Every generation, social class, and culture has had its bugaboos, its banshees, devils, vampires, zombies, and flying monkeys. For what urban studies theorist Richard Florida deemed The Creative Class, that spectre is now Artificial Intelligence. To architects, artists, designers, filmmakers, writers, and STEM workers, it seems this unnatural entity is poised to take away their professional purpose, steal their jobs and ultimately the ability to sustain lives. And while you'd think a celebrated movie director might be immune from that existential threat, Oscar® winner Guillermo del Toro describes AI-generated animation as, “an insult to life”.
The Corporate Class—judging by the tenor of its house organ, The Wall Street Journal—takes a more blasé view. In a recent WSJ article, Is It Art If It’s Made By AI? (1.20.23), intellectual property lawyer Van Lindberg observes, “We’re starting to use our [human] intelligence for curation as opposed to some other aspects of creative work.” Curation, eh? Merriam-Webster defines the noun as “the act or an instance of selecting and organizing artistic works for presentation in an exhibit, show, etc.” or, “the act or process of selecting and organizing something (such as articles or images) for distribution or publication.”
That sounds like Curation replacing Creation. But we’ve been conditioned to accept this. Design has been “democratized” with software like Canva which offers users pre-designed templates resulting in often credible graphic design, without graphic designers. Decorating your home? Social media presents nesters with appealing environments and color schemes ripe for replication. No interior designer needed. Ditto for aesthetic education or professional training.
Defensive much? Full disclosure: my job title is Creative Director. Some creative directors conceptualize, draw (or thumbnail), and write. Yet, isn't the primary function of a creative director to brief writers and designers? And then offer more guidance if their work is off-message? How is that fundamentally different from giving a series of prompts to ChatGPT, Mid-Journey or DALL•E?
I wanted to find out. This past January I taught modules within two short-term courses, Applied Design Thinking & Storytelling and Communication, Design & Innovation, at California State University Northridge (co-sponsored by International Business School Americas). The assignment in the former class was to reposition Coca-Cola, and in the latter class to brand products or services of the students’ own making. I asked them to augment their human copywriting with taglines generated by the AI sensation ChatGPT. The results were interesting. ChatGPT generated perfectly adequate slogans. Some were clichéd. Some were on-the-nose. (To be fair, the accelerated nature of the classes didn’t allow more time to redirect ChatGPT.) However, some of the student work was also clichéd and on-the-nose. And some were brilliantly original. On this round, advantage: humans.
This cohort of students hailed from eight countries and ranged from undergraduates to mid-career professionals. They included a lawyer, a veterinarian, a mechanical engineer, public relations specialists, and design practitioners. With the inherent optimism of young people everywhere, they took AI in stride. Fernanda, a visual arts teacher from Brazil stated affirmatively, “AI can be our friend.” Perhaps all we creatives can really do is come to terms with this emerging technology and figure out our place in the new order.
In a future blog, I plan to further explore the implications of Artificial Intelligence with AI enthusiast Robert Roll, an advertising, television and radio content creator. We’ll keep you posted. By the way, this blog was not generated by AI.
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