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Will AI Commoditize Entertainment?
How Artificial Intelligence will change the content landscape
A couple weeks ago, I received beta access to OpenAI’s GPT-3.
GPT-3 is an artificially intelligent language model that ‘can create anything that has a language structure – which means it can answer questions, write essays, summarize long texts, translate languages, take memos, and even create computer code.’1
Since playing with the algorithm, my largest takeaway has been the realization that the next wave of commercially implemented AIs will not replace specialized jobs that function in the real world, rather they will come for the white collar worker whose only asset is their brain. Robotics has a long way to go to enable the potential of AI in physical space before mechanics, plumbers, etc have anything to worry about. However, systems like GPT-3 are already growing competitive with the cognitive output of programmers, lawyers and as you’ll see below- writers.
Exhibit A —
I asked a friend of mine who’s a writer to provide me a starting prompt for a story:
“The man lies in bed, unable to sleep. The room is dimly lit, only light enough that once your eyes have adjusted, you wonder if you can see. The closet door is closed across from the bed. The man adjusts in bed and looks at the closet. It’s open. A small figure in the door?”
I then took that prompt and fed it to GPT-3 amid some other settings like randomness, penalties for frequency, etc. The following scene was written entirely by the program.
…A shadow? He turns to the wall and tries to ignore it. The shadow does not move, but he can feel its presence. He continues to ignore it. The light in the room changes, like a shadow has passed over the window. He looks at the closet again. The figure is gone. His wife has come into the room and is lying in bed next to him. They are talking about their day. He says he’s tired, and they drift off to sleep.
The man suddenly wakes up, sitting up in bed, gasping for air, confused and disoriented. He looks at his wife sleeping next to him, then around the room. Is it just a dream? He looks at the closet. It’s closed again! He looks at his wife again; she’s still asleep.
He gets out of bed very carefully so as not to wake her . . . or disturb whatever is in the closet. The floor is cold under his feet as he tiptoes quietly through the dark room toward the closet door, which is still slightly ajar from when he looked before going to sleep. He slowly reaches out toward the door with one hand as he holds his breath, looking straight ahead; then, with a big sigh of relief, he closes it all the way . . . and locks it shut with two heavy deadbolts on both sides of it!
He walks back to bed and stands there a minute looking at his wife lying there quietly asleep in bed with her hands folded over her chest. How beautiful she looked! How could such a beautiful person exist? Was she real or was she just another figment of my own imagination? I can never know for sure until I die myself and return here as someone else—if that happens at all! What if all this is just an illusion? If so, what a great illusion it is! Perhaps that’s all we have here: imagination!
The brevity of this output was controlled by a word limit in my settings. With more runway, could GPT-3 have gone on to write a full short story or even a novel? Maybe not…but I will bet on this- that GPT-4 or a similar next generation algorithm will. At that point will we hire writers and other creative professionals only to proof-read and make edits?
We run the risk of making a commodity out of entertainment, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I hope for a future where there’s still a market for truly original content, and that our supesrsensorium won’t only consist of the next Netflix produced feature whose full plot could be guessed by the conclusion of the opening credits.
GPT-3's output is novelty within instructed parameters. Sometimes quality is a byproduct. An author's is (supposed to be) intentional quality. Sooner than later we’ll be asking:
What's the difference between the 2?
Next week, I’m going to drop a page crimps edition for Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.