Back in 1984, the first Terminator film was released. The story revolved around a cyborg assassin known as a Terminator traveling back in time from 2029 to kill Sarah Connor. By doing so, they would stop her giving birth to her future son who, in the future, would lead the resistance to fight the coming of Skynet, an artificial intelligence defence system which would later spark a nuclear holocaust.
13 years later, at 2:14 am Eastern Time, on August 29th, 1997, Skynet becomes ‘self-aware’. Humans panic and try to pull the plug, but Skynet fights back. This leads to a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which humans are hunted down, and robots run the world.
The Terminator franchise was box office gold. Putting Arnie’s acting skills to one side, everything about the films was great: the storyline, the action, the visual effects, the fear factor.
Rise of the Machines
Fast forward 40 years and artificial intelligence is still the phrase on everyone’s lips. Especially, in recent months, as AI generators such as OpenAI’s Chat GPT and Midjourney have ‘launched’. Like Skynet, these are self-learning systems but the big difference is that they are not here to take over humankind.
But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fear AI generators. When Elon Musk and Apple boss, Steve Wosniak make a claim that this ‘is quite dangerous technology‘, we should sit up and take note.
But it’s not just these two. 1000s of other technology experts have similar thoughts regarding the dangers of text-to-text and text-to-image image artificial intelligence generators.
Amazingly, AI image generators such as Midjourney, can produce unlimited number of images, illustrations, patterns and graphics within seconds. These images are unique – they have been created by the machines! And, there really is no limit on the number and styles of image generated – the only limit is your imagination. If you wanted an image of ‘a sculpture made out of chocolate of a poodle eating an ice cream’, then you only need to type in those words. 30 seconds later, voila!.
Or, you may simply ask for ‘a close up of an insect’s face wearing armour’. Take a look here.
Whatever you want. Whatever you can imagine. AI generators will give it to you. No special photography needed, no artist or creative agency either. No waiting time, no cost. And, it’s important to note that these systems are still in their early stages of development and their capabilities are still slightly limited.
For example, only relatively low-resolution images are created – although there are image enhancers available such as Let’s Enhance. They are brilliant for screen and digital work but not so ideal for large format print. Moreover, the images & illustrations are not layered and as such, cannot be easily & quickly ‘tweaked’.
Furthermore, despite how good your text description (known as a ‘prompt’), you may still not get the same result you envisaged in your head. AI generators work on algorithms to provide you with their interpretation of your prompt. But, even so, more often than not, the delivered result is so much better.
But, despite these limitations, if today is their ‘early stages’ then what about tomorrow? I ask again, should we fear AI generators?
It’s fair to say that text-to-image AI generators are currently advanced enough to produce images that are indistinguishable from those created by humans. And, in many cases, already better – as a case in point, the recent Sony World Photography Awards was actually won by an AI generated image.
Of course, the benefits are many. More efficient solutions, new ideas and suggestions, new forms of art and media. However, it is crucial that society considers the potential implications of these technologies as they continue to develop and self-learn.
Without appropriate guidelines and regulation, they will be used for malicious reasons. For example, media using AI generated imagery and video for propaganda reasons. And with citizens never knowing what is true and what is fake, this can lead to massive untrust & unrest.
But this is not just a tool for the powerful. It also sits in the hands of the individual who can also use it for deception. In education & academia for example, how can assessments be made if papers can be written in seconds via ChatGPT and be indistinguishable from that of a human? Things will have to change and AI-generators will inevitably be adopted into the classroom just as the calculator was in the 1970s.
Once students had access to calculators at home, it was pretty clear that they would be used for maths homework no matter what policies the schools had in place for classroom usage. Because of this, calculators slowly began to enter the classroom and the teaching process shifted to adopt them.
Moving out of the classroom and into industry, imagine a world where there is no longer a need for copywriters, photographers, artists, designers, proofreaders, translators, web designers, social media managers, content planners, architects, composers. Professions that took years to master will be be replaced by a bot which is infinitely more efficient.
Where companies would once rely on marketing / branding / design / web / content agencies for their marketing collateral, they will come to rely on AI-generators to handle it all.
It is estimated that Artificial Intelligence could displace roughly 15% of workers, or 400 million people, worldwide between now and 2030. Big tech is already seeing huge swathes of redundancies, with Google, Meta, Amazon & Twitter leading the way in their transition toward AI.
This reaction will filter down and companies will need to adapt to survive. There will be huge losses of jobs with the most vulnerable companies being those who have kept their heads in the sand and not foreseen what is coming.
Companies need to start to understand how AI-generators may affect their industry. AI is here to stay and, by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of AI, companies may need to reposition themselves to focus on their own strengths.
Here at Design Inc Towers, we are certainly aware that some future clients may simply rely on AI to create their brand, their brochure, website, direct mail, etc etc. If they are doing it themselves, where does it leave us?
Frank Norman, Head of Client Services responds,
“Whilst everyone is asking ‘should we fear AI generators?’, I would counter by asking ‘how can we embrace it?’. Generative AI art has the potential to revolutionise the way we think about creativity, as it allows us to explore new ways of creating art that is both dynamic and unpredictable.
The great benefit here is that image generators can support designers and creatives with additional inspiration & direction – providing creative ideas, layouts, patterns, templates which the designers may not have thought of. And this can be achieved in seconds. This of course, may be gold dust for some agencies that currently spend a lot of time coming up with the idea in advance of developing the design.
Agencies should also be aware how they re stronger than AI solutions – or at least reposition themselves to do so. For example, AI solutions do not (yet) add the ‘strategic element’ into a rebranding project or an ad campaign. Imagery may look nice but they do not cut though and connect to the audience as strongly.
AI only creates the idea of a layout and cannot inject human emotions that may be required within the brief. For example, humour, sarcasm, cheekiness, security, reflection, nostalgia, etc etc.
As such, I would expect creative & marketing agencies to repositioning themselves to be more of a strategic agency – working with AI to offer bespoke marketing comms that truly connect to the audience.”
We humans are highly resilient. We are also very used to change. The current population is more used to technology changes than at any any other time in history and, if we look back over the past 30 years, we will have seen wholesale changes to our approach to information, communication & connectivity. These days, innovation, new tech & digital tools are introduced to us each and every day. We are so used to it that we hardly bat an eyelid.
It’s therefore understandable that, for many smaller companie, AI will just be seen as yet another ‘new thing’. Of course, the danger is that companies who are not adequately prepared will be caught napping.
AI is upon us and moving forward at such a pace that push-back seems futile. And, in the context of the creative industries, companies will need to streamline, redundancies are inevitable, some may go out of business altogether.
Should we embrace AI? Yes, of course we must.
Should we fear AI generators? You bet we should!