By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

For those who haven’t kept up in the know with recent technological trends, you should probably pay attention to a more recent one: AI programs called ChatGPT and MidJourney.

What is ChatGPT? It’s an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. I find technology fascinating, especially regarding AI. It’s been used in sci-fi for decades, ranging from dystopian scenarios such as HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to Skynet in the Terminator Series. There’s been more benign and peaceful examples from Spike Jones’ Her to Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics, but we have to understand the realization these stories are happening to us now.

It’s easy to dismiss this next evolution in technology as continued fantasy, but in seeing firsthand what ChatGPT and MidJourney can do, I have questions.

A lot of questions.

The Missus signed up for the program a few weeks ago and has played with its capabilities. Admittedly, MidJourney is fascinating. Described as “an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species,” she can conjure up any visual scenario, no matter how surreal, in just a moment. But there’s tell-tale signs of imperfection.

For whatever reason, MidJourney is not good with fingers, making hands look like they have a tiny octopus attached to each wrist. It also fails with lettering. For an experiment, the Missus typed up a conversation I had in regards to a YouTube video about an Australian man fighting a kangaroo, and how disturbingly and muscularly “jacked” those creatures are. She typed in the parameters, and within minutes came up with these examples:

So yes, this particular AI definitely has some issues as to what it thinks a kangaroo actually is (seriously, what’s with the antlers and multiple legs), but this is otherwise a detailed piece of art.

There’s been some serious copyright issues from this, as MidJourney founder David Holz admitted to using a ‘hundred million’ previously created images without consent. People have passed off AI art as their own creation. And AI art has actually won competitions. Imagine spending a lifetime refining a craft only to have someone “learn” and “master” these skills within minutes, but they never actually learned anything outside of a few keyboard strokes.

ChatGPT is giving pause to writers as well. Including myself.

The Missus showed me it takes nothing to create a press release, or a cover letter, or an article, or a story. As a full-time writer and editor, I pored over a silly press release she prompted, and I watched the article write itself in real-time. It took minutes to create, and my verdict?

Outside of a few weird word choices, and a few personal stylistic things I would have changed, it was a solid article, and reasonably well written. Even genuinely funny in a few places.

“I’m out of a job, aren’t I,” I asked her.

I was half joking, but why take hours hiring a creative talent, when you can create it yourself in minutes?

Students are using ChatGPT to do their classwork for them, requiring teachers and schools to crack down on the program. ClarkesWorld Magazine, a long-running fantasy and sci-fi publication, has stopped accepting reader submissions because people are submitting AI created stories as original content. AI created books are being sold on Amazon’s Kindle, and it’s not a singular instance. Of course, China reportedly has already set bans on ChatGPT for “spreading propaganda.”

Much like MidJourney, ChatGPT isn’t perfect and has some weird ideas on content creation, but technology can be improved, and today’s mistakes will soon be a thing of the past. In 2019, I wrote an two articles here and here about “Deepfakes” for the Corsicana Daily Sun, and as seen in recent Star Wars and Marvel projects, the technology has only improved since my early writings.

Should we be freaking out over AI and throwing our computers and phones into a dumpster? No, but we should accept that it’s here, and we need to start using it responsibly now. Because there are issues about creative rights and self-awareness, and establishing moral and ethical guidelines, while making sure we as a society don’t pawn off our creative spark for learning and discovery. It’s a heavy conversation to consider, and while it doesn’t seem like something you’ll ever have to deal with, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already encountered AI-generated content… and just aren’t aware of it.

For the record, the Navarro County Gazette will not be using ChatGPT or any AI-assisted support to generate its articles.

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