Tech Review 2022 - Part Two : The future is staring back at meDec 21, 2022
Ok, so the title was tongue-in-cheek. Last time, I brought you details of the AI tools that have been getting me excitable about progress and the future. I've spent a lot of time this week with ChatGPT, especially trying to understand how the new tool can help me write python code to write new tools that can help accelerate my work.
Dizzying, eh?! Suppose you've had a chance to read any medium articles at AIBotCoffee. In that case, you'll have learned how the technology has been incrementally growing over time and that we shouldn't be surprised by the leaps – instead that we should be getting ready for the next wave of evolution.
This week I want to focus on a different form of expression – art tools. For some time, I've subscribed to Prisma as a tool. It applies different styles of art to work. It goes beyond a filter and transforms your photos into masterpieces. It's not just about aesthetics and beauty; AI can edit and engineer images - for example, embedded tools that remove noisy backgrounds from product shots. Not always perfect, but still better than my clumsy efforts!
What surprised me most? The plethora of text-to-art tools that have emerged. DALL-E from Open AI was a forerunner with a simple construct of interpreting a sentence or series of words into images. At first, limited to a few demonstrator models, but this year the extent of the tool's power is becoming better understood. Similarly, across the Twittersphere, people have been using MidJourney to create dramatic fantasy scenes – sometimes dystopic, often ethereal. Search the term #aiart on any social media feed, and you'll be amazed at the work already being generated.
Graphics tools like Canva have incorporated a simplified text-to-art tool into their platform. I'll confess that it gets addictive, and I may or may not have 150 images of dachshund puppies in hilarious situations. Imagine – a dachshund puppy on a paddleboard in Sydney harbour. I love the images so much that it's brought a new product line to Atlantique Style (my side hustle). Combine the power of the tools with new print-on-demand services, and now anyone around the world can buy a museum-quality framed print of a dachshund puppy in a Christmas stocking to hang on their wall.
Of course, at the moment, there is still a high degree of human engagement in defining the terms, choosing the images and connecting to a supplier. Still, you can see how technology, over time, could automatically stimulate demand for physical products. If your chatbot friend interprets your text patterns and suggests that you're low or Alexa notices that your biscuit eating is up, they'll send you a little love token of a cute kitten to cheer you up. The tools have triggered a wave of protests within the Creative Economy. Concerns that artists will lose their livelihood due to AI are abundant across platforms right now.
It's a fair comment to some extent. Within 30 minutes of playing with the tools, I'd been able to source my supply chain and update my website to incorporate images that appealed to me to sell. There will be thousands of side hustlers who would do the same, and millions of consumers who are price sensitive in the consumable goods they buy is they are more worried about the cost than the artistic integrity of the work. Similarly, businesses will commission the tools to deliver increased speed and volume of generated art.
When our attention span shortens from documentary to news bulletin to 15-word tweet to an image, the demand for images rises, and the competition for attention at the micro level becomes more aggressive. Probably the most cynical statement I've written all year, but as humans, we have the power to choose long form and to value the enterprise in what we consume, but we often don't.
I choose both. In many different conversations around the future of work, the same patterns emerge and what I am starting to see is a range of responses to the tools. Many professional artists see the tools as a way to augment their work – to prepare a very first conceptual piece based on their expression that they can finesse in line with their vision. Some artists assert that the actual art piece is only a tiny part of the process of art – that art is an expression of an idea or story or reflection and that the artist's ability to distil that story and share the story with the world is their actual value.
I'd encourage you to dive into the debate and explore both sides of the story because invariably, there will be more and more echoes of this debate in other professions and industries over the next decade.
And so to my last tool recommendation – which has received a lot of press over the previous few weeks. Lensa is an app (and it has a seven-day free trial period) that allows you to create magic avatars based on your image. The basic process is uploading 10-20 selfies and commissioning the tool's Magic Avatars. The response was overwhelming – my images included wood nymphs, goddesses, kawaii forms, and futuristic Barbarella-style images. Not all pictures were photo-realistic, and several looked monstrous, but it was incredible to see the overall quality. If you're curious, you can explore my favourite and highest quality images to purchase over at www.atlantiquestyle.com or have a try.
Avatar is the right word, too and seeing the images laid bare illustrates where we are on the journey towards the metaverse and how these aesthetic pieces will inhabit that world. That's certainly an aspect I'll explore in more depth in 2023.
What's my call to action for you? Of course, please take a look at my work online. Fill up your creative pot by searching AI art and seeing the beauty of the work created. Play with the tools and be excited by the opportunity to develop new images (even if, like me, you've labelled yourself as not an artist).
We'll continue to dive into the questions in the new year – especially around the metaverse, gender dynamics, the future of work and other ethical debates around the development of new technologies. I want to share those with you not to deter you from using technology – I'm hugely optimistic about the future and the opportunities that technology brings. What I want to encourage you to do, to be, is be a more conscious consumer of technology, and that can get you so much more joy.
Wishing you and those you care for a remarkable festive period. Play and rejoice in each other's company and time. Whatever you do, it's a great way to refresh your mind, body and soul.
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