Art, Humanity, and AI

Generative AI creates text, images, audio, and video content. Fourteen researchers from multiple organizations, including MIT, published an article in Science to further discussion about the technology’s impact on creative work and today’s society.

The paper’s MIT-affiliated co-authors include Media Lab postdoctoral researcher Ziv Epstein SM ’19, PhD ’23; recent graduate Matt Groh SM ’19, PhD ’23; MIT PhD candidate Rob Mahari ’17; and Media Lab research assistant Hope Schroeder. MIT News interviewed Epstein regarding the purpose and content of the paper.

Highlights of the interview include:

Generative AI raises many fundamental questions about the creative process and the human’s role in creative production. Will we be automated out of jobs? How will we preserve the human aspect of creativity?

It’s hard to grasp what’s happening under the hood; discussions suggest AI exhibits human-like intent, agency, or self-awareness. The roles we give AIs can undermine the credit to creators that underlie the system’s outputs and can deflect responsibility from the developers and decision-makers when systems cause harm.

Meanwhile, there are attempts to build coalitions regarding interdisciplinary connections and research areas necessary to grapple with the immediate dangers to humans from deploying these tools.

We need to design the interfaces and systems in a way that is transparent about the generative process avoiding misleading interpretations. There are themes around AI’s impact to consider: aesthetics and culture; legal aspects of ownership and credit; labor; and the impacts to the media ecosystem.

The conversation about AI is very fragmented and frustrating. To ensure the beneficial use of these technologies, we need to build shared language and start to understand where to focus our attention.

Artists have been playing with the technology long before there were commercial applications. AI art has been going on for over a decade. It is critical to uplift the voices of the artists and other creative laborers whose jobs will be impacted by these tools. Art is how we express our humanity. It’s a core human, emotional part of life. Hopefully, we can ground that discussion.

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