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"I am usually one for celebrating exciting technology breakthroughs and accepting the inevitable changes, as uncomfortable as they may be, but deep in my gut, this Generative Tech talk makes me uneasy," writes Yaffa Abadi of F2 Venture Capital
When I was in high school, one of the *cool* teachers showed the class this website “will robots take my job”. The premise was simple, you plug in a career, and it tells you the likelihood that a robot will make the job obsolete in the future.
I felt pretty smug that my future profession, “writer”, came up with one of the lowest percentages out of everyone. It made sense- machines will never take over the creative process. It’s the mundane repetitive jobs that ought to fear.
As Generative Tech rises as the hottest new thing in tech town, one can’t help thinking back to that website, and feeling…. rather, uneasy. Now let me say- this is not a doomsday piece lamenting the coming of the robots, it is simply a reflection.
And on the ground, Generative AI startups are killing it.
Jasper.ai, the AI content platform that is trained to write original, creative content including blog articles, social media posts, website copy, and more, just raised $125M at a $1.5B valuation. Stability.AI, the company bankrolling the development of image-generating systems and open-source music raised $101 million with an estimated value of $1B, and these were just in the last week. Both rounds have ushered Generative AI from a ‘cool sector to think about’, to ‘we must invest now’, as the FOMO flames fan high among investors.
I am usually one for celebrating exciting technology breakthroughs and accepting the inevitable changes, as uncomfortable as they may be, but deep in my gut, this Generative Tech talk makes me uneasy for two reasons.
One is, well, my livelihood. Of course, it’s a bit disconcerting to read about an AI platform that writes better, faster, smarter content as a writer.
But the second, and the one that gets to me, is the more existential unease…. James Currier, Partner at NFX, hit the nail on the head when he wrote “those creative moments where you go from zero-to-initial ideas have always felt so uniquely human”.
For me those moments of reading a fantastic piece of prose that makes your belly ache or observing a piece of art that makes you want to scream and you can’t put your finger on why… those are the moments where your soul feels like it’s just touched that innate humanness of the artist. That experience is a powerful feeling, and it’s one that in turn, makes us more human too. Those are the feelings I fear we will lose.
What only adds to the unease is the language used by those leading the Generative AI companies. From Jasper.ai’s CEO, Dave Rogenmoser, assuring their AI-powered tools are simply a “trusty side-kick in the content processes”, to Midjourney’s David Holz guaranteeing his AI platform is just “try[ing] to expand the imaginative power of the human species.” Language that is far too intentionally unthreatening to actually be unthreatening…
Let’s call a spade a spade. Maybe at this moment in time, these AI tools aren’t at the level to take over the human element of the job, and to be fair, AI systems are not creative in the sense we understand, nor are they intelligent. But that doesn’t negate the fact that their output is as evocative and filled with emotion as any of ours would be (just check out the Midjourney image that won first place in the Colorado State Fair fine art competition.)
So rather than be in denial about it, or convince myself that in ten years, this tech will still be mere tools used as additives, I see it going the way so many other technology advances go.
We will come to terms with the fact that creativity is not uniquely human, the expansion of this technology may take away jobs, but it will also introduce many new weird and wonderful careers, and in 50 years, much like the old and talented watchmakers of today, you will be coming to me for a handwritten poem… because they just don’t make them like they used to.
Yaffa Abadi is Head of Communications at F2 Venture Capital