The Grand Entrance of AI in Pop Culture

From winning the prestigious Sony World Photography Prize to writing an essay on quantum mechanics in the 21st century, there is no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly important role in our world. Still, these new technologies bring concerns and ethical issues that are currently under scrutiny by tech giants such as Elon Musk and Geoffrey Hinton. One thing is certain: generative AI is revolutionary and is shaking up the world. Whether we are ready, time will tell.

Davy de Lepper | 04/05/2023

Without any announcement, there was ChatGPT: an AI text generator that shook up the world, made classrooms unsafe, and wrote the original angle of this article better than I did. This got me thinking: what is my role as a creative copywriter when there is a tool with millions of resources at its disposal, able to specialise on any subject and capable of applying writing styles ranging from academic to kindergarten in all languages and even computer code? You are fighting against an inhuman super brain, as it were. I decided to dive into the AI phenomenon using illustrative AI cases across pop culture. What obstacles and opportunities regarding new AI techniques do we currently face?

The Hollywood narrative

What do you envision when you think of artificial intelligence? My brain automatically goes to the Hollywood scenarios outlined. Movies like Her, M3GAN and The Matrix where we see humans interact, struggle and fight against a single AI entity. The misconception in pop culture is that AI cannot be placed within 1 scenario but occurs in many shapes and sizes. For example, behind the digital chatbot that helps you with tax matters, there is a different system than the image generator that transforms your selfie into a superhero. For the precise definition of ‘artificial intelligence’, I asked for help from none other than friend and AI entity ChatGPT:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines or computer programs to imitate human-like intelligence, encompassing tasks such as perception, decision-making, problem-solving, and learning. It involves the development of software or systems that can perform specific tasks or exhibit general intelligence, and is a rapidly advancing field with wide-ranging applications across various domains.

But what is the interface between imitation and intimidation when the world does not yet have laws and limits for the various AI applications?

Fake news and deepfakes

In addition to being a human-imitating intelligence, AI has also recently proven to be a visual viral sensation. My personal favourite was a commercial featuring the characters from Harry Potter for Parisian haute couture brand Balenciaga. The same brand in which we saw Pope Francis parade through the Vatican City. One of the most realistic scenarios I found was ex-President Trump on the run from the police in what appeared to be a new episode of Orange Is The New Black. Unfortunately, fake news. Although these examples show a comical side to AI techniques, every coin has a flip side. For example, what if Trump’s deepfake spread during his presidential election? Maybe not the best example, but you certainly get my point. Fake news will no longer be fake if the masses believe it.

For example, the world witnessed a hyper-realistic fictional concert in which arch-rivals Kanye West and Drake performed with duet WAP. A salty collab that never happened in reality. Previously, Drake was impersonated in a Canadian get-together with The Weeknd, in which both writing and voice were intertwined in an entirely fictional diss track called “Heart on My Sleeve” about Selena Gomez. The hit that should never have been, was pulled from various streaming platforms after more than 600,000 unique listeners and earnings of $1888 (€1711.33). This case proves that the YouTubes and Spotifys are going to play an indispensable and moral role in navigating AI issues.

Rights and Ethics

In an interview with the BBC, Universal Music Group (UMG) – the record label of both Drake and The Weeknd – says it has been experimenting with AI for some time. According to them, the issue is currently about ethics: Whose side are AI developers on right now? That of the music industry, artists and human creative expression, or the side of deepfakers and fraudsters? Because by copying an artist, you also deny them their money. There are laws about copyrights, but no legislation about this AI imitation yet. This infrastructure of laws and regulations is often only determined after a medium has been popularised. And that is exactly what is currently being taken advantage of and one of the reasons why Elon Musk signed a petition against the development of AI in the next six months.

Someone who saw this development coming before, but is optimistic about the process, is Holly Herndon. Herndon is a multidisciplinary artist who experiments with AI techniques on her own voice under alter ego Holly+. In an interview  with Document she says the following:

“Vocal deepfakes are here to stay. A balance needs to be found between protecting artists, and encouraging people to experiment with a new and exciting technology.”

According to Herndon, NFT technology could be a way to give the original artists a share of the revenue from the sale of AI-generated music. For example, Grimes – an artist with one leg in the future and also Musk’s ex-girlfriend – announced that she would donate 50% of her royalties for every successful AI track with her voice. An approach that not only suits her branding, but also generates economic benefits.

AI is here to stay and although some rightly sound alarm bells, the new techniques also bring great opportunities. A few examples of everyday uses include writing emails, organising resources for your thesis, and planning workouts. And for the creative copywriters like me, remember: money can’t buy you taste and AI can’t generate a personality. At least, that’s how I stand.

Next up

The Grand Entrance of AI in Art. Who are the pioneers who use new AI techniques in art and what are the views on rights and ownership of generated images?

Image Credits: AI generated – RuPauls Drag Race in the 80s by aiposterprints 

Content Category
Brain feeder
Davy de Lepper
04 May 2023