illustration of a mask
29 November 2023

Why it feels like AIs are coming for the artists

Each week, a new AI thing goes viral. It's always something artistic-adjacent. Either it's a GPT-illustrated kids' book, an AI pop singer, or a chatbot promising to write the next blockbuster movie. And it's always from some guy whose profile pic looks like he's a Buffalo Wild Wings DJ.

It's driving me mad. Not just DJ Drumstick but this aggressive march toward perfunctory art. Why? AI can do so much more. Replacing artists feels like a trivial capitalist pursuit. I think about this often. It's probably safe to say a lot of you do, too.

The short answer is that it isn't. #

And then, a moment of clarity— AI isn't here to replace the painters, singers, and screenwriters. I mean, artists may be replaced incidentally, sure. But only as much as we all will.

Those consumer-facing products we see on social media are just the attention grabbers— the peddler's bell that draws a crowd. It's a classic case of loud and dumb.

Companies like OpenAI aren't burning billions of dollars, so some guy named Braxton may ask Generative AI what a big-boobed woman from each state looks like. It feels that way because Braxton and all the other low-level AI peddlers are simply the loudest bell ringers. So people convene around their buggies. But, really, it's the quiet ones we should worry about.

Social media AI grifters won't last long #

AI dropped, and some saw an opportunity to make fast cash. Typical grindset stuff— pretend to have made money, then use social media to promote your "expertise.” But it always fades away, and so will this.

For one, what they're doing isn't lucrative long-term. They sell their "methods” so that other grifters can repackage it, then turn around and sell it as their methods. Do you see the problem? It's incestuous. No one is making money because no one is actually buying the outputs. They're just trading the same twenty-five bucks between themselves, minus the Stripe processing fees.

Soon, a new shiny thing will emerge, just as people get wise to the elixir's low efficacy, and it's on to the next town.

So that's one reason— loud dumb-dumbs on social who think they "get” AI but don't. And to be clear, neither does this dumb-dumb. Not in the ways that enrich yourself, anyway. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. But I have just the right amount of cynicism and a decent sense of practical application. I also read a weird amount of tech blogs, but that's probably because I'm just as depressed as everyone else.

The second reason the "AI economy” feels so decidedly anti-artist is about who isn't ringing the bell— corporations.

Master of nun-ya #

RAG, or Retrieval-Augmented Generation, is a Machine Learning method that solves a big problem for corporations interested in AI.

Here's the problem— Large Language Models are generalists. It's a jack of all trades, master of none-situation. ChatGPT may know the names of every mountain in Japan but not, say, how Nintendo internally handles unsatisfied customers. The latter is where the money is, apparently.

ChatGPT also has a bad habit of "hallucinating” facts, whereas it may provide "Mount Fuji” as the correct answer to "what's the tallest mountain in Japan” but cite Yoshi as its source.

RAG solves both problems by “feeding” a customized GPT with a corporation's knowledge base. That way, the GPT is not only a mountain trivia whiz, but knows that Nintendo offers a discount to angry customers in some instances (I don't know if they do or even why I picked Nintendo as an example).

More importantly, the GPT can use that knowledge to deal with customers directly via chat, email, or even a phone call. You see where this shit is going.

The Great Plugin #

These corporate-trained GPTs will veritably replace all the call center reps, data analysts, and the folks who generally perform "email jobs.” GPTs will also eliminate many administrative tasks shared across an organization, resulting in more cuts. And that's just the heavens and the earth— day one shit.

Perhaps it's already starting with mass tech sector layoffs.

For the rest of the non-tech business world, it'll take time to get its ducks in a row. A lot of corporate knowledge is still kept in human brains, so there's a lot of work to do to convert it to 1s and 0s. We may even experience a hiring spree as corporations prepare for "The Great Plugin.” HR administrators will necessarily work themselves out of a job authoring detailed policy procedures.

But once the troves of internal corporate knowledge are ready to be fed into BrandNameGPT®, it's shareholder value time, baby!

The people who know what's coming— the CEOs (actual CEOs, not Twitter bio CEOs), CTOs, developer-led startups, computer scientists-turned-corporate executives, and otherwise anyone at the vanguard of AI technology are shutting the fuck up. At least for the moment. Because they're just about to thump out a lot of coin from somebody's boot. (likely us poors). And, nan-a single AI-generated Star Wars / West Anderson mashup can stop them.

While these MidJourney muffin-tops cry on Threads because no one respects their "art,” Fortune 500s are training AI mercenaries. So when the next time a customer calls with a billing question, it won't be Jake From Statefarm or whatever poor schmuck making nine bucks an hour who'll look up the account. It'll be some chatbot named SAFFRON or some shit. And SAFFRON has a dozen vector databases shoved up its ass with everyone's account info, HR corporate policy manuals, a copy of How To Win Friends and Influence People, and every frequently asked question since the Bush Administration.

None of us, least of all the DALL-E dildos, are escaping unscathed.

And yeah, I played with generative AI. It was fun for a month. My niece and I made a shark biting a guy's head off. It was like magic to her. She'll remember it forever. But even a six-year-old knows the difference between something her uncle showed her on an iPad and the beautiful stick figures she makes for me. The first thing she said to my sister was, “Look what the robot made, mommy.” And it was her prompt!

I'm not here to shame anyone who uses AI for work. Honestly, I'm not. Get a leg up while you can because shit is about to get ugly for the working class real quick. It's the grifters and peddlers that irk me. It's the demanding of artistic accolades for administrative work.

I make websites for my whole-ass living. I watched an AI do what pays my bills using a doodle and some text as a reference. Seriously. You draw a rectangle with a few extra lines, and in 30 seconds, you get a working website. It had a fucking contact form. The drawing doesn't even have to be good, either. Wait until my niece hears about this!

Listen, if a custom GPT and some productivity hacks keep my clients from replacing me for a few more months, a year, five, whatever, I'm doing it. The chicken is already plucked. Our best hope is to find who's about to eat our dinner and help them choke on the bones.

But I'm not about to pollute the world with an uninspired AI novel like some fake feckless writer, and then have the audacity to act like I reinvented art. In the same way I won't cum in a jar and demand you call me a father.

So, if you're wondering why it feels like AI is coming for the artists, it's because the most unimaginative among us can't think of anything else to use it for. And in the absence of ever having an expressed emotion worth sharing, they try diluting everyone else's work until it's as tasteless as they are. And somehow, that's supposed to make them rich. But the jokes on them because all of us are fucked. At least some can offer us comfort with their art.


label name
Plot notebook
Type essay
Phase sorting
Tags ,
Assumed audience everyone