In the contemporary landscape, generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney appear to share a common bond—one that transcends their diverse applications. Even the seemingly unrelated Text with Jesus app and the disconcerting deepfake nudes generated by tech giants like Microsoft and Google are united by a single, albeit misguided, premise. This notion suggests that the very beauty and innovative ideas born from the depths of the human experience can flourish independently of the humans who originated them. More than that, it proposes that these elements should be regarded as commodities, their creation commodified for commercial gain.
With the evolution of generative AI, the criteria for gauging sophistication have evolved. The yardstick has shifted to assessing whether AI can produce content that resonates with human sensibilities—poetry, art, and other forms of creative expression. However, a crucial question remains unanswered: sophisticated enough for what purpose? The underlying concern is the potential devaluation of human creativity, a cornerstone of our existence since time immemorial. While AI’s amusing missteps, such as recommending food banks as tourist destinations, draw a chuckle, the true apprehension arises when AI seamlessly fabricates entire propaganda websites, potentially influencing public discourse in unprecedented ways.
The intersection of economic gain and ethical considerations
The economic implications are staggering, with projections forecasting the generative AI market to burgeon to a colossal $51.8 billion by 2028. This projection is further substantiated by substantial investments in AI-ready hardware, with high-performance graphics processors and semiconductors expected to reach an impressive $53.4 billion this year alone. However, AI’s ascent raises ethical questions. It has infiltrated academia, with a notable number of post-graduate students admitting to leveraging AI to complete coursework. Yet, this gluttonous appetite for data highlights a core limitation—AI thrives on human experiences, viewpoints, and creativity.
The Ouroboros of AI and the humanities
While some developers resort to training one AI with the output of another, potentially spiraling into an AI recursion loop, this recursive trajectory is unlikely to spell the demise of generative AI. A more immediate threat looms in the form of politically-driven decisions eroding humanities departments within educational institutions. Instances like West Virginia University, which suffered profound budget cuts and axed humanities despite their vital role in shaping science and technology.
The indispensable role of humanities in a tech-centric era
The authoritative figures dismantling humanities departments neglect their profound interdependence with science and technology. The humanities lay the groundwork for scientific innovation, shape historical narratives, and instill the ethical compass essential for responsible technological advancements. From literary allusions enriching language models to mythologies driving the essence of Newtonian physics, the humanities remain the bedrock of innovation, preserving the intricate tapestry of human history.
The amalgamation of AI and humanity demands a delicate equilibrium—one that honors the essence of human creativity while embracing AI’s capacity for augmentation. The survival of the arts and humanities hinges on acknowledging their inextricable link to the world of science and technology. In navigating this symbiosis, we tread on the precipice of defining the future relationship between human ingenuity and AI’s expanding capabilities.