With the Hollywood writers’ strike showing no signs of immediate resolution, I’ve found myself increasingly concerned about the rights and roles of artists in this emerging world of generative artificial intelligence tools. Namely, how can we build and deploy these tools with much more robust systems of consent, control, and compensation for human creators? Despite calls for a pause, signed by 30,000 (and growing) of the world’s leading business leaders and academics, the industry is not slowing down.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Consider Anthropic, one of the leading large language model-based companies, which recently boasted that the “context window” in its model can handle twice as much as its well-known rival, OpenAI. The result? “Claude” (why are we giving these things human names?) can ingest and process a novel in seconds and can maintain the thread of a chat conversation for much longer without “hallucinating.” This will make it much easier to interrogate large sets of documents, or analyze and summarize data sets and long texts. It also means these systems can increase the size of their outputs, so they can write novel-length texts, too. A machine that can devour or even generate a full novel in mere minutes. Is that impressive, terrifying, or utterly silly? The answer is yes.
Meanwhile, Google increasingly wants in on the game. At its I/O developer conference last week, the company announced long-expected deeper integration of A.I. into its Google Workspace productivity suite via Duet AI (similar to Microsoft’s Co-Pilot AI for Office apps). A.I.-generated music and search are on the horizon, with their chatbot, Bard, now fully public. I gave Bard a little spin, testing it on its knowledge of me. It got the broad strokes right, but completely invented “facts” about me that were utterly untrue—or maybe the bot just believes deeply in the act of manifesting, and hopes that by declaring that I’m the co-founder of organizations I didn’t found, a writer for publications I don’t write for, and host of TV shows that don’t exist, that it might inspire me to do those things!