Home Internet How The Generative AI Backlash Took Over The Internet

How The Generative AI Backlash Took Over The Internet

AI-generated media — images, music, writing and video — has steadily spread through the web, and the internet is becoming stranger by the day.

The Dead Internet Theory is manifesting into reality and conspiracy theories are thriving, boosted by the rise of deepfake imagery and video.

The AI hype cycle has reached an interesting new stage, where investors are pouring money into the technology, but negative stories are dominating the discourse — the Taylor Swift deepfake scandal, the Glasgow Willy Wonka fiasco, the backlash against AI-generated assets used in Late Night With the Devil and Doctor Who, and numerous copyright lawsuits.

Billy Coul, the organizer behind the Glasgow Willy Wonka fiasco, has been named and shamed by Rolling Stone as a “corner-cutting huckster,” who used generative AI to publish sixteen books on Amazon.

Coul has since been dubbed “Willy Wanker” by the internet, but he is far from alone in using generative AI to try and make a quick buck.

The technology has emboldened scammers who are flooding online marketplaces with AI-generated imagery and writing; meaningless content with no creator, polluting the waters of the world wide web.

Much of AI-generated art appears lifeless and uncanny, littered with unsettling “hallucinations” — twisted fingers and misshapen furniture, crowds with distorted faces.

Recent reports show that public trust in AI is in steep decline, a shift highlighted by a clip from the SXSW festival that went viral, showing the crowd booing in response to a sizzle reel of tech leaders endorsing the wonders of generative AI.

The initial promise of generative AI, that it would lead to greater creative freedom, has been eclipsed by the bitter reality; the technology is being used to cut costs and replace workers.

Among the AI-generated tsunami of curvy anime girls and hazy fantasy art, there are artists who are experimenting with AI as a tool, and some have managed to create visually striking and thoughtful work.

However, many artists have spoken out against the technology, pointing out that the creative process, as messy as it is, is not an inconvenient obstacle.

The vast majority of creatives do not want a machine to pump out content on their behalf — art is made by people — it isn’t ordered at the touch of a button by an impatient consumer, like fast food.

Self-expression takes time and effort, and the story behind the creation of art is often just as interesting as the final piece, and integral to the discussion around it. Creating art is a form of self-expression, not a burden.

How can AI-generated art, inherently devoid of meaning, perspective and intent, have any value beyond novelty?

Does the average consumer really want a landscape filled with media that no one bothered to make?

Outside of philosophical arguments, many artists argue that generative AI models have been “trained” on their work without their consent, and the models are already being used to cut corners in the creative industries.

Many artists were in an unstable, precarious position before the advent of this technology, and they don’t stand to gain from its rise.

The threat of generative AI isn’t limited to the creative arts; a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that 8 million jobs in the UK could be lost to generative AI in the next five years.

Assuming that the output of AI models will be dynamic, reliable, and cost-effective enough to replace human workers, the public is unlikely to cheer on the arrival of the so-called “jobs apocalypse.”

Tech leaders in Silicon Valley consistently promise that AI will eventually outperform all expectations; some even believe that the technology will grow so advanced that it will become sentient.

Today’s generative models have no pathway to sentience, or even understanding. But people love to anthropomorphize machines, especially people who head generative AI companies.

Open AI CEO Sam Altman speculated in an 2023 article that a sentient AI, known as AGI (artificial general intelligence), isn’t just possible, but inevitable.

Altman wrote: “Because the upside of AGI is so great, we do not believe it is possible or desirable for society to stop its development forever.”

Despite Altman’s insistence, AGI remains the stuff of science fiction.

Hallucinations” have still not been solved, and today’s models guzzle water and energy at a terrifying rate, to the point where Altman believes that an AI-powered world will require a “breakthrough” in nuclear fusion.

All that water, energy, infrastructure, all those online scams and spambots, serve to maintain technology that threatens the livelihood of workers and erode the creative industries.

The backlash against generative AI isn’t going away, and in the long run, AI might just be viewed as another Silicon Valley fad, like NFTs, that couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.



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