The impact of AI on content creators
Recently, I read an article that said that in the next 5-10 years, AI would generate 90% of all the content on the internet. That number seemed a bit high to me, but it got me thinking about how AI is changing the landscape of content creation. Now, mere weeks later, here we are with everyone and their mother talking about how marvelous AI art is. Even people outside the tech space are sharing their experiences, which seems only to be growing exponentially.
Before I start this article, I want to disclose that I have written this piece with the help of a new AI tool called Lex that touts to “[use] AI to create a mind-blowing writing experience.” Truthfully I went in as a skeptic with this, but I must admit that this tool helped me with my writing. For example, when I was stuck in my head unable to continue, instead of rereading what I just wrote to figure out where I wanted to go next I called up Lex to read my previously written text and expound upon it in a new paragraph. Sometimes it worked beautifully and other times, what was written wasn’t exactly my style, but it did allow me to keep the flow going. To say it is good is an understatement.
After literal years of hearing about the doom and gloom of AI coming to take over the world, it does feel oddly bleak to see just how fast things hit us. Generative image creation tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and more have seemingly come into people’s lives overnight. Just a few months ago, I remembered hearing about DALL-E and seeing just how powerful it was. I thought, “that’s neat, but honestly, who the hell is going to use this?” It turns out a lot of people will. Venture capitalists, programmers, creatives, and several different industries are looking at the power of AI and using it in exciting ways.
In one recent example, reported by The Verge, the popular stock photo service, Shutterstock, will soon be selling AI-generated art in partnership with OpenAI’s flagship image generator DALL-E 2. However, they are also banning the sale of any art not made using its DALL-E integration.
What I find most interesting about Shutterstock’s announcement is they plan to “reimburse creators when the company sells work to train text-to-image AI models.” So not only will Shutterstock be walling up the AI in its platform, but it will be actively paying people who make AI art that sells. I think the company expects to change its payroll from professional photographers to people with knowledge of generating good AI art.
However, in a tale of two photo services, Getty Images CEO Craig Peters actually shared negative feelings toward selling AI art. His main reasoning is copyright issues, but I don’t think that is the only factor Peters uses in his criticism. He expounded on his critiques, saying, “I think we’re watching some organizations and individuals and companies being reckless […] I think the fact that these questions are not being addressed is the issue here. In some case[s], they’re just being thrown to the wayside. I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s responsible. I think it could be illegal.“
As for which of these two companies will end up on the right side of things is still too early to tell but it is indeed exciting to see these two companies at odds with one another.
Don’t get me wrong; I think there is a genuine art to making good AI-generated material. Any sap can go on Midjourney today and start trying to make something mediocre (see the above image).
Only someone that genuinely understands the syntax and limitations of these services can make something special. I am sure with more time, programmers and UI designers will work together to create apps and services that allow for more granular specifications in a prompt without the user having to learn the syntax and other information of that nature. Think instead of having to know the specific keywords needed for a certain effect it is just a simple button or option to choose from.
Even still, more iterations and improvements will continue to be made, and those with a finger on the pulse of this will get ahead of those just doing this for fun and amusement.
It is my prediction that humans will still very much be a part of the creative process, just in new ways.
I am in awe about all the things that people can now do with the help of AI that they weren’t able to do before. And it’s not just content creation but also content consumption. With AI’s help, people can now read and consume content at a rate that was once impossible.
For instance, the speed reading app Spritz recently announced that it is now using AI to help people read faster. The app now uses “an algorithm that analyzes text and predicts which words a reader is likely to know and which ones they might need help with.”
Another example is simply watching people create AI art in real time. If you go on Midjourney today—which you can it’s free to join—you are taken to a Discord chatroom where you and several other people can put in different prompts for the AI to generate images. So not only does your art show in chat, but you can also see other people’s prompts in real time. You see their prompts and the art made from Midjourney with those prompts as well. Just by observing how others use the service, I can learn a lot about syntax and different keywords to that work.
Not only is there lots of attention behind this, but there are piles of money too. Coatue, an investment management company leaning in on AI, made some interesting observations in a recent document they shared.
Of course, AI art is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 1.2 million software engineers now use GitHub Copilot, which writes 40% of their code automatically. Jasper.ai, which writes blog posts and marketing content, has seen tremendous adoption over the last two years and is rapidly becoming an industry standard. RunwayML, an AI-based video editor, now has hundreds of thousands of users, including video editors working on The Late Show, Top Gear America, and Everything Everywhere All at Once.
This incredible AI renaissance is happening simultaneously across many diverse fields and verticals. This is not a coincidence: scaling breakthroughs have enabled AI to become exponentially more powerful in a very short period of time. Engineers are now taking this technology breakthrough and applying it everywhere they can.
Along with some examples of the “AI renaissance” Coatue had some bold predictions for AI. I have them in bullet points here, but I want to expand on these points just a bit.
- AI will drive the cost of content creation (word, image, video) to near zero
I think lowering the cost of content creation can be a valuable thing. After all, lower costs and more accessible media products have changed the media landscape multiple times over. Thanks to the printing press we expanded information to the masses so efficiently. Thanks to the internet being accessible we can connect with anyone across the world with a few clicks and key presses. If we didn’t have website services making it cheaper and easier to make websites we wouldn’t have had the blogging boom in the early 2000s. If the video industry didn’t make cameras and film equipment that consumers can buy more easily we wouldn’t have had the YouTube boom over the last 10 years. Can AI be used in a new resurgence of media?
- The value of sports increases exponentially as the only form of “original content”
This isn’t exactly a hot take, seeing that this is the biggest reason people I know still have cable TV.
- Advertising will be hyper-personalized: unique ads and commercials for every user!
That exclamation point and chipper attitude weren’t added by me. For some reason, marketing people are excited about even more specific advertising for their products and services. I anticipate that this will continue to push people to believe their phones/TVs are listening to them, which I feel will only continue to make seemingly normal people spiral into tinfoil-hat conspiracies.
Personalized advertising can be helpful for niche markets but it is also widely loathed among consumers, and I believe brands that lean in on this will get widespread backlash instead of increased profit margins.
- Metaverse will become AI augmented reality
Of course it is. This is both feasible and predictable for anyone that has been looking into the Metaverse. That said, there is practically no one taking part in the Metaverse right now so even if the AI on it is amazing your response to it may as well be crickets.
- Every developer will be an AI developer
Again, pretty predictable.
- The majority of code written will be AI-generated
I think these last two points may as well have been combined into just one.
As AI improves, it will only become more ubiquitous, which begs the question of whether we, as creators, are doomed.
Creators that can lean into this “AI renaissance” and use these tools to their advantage are going to be the ones that thrive. Yes, AI will change the landscape of content creation, but it will open up new opportunities for creators willing to adapt.
Nat Eliason, who writes in his newsletter Infinite Play, shared how AI generative tools like Lex may be the ones making the mundane and less human types of writing. Things like the crappy SEO blog posts, listicles, etc., will no longer need teams of people to write them and instead be handled by “one or two writers working more as editorial directors of these new AI writing tools.” Nat says even some more advanced styles of writing, like non-fiction and fiction stories, may end up being created by AI as well in time. So is there anything AI can’t write? For Nat, there is one.
You’ll need to experience a life worth reading. Either through the wildness of your adventures or the depths of your introspection. You don’t have to delve into such dark topics that you end up hanging yourself. But if you’re not willing to reach that level of honesty in your work, you should probably give up now.
Anything short of the rawest, most honest human connection will be gobbled up by robots.
Heavy stuff from Nat here, but I can’t help but incline to agree with him. Short of AI gaining conscious behavior, it will be damn difficult for a computer to emulate passion, emotion, and the humanness some writers have.
Sure, AI can simulate it and even get pretty close, but it still won’t be able to replace it. And I think that is what we as creators need to lean into. The human element we can bring to our art will make us irreplaceable.
As long as we can embrace this change and adapt to it, we will be able to find opportunities that open up because of it.