The One About A.I.
It's time to talk about the robots...
THANK YOU to all the folks that have reached out so far to share their thoughts on A.I. and its effect on culture! Some of you are REALLY excited. Some of you are REALLY pissed! Most of you have mentioned a variation of "I don't know what to think, but I'd love to figure out what it means for me."
Today's essay is all about the robots. Let's get it!
Back in 2014, Common, a rapper who became one of Chicago's greatest cultural exports -- and one of a few men on Earth who can claim a victory over Drake in a rap beef -- became the voice of Microsoft's ads. His debut came via a voice-over in the brands 2015 Super Bowl commercial.
Honored to provide the voice N this #empowering new @Microsoft Super Bowl commercial http://t.co/mPnOn2aRI5 Great people doing Great things!
— COMMON (@common)
Feb 1, 2015
He starred in many ads for the brand, struggling to make tech seem relevant and cool to the general American populace. The commercials became recurring jokes in my home, solely because it's funny to think about the fact that the same guy who made The Bitch In Yoo was now extolling the virtues of artificial intelligence.
Common tried to warn us what was coming. The innovators always do, don't they?
We now live in a world where, thanks to A.I., you can write, record and animate your own version of Dragon Ball Z in under 8 hours. Or, if you're so inclined, make a bunch of bad rap songs (more on that later). At this point, there's an A.I. software for everything.
Before, this technology wasn't widespread. It was only used by folks at companies like Google and Microsoft, this A.I. technology to create is now finally available to the average person.
This stuff has already changed your life in immeasurable ways, and you still might not be too sure of what A.I. actually is. For the folks who are late to the game, here's the simplest way that I can explain the broader "A.I." term that we'll be discussing: There are different kinds of A.I., ok? The one you've been hearing all about recently are called machine learning. There are different models of machine learning and the field has been around itself since the 1960s.
Large machine learning models, also known as generative AI or foundation models, can generate content like articles, blog posts, or social media posts. This AI-generated content can mimic the quality than content made by humans and in some cases, you can't tell the difference. This stuff has already changed your life in immeasurable ways, and you still might not be too sure of what A.I. actually is.
Here's an example: If you use TikTok and Instagram a lot, you likely notice that your engagement, discovery and the general "active" feeling you get from Tiktok these days outperforms IG's. That is what people mean when they say IG feels "dead". On the contrary, a lot of the positive commentary about Tiktok is that it feels "alive", right?
That's because Tiktok runs on A.I.! The app uses machine learning to inform how the app recommends content. ChatGPT is a huge machine learning model also. For the sake of continuity, when you see A.I. the rest of this essay, we're talking about machine learning models.
My opinion: It's better to embrace AI as a creative tool than reject it as a job killer. To drive my point home, I'm focusing on three specific areas where A.I. can help out OHM readers, especially the ones who work in the cultural industries.
A.I. is a tool...
that can help you do the stuff you hate doing.
that can help those with less do more.
that can level up your own creativity.
Stop doing stuff you hate doing.
In the process of putting this piece together, I experimented with a variety of A.I. tools, from prompt-generated image stuff like Midjourney to random stuff like meme generators. All cool in their own way, but it was the productivity-focused apps and software where I saw an immediate value. I have no problem admitting that I hate most admin work, including sending emails. It's not the act itself, but the thought process that goes into responding or writing emails, especially in a business capacity. As a person who writes words for a living, it can be difficult crafting emails, especially around topics I'm not that savvy at. Another thing I struggle with? Things like tone in professional settings. I'min awe of the folks who can talk like they got a Masters Degree in LinkedIn-speak.
Now, I use PostPolite, a free tool where you can type in what you want to say in an e-mail in plain English and it'll crank out a polite, corporate-friendly version.
This software allows me to do the stuff I'm bad at better and quicker than I could before it. Automatic W.
Finally, a tool to help those with less do more:
AI can generate new creative elements and automate tasks at scale. A few weeks ago, I used VisualHound to do mockups for some merch I'm working on for Gameday Grails, Erase.bg to remove background from a pic and then used Looka to work on a new logo for this very newsletter.
If I had my way, I'd have an in-house team that would be able to handle these respective tasks. the unfortunate reality is that my business hasn't made enough $$$ yet to afford to build out the team that I need to grow at the scale that I'd like to. Without these A.I. tools, those tasks would have taken time and money for me to either learn to do myself or pay someone to do for me. I'd imagine a lot of folks reading these words are in similar situations.
Creators already repurpose tools like social media to build businesses. This agility will allow them to find new use cases for AI that will pioneer how others use it. Successful creators will create workflows that integrate AI into every aspect of back-end operations. This will level the playing field, enabling new, smaller businesses to compete against established companies based on merit, not resources.
A.I. can be that bridge between idea and execution that so many of us need but don't have the resources to throw capital at. I’m excited about the potential to lower the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs and help small businesses compete on a grander scale. I'll say it again: This stuff is not a replacement for human creativity; it’s an assistive tool.
Use A.I. to level up your own creativity:
If you've been around a certain part of the internet the last two weeks, you've likely come across the Drake and The Weeknd A.I. mashup. It sucks. Mostly because it sounds like a cheap Alibaba version of the real thing.
That doesn't mean hope is lost, though.
Meet AISIS (pronounced like you swap the letter O in Oasis with A.I., not ISIS)
The concept is simple: A 33-minute concept album imagining what might have emerged had Oasis’s iconic 1995-97 lineup continued to write music. It's FIRE.
“We just wanted to give people a bit of nostalgia; a what-might-have-been, because we never really got any closure from Oasis. They just got worse and worse over the years, didn’t they?” said Jon Claire, the 38-year-old drummer of Breezer, a former Oasis cover band that recorded the music you hear in this album.
In an interview with The Guardian, the band said the made original songs that sounded like vintage Oasis and released them 10 years ago. Nobody cared.
Then, rather than let the songs rot on a hard drive forever, the band had the bright idea to add in an A.I. version of Oasis lead singer Liam Gallagher. They fed A.I. software clips of Liam's voice and the result is a project that could easily serve as a hypothetical follow-up to 1997's Be Here Now. It's THAT good.
Remember The Gray Album? The Danger Mouse-produced album that mashed up Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album went viral on early peer-to-peer sites like Limewire, Bearshare and Kazaa. This project gives that same energy. It's a creative way to stand out and take advantage of the very-human skills that we associate with creation, like curation. THIS is a beautiful way to leverage existing creative works as well as breathe new life into the process of creation itself.
Overall, it's hard to believe that this kind of thing is going to stop. The same way innovative tech and cultural shifts like music piracy gave us mashups and mashup acts like Girl Talk, it's not a long shot bet to believe that using these tools will give creatives the ability to create at a scale previously only reserved for the rich, powerful, or technologically-inclined.
Thanks for reading this week's essay. If you enjoyed it, hated it or want to talk about this stuff more, DO NOT HESITATE to reach out and connect via the shiny button below