Hi, I’m Matt Tillotson, and this is Matt’s Mix Tape: ideas for remixing the Side B of life.
Far from linear, progress is a jagged and unpredictable line. And artificial intelligence has recently scaled a sudden and steep new peak in its ability render compelling writing and vibrant, detailed graphics.
The output is startling at times.
GPT-3 can render (I avoid the word create for a reason) a high school-quality essay in seconds. And AI can now, following a prompt, produce rich and detailed graphics as fast as a camera’s flash.
I’m not an AI expert. But I’m interested in, and concerned about, AI’s impact on the value and importance we place on self-expression, creativity , and human communication.
Even human connection, for that matter.
For example, one of the best things about art is pondering the choices made within a piece.
Why is this color there?
Why is that element so prominent?
What was the artist thinking, feeling, reflecting on, and trying to express?
Art created by artificial intelligence makes those questions meaningless. AI-generated words and pictures are, by name, artificial.
To look at AI-rendered art is to look into the eyes of a zombie. It’s an approximation of something real and alive. But only an approximation:
AI-generated artwork is … pareidolia, an illusion of art, and if culture falls for that illusion we will lose something irreplaceable. We will lose art as an act of communication, and with it, the special place of consciousness in the production of the beautiful.
I feel uneasy looking at AI-generated art. Erik’s essay helped me understand why.
Something vital is missing.
Not all is golden.
Societies that turn from God expend tremendous time and energy worshipping other things. You might think that’s a hot take. To me it’s plainly obvious throughout history.
Already, some online are celebratory of AI’s advances to the point of genuflection. People will look to AI for guidance, for inspiration, for answers to life’s unknowable questions. For some, worship of AI is a forgone conclusion, if not already underway.
A new golden calf is emerging.
But AI is not God. No matter how brilliant its prose or how beautiful its output, there’s one thing AI can never truly give.
Love. Unconditional, unfathomably deep love.
Is AI just a plagiarist?
While AI can now write a sound essay in seconds, it’s also true some of the prose is taken directly from other sources. Some criticize creative AI as no more than advanced screen-scraping. It can’t really create anything new, but it can pull from nearly infinite sources and recombine them, sometimes with outright plagiarism.
No doubt blatant writing plagiarism will decrease as the software improves. But still, as Erik said, AI-based writing is still a rendering of what came before, blended and recombined through ever-more-efficient code.
And what if you work at a writing school?
Well, I do. I think there are two ways to look at AI’s impact on writing:
A.I. obliterates the need and desire to write.
If you do want to write, you need to be better than ever. You must learn to lean into your humanity and to develop a unique voice drawing on your own experiences in order to build and maintain an audience.
That voice can emerge in many different forms.
A distinct writing cadence.
Coining unique terms.
These things must still be taught, practiced, nurtured, and published. Maybe AI takes on more of the teaching, but ultimately humans must continue to express themselves.
It’s part of who we were designed to be.
Am I biased about the future of writing education? Absolutely. But I’m betting on door number two, because that’s the bet on humanity, our experiences, and our souls.
Art and writing schools aren’t just schools any longer. They are the keepers of society’s humanity, ensuring people preserve the value and craft of expression from the heart.
Thank you for reading.
Whatever you’re working on or working through: keep showing up.
If you liked this edition, would you mind giving the heart a click? Thank you.
👏 Say it louder for the people in the back 👏
If AI makes everything, what is the point of anything?
Very well said Matt. I agree and believe that creativity will remain the last frontier for humans. Each of us has a completely unique combo of experiences, skills, thoughts, and perspectives that need to be shared.