The rise of generative artificial intelligence feels like an existential threat to the creative class. Who needs authors when ChatGPT can generate well-written pages from a single prompt? Will graphic designers be needed when Midjourney can serve up complex images scraped from the internet? Why should aspiring musicians practice their scales when Suno can compose a song in any genre or in seconds? Why bother to create or code if AI can do it faster and better? Generative AI raises core questions about our humanity. We seem so messy and inefficient compared with data processors ready to render our requests. Are we expendable?

Back in the 1990s, I feared obsolescence while graduating from film school. My thesis project was shot and cut on physical film. Each editing decision required splicing tape, with each frame carefully counted. It was so dispiriting when the Avid Media Composer arrived. Digital editing made each decision faster, the realm of possibilities infinite. My expensive education suddenly seemed worthless or, at least, easily replaced.

Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded. The Avid didn’t displace editors; it only sped up the creative process. It encouraged more experimentation. It also resulted in far more cuts within a film. The music-video style montages that characterize so many action films resulted. Attention spans grew shorter (and our visual comprehension may have increased). Yet, the decision of when to cut, or what images to juxtapose, remained in human hands.

That doesn’t mean filmmakers, animators or authors shouldn’t be concerned about unregulated AI content. Creators whose work has been purloined by robots deserve fair compensation and the right to consent. If copyrights are not protected, AI will mine the internet to mimic every story, movie or show ever made. It will discover predictable tendencies. The close-ups, the happy endings, all that’s come before us — AI will replace many rote storytelling functions.


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Yet we will still rely upon artists to surprise us; to tell us something new about life. The best will continue to express joy and pain in fresh ways. Laughter will arise from their unlikely juxtapositions of thoughts — when absurdity results in recognition. Unexpected tears will flow when we connect with resonant songs of heartbreak. AI can reproduce familiar tropes. Generative artists will still deliver startling insights about love and loss.

We remain glorious, fallible, frustrating creatures blessed with profound imaginative capacities and social responsibilities. AI can unleash even more creativity if utilized as a remarkable tool rather than merely a cheaper alternative. We must ensure access to these powerful storytelling engines is distributed equitably. We also must resist the temptation to reduce life to bits and bytes, data and efficiencies. Let’s counter with beauty and awe.

We’ll always need enduring wisdom rooted in the power of HI: human intelligence, ingenuity and innovation. Such creativity isn’t summoned on demand but nurtured in humility and practice. Some sectors will fade, reinforcing the need for retraining. Those cuts will be far less hurtful if we focus on AI working with us, rather than becoming machinelike ourselves. Our humanity remains our superpower.

Craig Detweiler is Dean of the College of Arts & Media at Grand Canyon University and author of the new book, Honest Creativity: The Foundations of Boundless, Good, and Inspired Innovation

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