The AI Brain in the Cultural Archive
What new artifacts emerge when we look at the next revolution in media?
Jul 21, 2023
We are currently living through early days of a major revolution in communication, media, and culture. Some have already compared it to the invention of photography, the Gutenberg printing press, or cinema. I think it’s too early to say how big this new revolution is; its true scale will become more clear in a few years. But what is it?
For decades we have assumed that AI will not be able to simulate that unique human ability: artistic creativity. Translating between languages, summarizing text, playing chess, and winning Go? Sure. But writing original music, generating detailed photographs of people and objects that do not exist, or making images that perfectly emulate the effects of any media and styles of thousands of well-known artists—and also synthesizing new styles and visual media from combinations of existing ones? All this would have been seen as impossible only five years ago. But in the past few years, AI scientists have given computers seemingly unique human abilities to create and imagine. If you are one of the millions of people who are using tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, DALL-E, or MusicML, you have likely experienced mixed feelings of inspiration and fear, excitement and bewilderment, and maybe even anger at the newly emergent abilities of generative AI.
Lev Manovich is a theorist of digital culture, an artist, and a writer. He is presidential professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a director of the Cultural Analytics Lab.
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