or opportunity?
Artificial intelligence, we’ve seen it coming for years. And in recent months there has been a kind of breakthrough. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) appears to be able to write texts and create works of art. But how good are these systems actually? And do they represent a threat or an opportunity for human creatives?
It happened many times before: people losing their jobs because computers do their work better and faster. But until recently, writers, artists and other creatives could cherish the illusion that this wouldn’t happen to them.
However, progress cannot be stopped. High school students already have their essays and papers written by the chatbot ChatGPT. And on Art Heroes and other platforms, art can already be purchased that has been made by artificial Picassos and Van Goghs.
Is it a matter of time before writer and artist are exhibited in the museum of lost professions? Or can A.I. be a useful tool that creatives can use to their advantage? I decided to investigate how well artificial intelligences could take over my work.
I looked at six different art A.I.s: Wombo, Dall-E, Stable Diffusion, Dream Up, Midjourney, and Wonder. The first five are online and free to use; Wonder is a phone app with incredibly annoying ads. I gave all six of them some assignments for work that I could have wished to make myself. Related to themes that play a role in this blog: Rotterdam, space art, maps, cats, guitars, tiny houses.
It’s certainly spectacular to see how fast most A.I. software works. Each prompt on my part, a description of the desired image in words, was followed by a picture within a few seconds. And usually even four at a time. But only rarely did those pictures meet the requirements.
For example, I asked for a painting of a cat with a guitar in front of Erasmus bridge in the style of Van Gogh. The cat and the guitar were usually supplied, but Van Gogh’s style was interpreted very broadly by some A.I.s. And although a bridge usually came into view, the iconic shapes of Rotterdam’s Zwaan were hard to find, except for the image provided by Dall-E.
Specific cities and buildings prove very difficult for the AI software anyway. I asked for pictures of Coolsingel boulevard, Rotterdam Central Station, Markthal and the Cube Houses. The first two were far from recognizable in the images. When asking for the Markthal I sometimes got something curved, but that was all. And when he’d see the A.I. version of the Cube Houses, architect Piet Blom would turn in his grave.
When I asked for images of Rotterdam in the year 2050, I invariably received pictures with futuristic towers and large water features. But nothing of the existing city could ever be recognized on it. Well, maybe such an A.I. knows something we don’t know yet; after all, it is not yet 2050.
With a request for pictures of a cube-shaped tiny house, Midjourney knew what to do. I think these four atmospheric impressions of the A.I. version of Blok’s Blokje are quite successful. Although with such an pretty image you do not yet have a design.
Oddly enough, artificial intelligence has a hard time with a sci-fi concept like terraforming. As much as I begged for clouds, jungles and oceans, Mars remained the Red Planet as we know it. And the idea of the Rings of Venus didn’t ring a bell either.
World maps of rust, coffee beans or face masks? Some attempts were interesting, others were nothing like it at all. Maybe I should work on my prompting skills, but so far the results are disappointing. Or not, depending on how you look at it.
And the much-discussed ChatGPT? Could I use that to write blog posts? That is of course easy to try. I asked for an article about the singels of Rotterdam, to compare it with my own blog post from a few months ago. The article the bot came up with was, besides correct in terms of spelling and grammar, mostly funny.
Write me an article about the canals (singels) of Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, is known for its modern architecture and bustling port. However, one of the city’s lesser-known attractions are its canals, or “singels,” that run through the heart of the city.
The canals of Rotterdam were originally built in the 14th century as part of the city’s defense system. They served as moats around the city walls, protecting it from invasion. Over time, as the city grew and the threat of invasion decreased, the canals were filled in and used for other purposes.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the canals were dug out again and converted into picturesque waterways that run through the city center. Today, the singels are lined with historic buildings, shops, and restaurants, making them a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
One of the most well-known singels is the “Koopgoot,” which runs from the city center to the famous shopping street, the Lijnbaan. The Koopgoot is lined with shops and department stores, making it a popular spot for shopping. Other popular singels include the “Nieuwe Binnenweg,” which is home to many trendy bars and restaurants, and the “Westersingel,” which runs through the trendy neighborhood of Blijdorp.
The canals are also a popular spot for boat tours, which provide a unique perspective on the city and its architecture. Visitors can take a boat tour of the canals to see the city’s famous landmarks such as the Erasmus Bridge and the Cube Houses.
In addition to being a popular tourist destination, the singels also play an important role in the city’s transportation system. They are used by water taxis, which offer a quick and convenient way to get around the city.
In conclusion, the canals of Rotterdam are a unique and important part of the city’s history, culture, and daily life. They provide a picturesque setting for shopping, dining, and sightseeing, as well as a convenient mode of transportation. If you ever visit Rotterdam, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the city’s singels.
What? Water taxis on the singels? Are the Koopgoot and the Nieuwe Binnenweg singels as well? Does the Westersingel run through the “trendy neighborhood” of Blijdorp? This text seems to be about a Roffa in a parallel universe. No, I have to keep writing those blog posts myself for the foreseeable future.
What about copyright? Artificial intelligences are fed with billions of examples. With texts, photos and artworks made by human copywriters, photographers and artists. And just as humans cannot simply copy other people’s work without consequences, the same should apply to machines. Lawsuits are already in progress.
There is a site where you can see whether your work has been used for AI software training: Have I Been Trained. Which is probably an abbreviated version for Has My Work Been Used For Training Purposes, but that’s a bit too long.
It is difficult to find out quickly on that site how often my work has been used. One has to upload every possible work individually or search by its name. But with a quick first try I already discovered my Inverted World Map and my Coffee Beans World Map are in the training database. I don’t remember giving permission for that. So if someone is going to earn a lot of money with it, I’d like to be able to send an invoice.
Threat or opportunity
But the question at the beginning of this blog post was: is artificial intelligence a threat or an opportunity? If you look at the mediocre and clumsy results my attempts have yielded so far, I’m inclined to say no and no. At least at the moment.
Of course it is dangerous to be contemptuous of something that may be in its infancy. In the nineties I was not impressed by the first digital cameras with their images of 640 by 480 pixels. And look where we are now.
Perhaps in ten years’ time such an A.I. will produce an intelligent and factually correct text, with surprising insights and creative use of language. Or maybe it will amaze the world with beautiful and original art. I’ll keep following the developments with great interest.