Ramblings on the rise of AI
Anyone else feeling a bit uneasy? Also, doodles!
I'm not an expert on tech, I’ll admit. I can barely make my spotify work. So full disclosure, my grasp of new technologies and innovation is definitely not up there with the best of them. I don’t want to give myself away as some kind of luddite. However, it’s hard not to have feelings with headlines like this concerning AI. If you haven’t noticed, excitement ( dread?) surrounding AI in recent months/weeks/days has been growing. It’s gotten to a point where I can barely escape the topic, as an artist, as a writer - more specifically, the topic of AI killing art and writing as a profession altogether.
Maybe nothing cuts to the heart of the creative soul like this story about a guy who “wrote,” “illustrated” and published a picture book in a weekend. Granted, the character's hands, if you look, are the stuff of nightmares and so I'm not sure AI is quite ready to tackle picture books yet - but still, the fear of robotic annihilation is real, and some artists are fighting back, trying to regain some control over the copyrighted art AI so easily took for itself without consent (get ‘em, artists).
So, with headlines like these being fed to me by the algorithms that govern my life, who can blame me for thought spiraling with questions like: Are all we creatives about to be rendered obsolete? Between AI art and AI prose, what do we even do now? Do we continue to create? Or adapt and pivot, to quote the Simpsons, to "build and maintain those robots?"
I don’t enjoy being all Jeff Goldblum about it, telling everyone who will listen that big tech was so caught up in “whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should!” After all, no one asked where the horse and buggy manufacturers went after the car came on the scene, did they? “That’s progress, baby.” And I'm for progress. I may not understand how the Netflix algorithm decides I want to see shows about cakes that look like bowling balls - but I'm glad it can 'cus I do! Thanks Netflix! But the speed at which these AI tools have Kool-Aid manned their way onto the scene have left a lot of us standing in the rubble wondering what the heck is happening. Can a book written by AI really be as good as a book by a person? Maybe not yet, but in the future? Very likely, on a technical level, yes. As someone who likes sci fi, I can imagine a novel by 3po would be delightful. Will ppl want it? Again, I imagine yes. Probably. At first. For the novelty of it. But eventually the fun will wear off, I hope. And people will want stories by people again. Want to know a person was behind the artwork. That's why we make art, isn't it? To connect and relate to other ppl. Art and story loses its purpose if its generated by machine, right? I mean…right?!
Maybe it’s a sign to not take traditional mediums for granted. Maybe it's time to step back from the screens, pull out the sketchbooks and notebooks and paint and clay and ink. To get our hands dirty again. (Can you do THAT, AI? Didn't think so). If nothing else, stepping back from the screen and losing ourselves in our art and stories away from the glow of the computer might help us all chill out a bit.
Then again, if the lawyers can defend their jobs from Skynet easily enough, surely they can defend ours too.
What I’m Working On
Speaking of stepping away from the computer, I spent the weekend playing with markers. I've seen these monochromatic exercises online and thought I'd try it out, focusing on character and expression. It was fast and fun and I found myself really focused on and careful about the shapes - there's no 'undo’ when you're working in a notebook!
I'm working more on my personal animated movie project, "After” so I thought I'd tell you a bit more about it. After is the story about a girl who goes off into the great big world on a daring adventure. The road will be long and dangerous, but this is her destiny - tale as old as time. Classic 'princess’ style tale. Except she forgot the one thing she needs to defeat the bad guy and find happily ever after - a magic amulet that's been in the family for generations. And there's only one person who can bring it to her - her mom. So surprise! After is really the story of her mom, and the daring adventure she must take to get the amulet to her daughter in time to defeat the bad guy and find happily ever after. Because we need more mom stories. And here's the design so far for After's hero mom - Laurel!
To see more about my “After” project, I’ll be posting sketches, story notes and more in the Goody Tier!
I'm excited to go to the OLA Super Conference in Toronto this Friday! I'll be at Penguin Random House's booth from 12-1 signing copies of The Bear House and Scales & Stardust and giving out fun swag! If you're there, come say hi!
Also, if you’ve read any of the Bear books, consider leaving an online review - reviews are so important for authors and you would have my eternal gratitude for being awesome :)
What I'm reading:
Sticking with the AI theme, these Substacks were great reads on the subject, highly recommend.gives a fascinating look at AI and its impact on students and teachers. makes a case for paying for his newsletter with a hilarious demonstration of AI writing at work.
What are you reading?
Thank you for your great point of view on this.
I’m currently reading “The artificial man and other stories “ by Claire Winger Harris . A classical collection of scifi stories (I got the Belt Publishing edition to support them and their substack)
Hi Meaghan! I thought I would return the favour and comment on your AI article. :)
I think this bit you write is really critical:
"After all, no one asked where the horse and buggy manufacturers went after the car came on the scene, did they?"
The difference, I think, is that the point of the horse and cart was never about us being better acquainted with horses. The entire purpose of the horse and cart was to travel, as fast and as efficiently as possible. The car was a natural continuation of that core purpose. Not great for horse and cart companies, as you mention, but the fundamental principle at play remained the same.
Advances in tech like that don't 1:1 apply to art. The point of illustration is not simply to 'make visual images'. If that was the case, then AI image generation would be the perfect next step - it can make visual images faster than anything before! But that isn't the point: the point with writing or illustration or filmmaking or anything else is to communicate an idea, or a feeling. And that communication is between humans. That, really, is what it's all about.
That's why new art tools, like the camera, or Photoshop, or similar, have been useful. AI art might end up in a similar place, where it helps humans with that communication aspect, but it's not there yet - for technical and ethical reasons. It's most often used at the moment as in your AI sketch - as a shortcut to creating An Image, rather than to explore an idea.