AI will make you surplus to requirements

We live in an age where it is possible for someone, irrespective of their level of talent, to create an artistic masterpiece, simply by keying a few descriptive words into an AI-powered art generator app. On the one hand, the software lowers the bar. It gives ordinary people extraordinary levels of creativity. It fulfils their dreams and desires to produce great works. One cannot deny the positivity and joy this can deliver.

But it is short-lived. Nothing worth doing is ever going to be that easy. Nor should it be.

One can order any food delicacy with a few clicks on a smartphone app and have it delivered to your doorstep in half an hour or less. But is this as fulfilling as creating something from scratch and the enjoyment one gets from experimenting with new ingredients and new recipes? Someone is probably already working on a robotic Michelin-rated chef, which can create these culinary delights in your very own kitchen. But is it the same thing?

If you’ve been fortunate enough to attend one of Hannah Fry’s talks on AI, or watched her present on the topic, you may have seen her show examples of art, created by AI, that is indistinguishable from the real thing. One example is a piece of music generated by AI to sound like Bach.

Is AI-produced art the same as art created by an artist? Is a food dish made by a robot the same as one made by a master chef? Do we have the same empathy for music generated by a machine compared to something created by a great composer or musician?

Why does this matter at all to IT leaders?

While we are all small cogs in a much larger wheel, every decision we make has an effect, which cumulatively has a big impact on society. So if the business sees AI-generated art and music as a shortcut and low-cost way to use art work and multimedia for presentations and marketing, it becomes normalised. Over time, there is going to be less demand for human created work.

The emphasis here is on the word “work”, not just artistic works. Any work involving real people can be automated. Labour costs are high. Businesses will want to lower costs due to the global economic crisis. The IT sector will offer labour-saving AI as the solution. And one day, even the software developers who created the AI art and music creation apps will find themselves surplus to requirements. With AI, it’s far better to be cautious than sorry, especially when the long-term outcomes are worse for humanity.

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