AI, Art, and Writing

Notice anything odd in this image? This is generated by Alexa Alice Joubin using Adobe Firefly.

When generative AI claims to be creating art and new pieces of writing on the fly, what is the place of human creativity? How do we build trust by keeping ethical human decisions in the loop? Art and writing remain central to our society, because we continue to have a great deal of synchronous and asynchronous interaction with information that consists of words and graphics. 

With the emergence of easy-to-access generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, we now live in a world of unstructured info abundance. We do encounter many types of writing, most of them in day-to-day context that seems mundane (T&C language; transactional, advertisement, product description, product review). Real estate agents do a lot of formulaic writing based on templates (descriptions of properties for sale). 

However, other types of writing would not benefit from automation (machine learning). Writing is not merely a means to express one’s thoughts; writing is in fact part of the thought formation process itself. We refine our ideas through writing. And writing is a craft. Therefore, the technicity of art is as important as artistic foundations of technologies.

Here is Professor Alexa Alice Joubin’s talk at the World Bank on AI, Art, and Technology.

Are technologies an extension of humanity or a surrogate of it? Why do sentient robots often want to become “real” humans in movies?

Art is front and center in digital transformations of our society today, because art fosters creativity, and creative thinking leads to social change. Technology has always been intertwined with art, and artistic imagination has led to new tech designs. Art has also been used as proof of concept to launch emerging technologies.

When ChatGPT was launched in late 2022, the general public was transfixed by its ability to write poetry rather than its potential of carrying out bureaucratic tasks.

So, how do we use technology and art to make the world a better place? Art gives cultural meanings to technologies. In fact, every technology tells a story. It needs a description, and descriptions are essentially narratives.

Let us take a look at Professor Alexa Alice Joubin’s lecture on AI and the Craft of Writing:

 

How do we write in an era of AI? How does generative AI (as a text-generating mechanism) impact our society’s relationship to written words and the future of the craft of writing? We need to understand AI’s outputs in the context of epistemic justice.

In many ways, the arrival of generative AI, with its celebrations and damnations, is an old story. Technological transformations have brought cyclical adulation with worry since at least the printing press. In The Gutenberg Parenthesis: The Gutenberg Parenthesis (2023), Jeff Jarvis characterizes the age of print, an era of Gutenberg, as a worldview about permanence and authority of the printed word. Jarvis noted that the emergence of the printing press was as disruptive as digital transformations today. Further, in The Science of Reading (2023), Adrian Johns reveals that reading is both a social affordance and an enterprise enabled by technologies of representation—the written or printed words.