With the advent of new AI technology, it is now easier than ever to produce art, voices, and even faces in a short amount of time, but is this a good thing? That depends on who you ask. Although there are legitimate concerns with AI generators and AI in general, I would argue that, in the right hands, this technology can be more beneficial than dangerous. However, I do see both sides to this debate and will address them here.
First, let’s talk about the positive effects of AI. Although the prospect of jobs being taken away is scary, I think that humans not being needed for certain types of jobs can be more beneficial than not. If machines are sent to do dangerous jobs in place of humans–such as mining or sweatshop work– it could save companies time and money.
Movies like Terminator (1984) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1971) often portray AI as cold, calculated, and fiercely intelligent machines capable of thought and perfect speech. If an AI starts out the movie as being friendly and accommodating towards all human life, they most likely won’t end it that way.
AI in movies often come to the conclusion that the best solution to world peace is to exterminate the human race. Exceptions to this portrayal are Baymax from the movie Big Hero 6 (2014) and 2017 TV show of the same name, C3PO and R2-D2 from the Star Wars series, and WALL-E from the July 27, 2008 film of the same name. All of these robots exhibit a variety of emotions such as fear, love, anger, compassion, and an eagerness to help others.
Another assumption about AI is that human contribution is unnecessary to create AI art, which may also give rise to the assumption that any art piece created by an AI is free of error. The three award-winning images created by game designer Jason M. Allen using the AI program Midjourney provides evidence that this is not so.
According to an article published by CNN Business on September 3, 2022, Allen, who created 900 iterations of his images before settling on the final three, needed to “[...] giv[e] one of the female figures in his image a head [...] after Midjourney rendered her headless.” Allen believes that AI is “[...] a powerful tool [to] use [...] for good so we can all move forward [...]”. There is also evidence that AI produces greater results when working with humans than by itself.
A literal example of AI being used as a powerful tool can be seen in the image classification exercise by the University of Cologne and the University of Minnesota. This exercise is described in the Wall Street Journal article, How AI and Humans Can Best Collaborate at Work - WSJ, published on April 7, 2022.
In the exercise, both humans and machines were asked “[...] to match a set of images to one of 10 categories [...] In one of the groups, the machine could delegate to a human if it was having trouble making a decision [...].” This shows that humans and AI can do better together than alone.
The reality of AI technology is much more mundane and boring than movies make it out to be. AI is not– and, I believe, never will be–capable of achieving sentience, meaning the ability to feel emotions or think about things like who they are, what their purpose is, and so on. AI are machines programmed by humans to fulfill human wants and needs, not fully cognizant, or fully aware or understanding, beings in need of rights.
If machines did menial labor, then companies would not have to worry about paying AI for their work or give them time off except for repairs if they break. Machines taking dangerous jobs could also open the opportunity for humans to do different types of jobs, pursue better careers, or perhaps force companies to give humans more humane jobs.
I would argue that, in the right hands, voice generators and other AI generators can be beneficial to the general public. They can grant voice talent to independent video game developers who may not be able to afford professional voice actors, potentially gaining the developers more recognition that they may not have had otherwise.
This is similar to the release of digital cameras to the public allowing the public to make videos without the need of professional equipment. Art generators can be used to give artists ideas for future works or improve upon an already made work if desired.
A new kind of AI technology is called “deepfaking”, which is an impersonation of someone else’s voice or face made using AI. Deepfaking has been commonly used for entertainment purposes, such as the use Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia and Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin’s likeness in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for brief cameo appearances and placing Millie Bobby Brown’s face onto the younger Martie Blair during flashback scenes in the fourth season of Stranger Things.
So, now that we’ve discussed the positive effects of AI, let’s discuss the negative effects. According to an article published by rappler.com on September 15, 2022, graphic artists such as Raffy de Guzman have a negative opinion on AI generated art.
Guzman claimed it could lead to the disappearance of “[...] the human aspect of collaboration.” This alludes to the idea that AI art will make humans’ contributions to the art world obsolete as the art generator can create a whole painting or image by itself with the only human contribution being entering a few keywords into it.
The argument could be made that any amount of input from humans pales in comparison to the output created by an AI, leading many to the belief that humans can lose jobs to AI. This belief is, unfortunately, not unfounded.
Examples of machines displacing humans are the 19th century English mill workers and the more recent toll workers. The former were replaced by automated looms and the latter were replaced by automated machines, which is an event documented in the article, Machines and AI Are Taking Over Jobs Lost to Coronavirus | Time, published on August 7, 2020.
While voice and photo generators can be fun to use, they come with the risk of identity theft. Nefarious uses of voice generators include fraud, faking texts, and, as the article Deepfake Types, Examples, Prevention (spiceworks.com) published on May 23, 2022 points out, discrediting politicians and celebrities.
To wrap it up, while AI has many drawbacks, it also has many benefits. Benefits that I believe make it worth embracing rather than ignoring. Embracing change, rather than running away from it, can potentially lead the world to a brighter future.
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