January 26, 2023

"Our exaggerated reverence for the creative impulse derives from the romantics of the early 19th century... and filtered through from intellectual bohemia..."

"... to the upper middle classes.... Now, quite banal instances of human creativity are preposterously overvalued. Witness the often conceited superiority of those in only tangentially creative professions. Why should a newspaper columnist or an advertising copywriter feel himself to be more interesting than a banker or a cleaner? I have lawyer friends who complain of the rictus countenances and slipping eye-contact they get from artistic types at parties. But I know those parties. And I know my lawyers are the most interesting people in the room. ... [Some] argue that AI cannot be creative because it lacks internal understanding, is merely a 'king of pastiche'.... But this is close to what those original artists were doing too — the artist’s great struggle, the critic Harold Bloom argues, is confronting and overcoming the influence of predecessors. And does it even matter what’s going on internally now that human audiences fail to distinguish between a composition by a robot and one by Bach...?...  AI should disillusion us of the spurious glamour of creativity. It will be good for those who have suffered the social condescension of 'creatives.'"

51 comments:

rhhardin said...

AI can generate what it does not understand, I mean understand at all. Different from an artist, who may positively drive at what is there to be understood.

Sebastian said...

"a welcome rebuff to the prestige enjoyed by artistic types"

What prestige? In whose eyes?

Carol said...

"rictus countenances" hahaha

Sounds like lefties everywhere.

Big Mike said...

An engineer who can create a new type of bridge for a formerly “unbridgeable” space — and it stays up! — is more creative than any “artistic type.”

RideSpaceMountain said...

Millennials: "I can't wait for AI to take over and for everything to be automated, we can finally end labor! Get over it conservashits, lol, a robot is going to steal your job and we're going to have a revolution! I'm going to spend all my newfound free time doing art for my comrades!"

Also millennials: "AI ART?! NOOO! What do you mean AI is taking my graphic design job?! I can't do creative writing either?! THIS IS THEFT! Ban it! It's not real art anyway! I'm not jealous!"

n.n said...

Conflation of intelligence and creativity.

gilbar said...

so people (who don't know computers (or art)) are saying computers can do art as good as people?
To which, I'd have to say:

I think i shall never see,
an AI poem as lovely as a tree

Of course, a computer could have found those lines on the 'net; just as quick as i could..
I'm pretty sure, that neither the computer or I could have come up with them on our own.

(Then again, *i* didn't have to go through life; being a boy named Joyce)

Sean said...

AI replacing will replace artists the way the camera replaced artists.

The legions of portrait makers may have disappeared but artists remained. And we still don't care about most of them

Steven Wilson said...

A "welcome rebuff" to creative types. Is envy considered one of the cardinal sins? It ought to be. I think it's the most corrosive of emotions, and I sense a great deal of it in this passage.

And is he propounding that lawyers are creative? Creative how? In discovering penumbras, loopholes? In convincing us, or least some of us, that up is down and down is up?

I think someone moved his cheese.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

The market figured out the true value of creativity a long time ago. Truck drivers get paid, writers do not.

This is why writers are so unpleasant to each other. No one gets paid. All they have is the prestige. Therefore, backstabbing in the pursuit of status is all there is.

Writer twitter sells no books, but it's mandatory to find out who's better.

The way to approach creativity is as a hobby. It's not a vocation. Do something for money, and write for meaning. Or accept that driving a truck has meaning, too!

n.n said...

Baby on barbie. Modern art does not cede the stage to AI. Perhaps he meant Skynet.

Yancey Ward said...

"I would not paint a picture
I'd rather be the one
It's bright impossibility
To dwell delicious on."

pacwest said...

Can "AI" create something new, or or just a conglomerate of the old to create something different? A complex tool is still a tool.

rcocean said...

Computers can write music as well as Bach? Well, lets hear it! OTOH, can they also compose as badly as Paul Simon? Well then, lets skip that.

Do we have an exaggerated reverance for the "creative impulse"? I dunno - it depends on what you're talking about. Is the novelist more interesting than lawyer? It depends on the novelist and the lawyer. WHo thinks real life Ad execs (as opposed to the fictional ones) are interesting? I don't. Who thinks New Yorker writers are interesting? Not me.

The big problem is we have artists and writers who create things either for a small minority or for themselves. They seem to have zero connection to the great mass of educated people. Look at that absurd MLK statue. Look at lot of architecture. Look at the numerous novels loved by the critics and no one else. One could go on. Of course, these people make money and SOMEBODY likes what they do. But its a small minority.

Sometimes what the "small minority" likes, is eventually liked by a great mass of educated people. The artists weren't bad, they were just ahead of the curve. I sincerly doubt many or indeed any of our artists are "ahead of the curve". They're just sterile and dull.

BothSidesNow said...

For some reason, I read an op ed in the Wash Post yesterday by Paul Waldman, very typical and usual op ed decrying conservatives, and the only reason I kept reading was to ask myself whether it was written by CHATGPT. I went back and forth on this, but by the end, I was pretty sure it was a CHATGPT product.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

I remember when I was in college in the '70s, computer science was scorned as a "non-creative" career, and yet no group has changed the world more since those days than computer scientists. They transformed music, as Rick Beatto will inform you, much to music's detriment to the musically inclined, but much to the pleasure of the masses not burdened with musical talent, Now it's transforming visual art and fiction. Never mind that designing that bridge over a "formerly unbridgeable" canyon or whatever is almost certainly impossible without computers.

Known Unknown said...

So far, AI is only as good as its inputs. All of the "creative" elements of anything I've had ChatGPT create were initiated by me. They were in the original prompt. Give the AI a relatively benign and simple prompt and watch it churn out banal, stiffly-written boring stuff.

Nick Cave on ChatGPT

Static Ping said...

Sounds like someone has self-esteem issues. Compensating for something?

Yes, creatives can be jerks. The thing is to be creative requires refusing to conform, and non-conformists often have... issues. A lot of those creatives are so out there that their creativity is too alien or weird for the general public to enjoy, but some of them manage to find their audience. Creatives are half genius and half blind luck to not be completely insane.

Part of the problem today is creatives tend to be hired either because they are sufficiently woke and/or because they check diversity boxes. The results have been substandard to say the least, but the powers that be are so committed to their wokeness that they refuse to change no matter how many failures. And hence you end up with the Star Wars Disney trilogy being a combination of plagiarizing the original trilogy, "subverting expectations" in ways that are incoherent and stupid, and nostalgia porn. You end up with "comedies" that are unfunny to anyone remotely normal, like She Hulk to Velma. You end up with "creatives" that hate their source materials and are using the IPs as an excuse to rage at the world, like The Witcher, The Rings of Power, and Willow.

Can AI replace creatives? If you want them to churn out the substandard crap that dominates the current landscape, they cannot do any worse. That won't mean they would produce anything resembling art, but automated garbage has to be cheaper and faster than manual garbage. If you want art, well, good luck with that. So far, the AI product I have seen produce technically correct but boring text, outright plagiarize other works, and/or generate really weird stuff. The only hope is that some of that really weird stuff is workable.

Lurker21 said...

Too true. Our political divisions today go back to the revolt of the creatives a century ago. The Village and Greenwich Village's Revolt Against the Village, Babbitt and the Lost Generation: it's been a long fight between the productives and the expressives. It's that opposition between Victorians and the Roaring Twenties played out concurrently over the century, rather than consecutively. Fred Siegel and others have traced that conflict. David Brooks saw the synthesis of the two opposites in the bourgeois bohemian Bobos, but this adds a new wrinkle to the conflict.
-
It's hard for the rest of us to get past the "lawyer" thing. Some lawyers are quite boring. Others are "interesting" in the "Most Interesting Man In The World" way: they've been skin-diving in Bali and skydiving in Mali and can't resist telling you all about it.

tim in vermont said...

From WattsUpWithThat.com, AI homework helper:

"You appear to have used a climate denier talking point in your essay. Would you like to delete it and write a new one that will get an 'A'?"

ALP said...

Great opportunity to trot out some John Ruskin. From the Elements of Drawing:

"...if you wish to learn drawing that you may be able to set down clearly, and usefully, records of such things as cannot be described in words, either to assist your own memory of them, or to convey distinct ideas of them to other people; if you wish to obtain quicker perceptions of the beauty of the natural world, and to preserve something like a true image of beautiful things that pass away, or which you must yourself leave; if, also, you wish to understand the minds of great painters, and to be able to appreciate their work sincerely, seeing it for yourself, and loving it, not merely taking up the thoughts of other people about it; then I can help you, or, which is better, show you how to help yourself."

Many times in this book, Ruskin talks about the relationship of the artist to the subject.
Art isn't just about the final product. It's about the artist as well. AI can't match that, despite spitting out beautiful images. There is no love in AI images. No true appreciation of form and beauty.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

A very strange take from a Liberal in good standing who has tweeted anti-free speech ideas and ranted about how "Democracy" works better when some people "with loony opinions" (in his estimation) are kept quiet on Twitter so the Progressives can run everything. So he's a standard issue prog-lib with all the correct current opinions and prejudices.

And yet, he completely elides the issue of emotions, of feeling as the kids prefer to put it, that inform art. AI will never understand why a huge crescendo and caesura feel so dramatic to the listener. AI will never create art "from the heart" because an AI can only mimic the reactions of humans to heartache, loss, excitement, tension, delight and all the other myriad human traits that connect us to each other.

Now perhaps Mr. Marriott is a psychopath who has no connection to human emotions himself, forced to fake his way through everyday life by mimicking us full humans with the shallow affect that so many sociopaths and psychopaths rely on to "pass" amongst the rest of us. If so, that is how AI will get by in "creating art" as well: faking emotional responses in order to pretend at humanity, coldly and calculatedly, without ever understanding the magical mystery of Music that touches our souls. AI will never understand how playing "Welcome to the Jungle" before kick-off gets the crown riled up, never understand the sadness in Karen Carpenter's voice during the minor chord verses of "Superstar (Don't You Remember)," never be reminded of a painful memory when "Stand by Me" comes on the radio. And it certainly ain't going to be able to understand passion, humor, subtlety and nuance to the arts.

AI is like Autotune, innocuous when used very sparingly, but quickly turning "uncanny valley" when depended on for content.

Known Unknown said...

I think Althouse needs to set up some sort of AI moderation to make it easier.

Ampersand said...

Long before AI, the cost of creating and disseminating thoughts and images had declined to such a degree that the sphere of discourse became ever more congested with what we shall call, for convenience, "junk". The arrival of AI threatens to inflate the quantity of junk by many orders of magnitude. The main problem with junk in the sphere of discourse is that it increases the search costs for non-junk, and makes it less likely that non-junk will be noticed and appreciated, and therefore less likely that people will take the trouble to create it.
That is a rebuff to artistic and thinking types that we should be concerned about, rather than celebrating.

PM said...

"Writes" James Marriott. heh.

farmgirl said...

“... [Some] argue that AI cannot be creative because it lacks internal understanding, is merely a 'king of pastiche'.... But…”

Not the AI on a farm.
That’s creative as f/k!

Narr said...

If I was in a room where the lawyers were the most interesting people, I'd look for another room.

boatbuilder said...

I think he confuses the artist with the “artiste.”

Real creative types are possibly even more of a boon to society than even lawyers.

Although he is correct that we lawyers are all brilliant and fascinating .

effinayright said...

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...
The market figured out the true value of creativity a long time ago. Truck drivers get paid, writers do not.

This is why writers are so unpleasant to each other. No one gets paid. All they have is the prestige. Therefore, backstabbing in the pursuit of status is all there is.
*************

Here's a perfect example illustrating this point. It may have appeared here before.

https://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/bookofmyenemy.html

'The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered'
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

"The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys."

(more gloating follows)

tim in vermont said...

https://unusualwhales.com/news/chatgpt-took-30-seconds-to-make-a-600-article-per-a-freelance-writer-ai-is-going-to-take-my-job

BUMBLE BEE said...

Watch Mike Rowe for a while.

BUMBLE BEE said...

Speaking of lawyers... didn't AI pass the Bar?

Known Unknown said...

"https://unusualwhales.com/news/chatgpt-took-30-seconds-to-make-a-600-article-per-a-freelance-writer-ai-is-going-to-take-my-job"

What this freelance writer is doing is not creativity, but proficiency.

Some people are great painters, but not great artists. Same occurrences in any discipline.

Creativity and proficiency are not the same.

Known Unknown said...

"https://unusualwhales.com/news/chatgpt-took-30-seconds-to-make-a-600-article-per-a-freelance-writer-ai-is-going-to-take-my-job"

What this freelance writer is doing is not creativity, but proficiency.

Some people are great painters, but not great artists. Same occurrences in any discipline.

Creativity and proficiency are not the same.

William said...

The ancient world used to be divided into three specialties: those who worked, those who prayed, and those who fought. Some bright prayer giver or prudent warrior thought up the trade of bard. He praised the warrior and the chaste lady who inspired or encouraged his feats....I guess there was some overlap in places: the workers who built the cathedrals considered their work to be prayers and, for a long time, more music was written to celebrate God than to celebrate sexual attraction....In our time, the bard class has become ever more self referential. I believe their songs and lays are done now mostly in celebration of other bards or of they themselves. They perhaps need a new take on things. Look outside themselves. Write songs and novels about transgendered people of color trying to make it in a hostile world. There has been a move in that direction, but more work needs to be done.

Lem the misspeller said...

What about the dullards, are they fun to be around?

See academy awards nominated “ The Banshees of Inisherin”

Rollo said...

Then there are the lawyers who write novels. Ugh. Doubly boring.

wildswan said...

I think ChatGPT should be used to produce all committee reports thus saving millions on staffers. In most cases, we can also skip the committee meetings and just have ChatGPT produce the report at the scheduled date.
And CatGPT could write the news for the larger and more important media outlets where it's so important to say what's been said before about whatever happens and to say nothing else. Ideal for a robot. And producing quotes seems to be no trouble for this system.

Now, in poetry sound means a lot, and I noticed that ChatGPT never got that right at all. Overtones, connotations, pacing - I didn't see that kind of thing being done well. But I don't see it being done well in most poetry written these days and most people seem unaware of the decline. It seems to me that ChatGPT could write for BigMedia just as well as the people they have now. (Or maybe these "people" are early chatrobots. It would explain a lot.) Anyhow, there'd be savings there. They'd save money and we'd save time, knowing for sure not to read the poetry, looking for a new rebirth of wonder.


Saint Croix said...

Mike at 12:16, kicking it!

Saint Croix said...

Sounds like someone has self-esteem issues. Compensating for something?

oh shit that was funny

I believe that's the first time I heard that joke made about "big government"

awesome

RideSpaceMountain said...

@William

"The ancient world used to be divided into three specialties: those who worked, those who prayed, and those who fought. Some bright prayer giver or prudent warrior thought up the trade of bard. He praised the warrior and the chaste lady who inspired or encouraged his feats."

The innovator was a "prudent warrior", I assure you. And he would've known what so many in our modern era have conveniently forgotten. The lady was never "chaste". Why the 'prudent warrior' and the 'unchaste' lady you might ask? Because combat - as anyone who's experienced it will tell you - is as much psychological as it is physical. Psyching out your opponent is real. It works. And nothing is going to manipulate his emotions like telling him his Momma's so fat or his lady-love enjoys gobbling the footman's knob.

Imagining men in chain-mail slinging epic put-downs of each others wives & girlfriends in the manner of modern rap-battles doesn't require any imagination at all, it happened. We've got the records. We also have the records that the "chaste" lady was fucking anything stiffer and 2+ inches with a pulse. Why do you think they needed 'champions' to defend their honor so much? Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense? 'Shame on him who thinks evil of' this shameless hussy more like it!

In a more ancient reference, I'll leave you with a recollection by Martial, regarding the legendary serial-monogamist Fulvia (gens Fulvii) and what Augustus said about her:

"Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia has arranged
this punishment for me: that I fuck her too.
That I fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me
to bugger him? Would I? I don't think so, if I were sane
"Either fuck or fight", she says. Doesn't she know
my prick is dearer to me than life itself? Let the trumpets blare!"


Prudent Warrior. 'Chaste' lady.

n.n said...

First, AI brayed a handmade tale. Then, he/she/it pinned the tale on the village.

Mrs. X said...

I worked as an advertising copywriter for many years. And we were artistes, I tell you! Artistes! It amazed me how my comperes would defend their dog food ad copy as if they were Tolstoy being asked to change Anna Karenina to include more prominent product mentions.

Penguins loose said...

The trick for CHATGPT is to write a comment that is not identifiable as a CHATGPT comment. Like this one for instance.

Roy Lofquist said...

Perhaps creativity is categorically related to pornograpy - "But I know it when I see it," ~ Justice Potter Stewart.

Perhaps the most insightful commentary about intelligance vis a vis creativity that I have encountered is this excerpt from "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams:

“Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!"
[A catflap is a pet door]

"The what?" said Richard.

"The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a ..."

"Yes," said Richard, "there was also the small matter of gravity."

"Gravity," said Dirk with a slightly dismissed shrug, "yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered." ... "You see?" he said dropping his cigarette butt, "They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap ... ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention. It is a door within a door, you see.”

And until AI can move an audience like this artists will prevail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU_R7jcL69E&list=PL2v8kgVeo4EbQD6l_WAVjOfItquzW7oEc&index=8

Cappy said...

Can Ozempic help with rictus countenance?

JAORE said...

Artists... The ultimate cool kids club. Self-identified.

Biff said...

"AI spells trouble for creatives — about time too/Machines that can write and paint are a welcome rebuff to the prestige enjoyed by artistic types"

With only a few exceptions, every creative agency I've dealt with in my career has been an uncreative variation on the same clich├ęd "creative" theme.

I would not be surprised to ask an AI to generate a website for a fictional creative agency and have it return something all but indistinguishable from the website of the team mentioned in the "smallwashed" post, right down to the photos of the team members.

Richard Dillman said...

Much creative writing of the last thirty years or so seems mediocre, largely because most creative writers are produced by similar MFA programs that encourage a narrow range of styles and subjects. Flannery O’Connor is one of the only distinctive writers produced by an MFA program, the Iowa Writers Workshop, in recent decades. When asked if MFA programs stifle aspiring writers, she famously replied that “ they don’t stifle enough of them.” Most of the great American authors — Poe, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Frost, Cather, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc. - never formally studied creative writing, while a few of them, like Thoreau and Emerson, formally studied rhetoric. Most creative writers that I worked with published primarily in little magazines with small circulations published for other creative writers. Its a closed feedback loop. They are writing for a narrow range of like minded people.

Richard Dillman said...

Much creative writing of the last thirty years or so seems mediocre, largely because most creative writers are produced by similar MFA programs that encourage a narrow range of styles and subjects. Flannery O’Connor is one of the only distinctive writers produced by an MFA program, the Iowa Writers Workshop, in recent decades. When asked if MFA programs stifle aspiring writers, she famously replied that “ they don’t stifle enough of them.” Most of the great American authors — Poe, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Frost, Cather, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc. - never formally studied creative writing, while a few of them, like Thoreau and Emerson, formally studied rhetoric. Most creative writers that I worked with published primarily in little magazines with small circulations published for other creative writers. Its a closed feedback loop. They are writing for a narrow range of like minded people.