It turned out to be pop stars Drake The Weeknd He didn’t suddenly drop a new path that went viral on TikTok and YouTube in April 2023. The photo, which won an international photography competition that same month It was not a real photo. and a photo Pope Francis wears Balenciaga’s tunic that appeared in March 2023? That was also fake.
They are all made with the help of generative artificial intelligence, new technology It can generate human-like text, voice, and images on demand through programs such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, Bard, and others.
There is certainly something unsettling about the ease with which people can be duped by these fakes, and I see it as a harbinger of an authenticity crisis that raises some tough questions.
How will voters know if a video of a political candidate saying something offensive is real or has been generated by artificial intelligence? Will people be willing to pay artists for their work when AI can create something visually stunning? Why follow specific authors when stories in their writing style circulate freely on the Internet?
I could see anxiety all around me at Stanford University, where I’m a professor and also run a large group. Artificial Intelligence and Generative Education Initiative.
As text, image, audio, and video become easier for anyone to produce with new generative AI tools, I think people will need to re-examine and recalibrate how they judge authenticity in the first place.
Fortunately, the social sciences offer some guidance.
The many faces of authenticity
Long before generative AI and ChatGPT came to the fore, people were looking for what would make something look authentic.
When a real estate agent gushes over a property he’s trying to sell you, is he genuine or just trying to close the deal? Is this stylish acquaintance wearing original designer fashion or Mass-produced imitations? As you mature, how do you discover your authentic self?
These are not just philosophical exercises. Neuroscience research Show that believing that an original piece of art will activate the reward centers of the brain in ways that watching something you’ve been told isn’t fake.
Authenticity is also important because it is a trust-boosting social adhesive. Take, for example, the misinformation crisis on social media, in which false news has unintentionally spread and real news has become fake.
In short, authenticity is important to both individuals and society as a whole.
But what makes something look authentic?
Psychologist George Newman He explored this question in a series of studies. He found that there are three main dimensions of authenticity.
One such authenticity is historical authenticity, or whether something is really from the time, place, and person that someone claims to be. An actual painting by Rembrandt would have historical authenticity; Modern forgery no.
The second dimension of authenticity is the kind that appears when, for example, a restaurant in Japan serves exceptional and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Their pizza was not made in Naples or imported from Italy. The chef who prepared it may not have a drop of Italian blood in their veins. But the ingredients, appearance and taste may very well match what tourists would expect to find in a fine restaurant in Naples. Newman calls that categorical authenticity.
Finally, there is the authenticity that comes from our values and beliefs. This is the kind that many voters find powerless in politicians and elected leaders who say one thing but do another. This is what admissions officers look for in college essays.
in My own researchI’ve also seen that believability can relate to our expectations about the tools and activities used to create things.
For example, when you see a custom piece of furniture that claims to be handmade, you’re likely to assume that it wasn’t artisan-made by hand—and that all sorts of modern tools were nonetheless used to cut, shape, and attach each piece. Likewise, if an architect uses computer software to help draw up building plans, you probably still think the product is legitimate and original. This is because there is a general understanding that these tools are part of what it takes to make these products.
In most of your hasty judgments on authenticity, you don’t think much about these dimensions. But with generative AI, you’ll need to.
This is because when it took so long to produce original new content, there was a general assumption that it required skill to create the content—and that it could only have been made by skilled individuals putting in a lot of effort and acting with the best of intentions.
These are not safe assumptions anymore.
How to deal with the looming authenticity crisis
Generative AI thrives by exploiting people’s reliance on categorical authenticity by producing material that resembles the “real thing”.
It will therefore be important to separate historical and categorical authenticity in your reasoning. Just because a recording sounds exactly like Drake’s—that is, it fits the expectations of Drake’s music category—doesn’t mean Drake actually recorded it. A great essay handed in for a college writing class assignment might not actually be from a student working on crafting sentences for hours on a word processor.
If she looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, everyone would need to consider that she probably didn’t actually hatch from an egg.
Also, it will be important for everyone to quickly learn what these new generative AI tools can and cannot do. I think this will include making sure people learn about AI in schools and in the workplace, and having open conversations about how creative processes will change as AI becomes widely available.
Writing papers for school in the future doesn’t necessarily mean that students have to craft each sentence accurately; There are now tools that can help them think of ways to frame their ideas. And creating a stunning image won’t require exceptional hand-eye coordination or mastery of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
Finally, in a world where AI acts as a tool, society will have to think about how to create guardrails. These can take the form of regulations, or the creation of standards in certain areas to disclose how and when AI has been used.
Is AI credited as a writing co-author? Is it not allowed on certain types of documents or for certain grade levels in the school? Does entering a piece of art in a competition require a signed statement that the artist did not use artificial intelligence in its submission? Or should there be new, separate contests that explicitly advocate AI-generated business?
These questions are tough. It can be tempting to view generative AI as an unacceptable aid, in the same way that calculators are prohibited from being used in some math classes.
However, the isolation of new technology threatens to place arbitrary limits on human creative potential. Will the expressive power of the images be as they are now? If photography is deemed an unfair use of technology? What if Pixar films were deemed ineligible for the Oscars because people thought computer animation tools undermined their originality?
The capabilities of generative AI have surprised many and will challenge everyone to think differently. But I do believe that humans can use AI to push the boundaries of what is possible and create works of art, writing, and design that are interesting and worthwhile — and yes, authentic.
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