What AI won’t change in art

Google launched 25 years ago. While it has become one of the biggest, most powerful companies in the world, it hasn’t changed everything about us. For example, while we search a lot, we still ask each other questions. (Partially because Google search has deteriorated.) We still meet up at events, ask for coffees, and sign up for classes.

Similarly, when we’re searching for a plumber, or a new employer, we still ask our friends, “Do you know someone?” How we refer people to each other may have changed, but the fact that we still ask each other for referrals hasn’t. Even though some people try to game this system, at the end of the day, we still largely trust each other.

Not only this; we give emotional energy to, and receive it from, each other. While talking to a robot is possible, and definitely will have its own benefits—like Google Search does—we will still be supporting each other.

You’re probably not going to celebrate your new job with your AI agents, you’re going to invite your family and friends. The fact that they choose to show up, buy you a nice gift, and share thoughtful words, is the whole point.

Similarly, generative AI can make incredible art, and it can replicate voices with precision, but we won’t appreciate it the same way we do from an artist. Eight years ago, Tobi Lütke made the case that people will deeply appreciate people doing remarkable things. He writes, “When we see a performance, we don’t just see it for what it is. We see the entire history, the years of training that led up to them being able to perform with such excellence.” The same goes for people who have gone through tumultuous times; the story is just as important as the work. We believe the story, and we can relate to the art.

At a bone and flesh level, we need each other and we build trust with each other. As Oliver Burkeman writes, “I’m pretty sure that any value I can offer comes, at the most abstract level, from engaging with the world as the particular conscious sensibility that I am, then communicating what I learn to other conscious sensibilities — and being changed by their responses. In other words: from creating and fueling connection.” Human connection, even when it’s facilitated by technology, won’t change.

I’m not saying stories involving AI won’t be meaningful—Her is a great example, and I’m sure it’ll become a reality sooner rather than later—but I am saying at the end of the day, a person’s connection with other people, and themselves, will always be appreciated.

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