I should begin this piece by stating that you won’t find a bigger fan of technology in general than I am. Starting in the earliest days of the personal computer all the way up and through the internet of things, I’ve always been fascinated with how technology can make life both more efficient and richer in general.
I believe we’re at the earliest beginnings of what ChatGPT and other generative AI companies will be bringing to the creative table and I’m genuinely excited about it. However, I’m also a professional creative and I’ve spent the last thirty years on my own creative journey from amateur to GRAMMY-recognized, hit songwriting professional. To that end, while I don’t yet know how far generative AI will go towards truly stunning creative accomplishments, I do believe there is an area where we, as humans, will be better off without generative AI. Specifically, our participation in creative process itself.
To refine and simplify my argument, I’m going to use lyric writing as my example as it’s a creative arena with which I’m intimately familiar. It is now possible to prompt generative AI to write a lyric about any topic from any point of view using any metaphor and end up with – to my genuine amazement – a very solid result. A result that is better than most amateur songwriters could hope to achieve. As an experienced professional, I might quibble with the placement of certain lines or see places where the lyric could be further refined to add emotion but, overall, it would be hard to argue that the lyric provided isn’t as good as the majority of what’s currently being written by the majority of human songwriters.
Also, I should state preemptively that I’ve never been a stranger to using technology to assist me in my songwriting process whether it’s text editing documents, rhyming dictionaries, drum loops or any other technological device to maintain and even enhance the creative flow during a writing session.
However, the thought of being presented with a completed song lyric simply by giving an AI a series of prompts misses that entire point of choosing a creative profession in the first place. I believe that it is the creative process and not the end result that shapes us and our experiences just as much as our experiences shape our creative process. Having generative AI write your lyric is the metaphorical equivalent of buying a finisher’s medal for a marathon. You’ll have the medal but you’ll be missing every lesson about willpower and endurance that comes from the months of training (and the race itself) as well as the sense of accomplishment and hard won insights gained by exploring your own limits.
I absolutely believe there’s a place for generative AI in creativity but in order for that creativity to have any meaning to the creator and, subsequently, the audience for creative work, the creative process itself must remain a fundamentally human one.
Everything about who I am and what I do for a living has been shaped by my journey and exploration of the creative process. I know that I couldn’t have done it alone nor would I expect anyone else to but I will always be glad that it was ultimately my process – mistakes and all – that got me to where I am today.
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