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AI — The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

After sinking a generous amount of time into our AI “research” over our first week back, and experimenting with the new tools in our projects, our findings were absolutely staggering — to say the least.

/imagine a human and a robot, friends, hugging, smiling, happy

Wrapping up 2022, I was more than ready for 2 weeks packed with the fantastic 3 features of any holiday — family, friends, and of course, food.

Nearing the end of my break, and after adequate rest, I started to feel rather stagnant and dreamt of the day I would once again slink back into the office and crack into whatever projects 2023 had in store.

Sure enough, workday one of the year dawned, and Osynlig NZ rallied back into our office in the Textile Lofts, Auckland. We began by getting up-to-speed on emerging tech, software updates, trends for 2023, etc.

Now, we had all heard of the advancements of AI within the past year or so, but none of us had really taken the undivided time to review it together as a team. Personally, I wanted answers to some key questions:

  1. What is all the fuss about?
  2. Who does it negatively & positively affect?
  3. How could we utilise it as a tool?

After sinking a generous amount of time into our “research” over our first week back, and experimenting with AI tools in our new projects, our findings were absolutely staggering — to say the least.

For the record, the main AI that we checked out included:

  • Midjourney
  • ChatGPT
  • Various image enhancement tools

Like after any outstanding experience, I felt compelled to share some thoughts — Thus, I present to you my 10c worth of the good, the bad, and the (potential) ugly of artificial intelligence.

The Good

/imagine a happy and cute cartoon robot

Overall, I have found AI to be an incredible tool.

Now, what is a tool?

The common dictionary defines a tool along the lines of:

a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. E.g. “gardening tools”.

Building on this, I would say that the tool is an external, supplementary device or implement that should assist in completing primary tasks & goals. Most importantly, they are never the task or goal itself manifest, but rather a stepping stone to get there.

All the available AI tools assist, and have even filled, some very tedious gaps in various workflows —rapidly speeding up the process from ideation through to delivery. This is especially useful for small & agile teams with few, but niche skill sets.

Take my role as a Digital Product Designer for example; thanks to AI, I can now:

  1. Instantly generate incredibly specific imagery based on a basic idea in my head — whether it be rough concepts in the early stages of a project, detailed graphics or illustrations for UI, or even unique device mockups for case studies.
  2. List full acceptance criteria, user flows, or even an array of solutions for specific digital products — for example, asking ChatGPT to generate a full list of ACs for “a luxury car marketing website” so that I don’t miss any key areas for the website that users would be looking for. This can save hours of manual research.
  3. Improve the quality of, entirely reimagine, or even colourise, any photo. — This has been incredibly useful when I find the perfect photo that just needs to have its quality slightly improved in order to be of any use.

With all of this power, however…

…you called it — comes great responsibility (more on this later).

The Bad

/imagine a sad cartoon robot that is falling apart

Now, as much as AI has many benefits, it definitely carries its fair share of flaws. Sure, nothing is perfect, but I think if these tools are to prevail, there are some key areas of improvement to address:

  1. Frankenstein image generation — You’ve got to hand it to the ‘bots and their impressive attempts at recreating us and the world we live in. However, it only takes a few prompts to realise the limits of generating detailed body parts & various actions. E.g missing or one too many fingers/eyes/legs, biting into food looking like a banana shoved against a face, multiple characters morphing into one another unintentionally, and many more anomalies.
  2. Comically bad political & ideological bias — the current AI has a long way to go in terms of a “level playing field” when it comes to its politically & ideologically charged replies. E.g. when asked to write a poem about A. Joe Biden, and B. Donald Trump, it outright refused to write a poem about Donald, and on the contrary, generated a lovely tale about Joe (more on this later).
  3. Expensive to create, integrate, and use — hardware, data collection and preparation, software development, maintenance, and compliance are just some of the few pricey overheads it takes for AI to exist. Being pricey from the top down means businesses & users pay top dollar for these cutting-edge technologies as a whole.

The Ugly

/imagine large evil robot ruler, surrounded by sad humans, red and dark colours, cartoon style

…so continuing from my cliffhanger in “The Good” — AI is obviously here, and it’s here to stay. Its evolution will be exponential in the years, months and even days to come, so I think it’s about time we ponder how to ethically approach the AI revolution.

Now I inherently believe that we all have a purpose, and that purpose includes specific “works” to which we must lend our hand to. The work can be tough at times, but it taps into and utilises the very skills and gifts placed on each of our lives — thus fulfilling parts of our purpose and giving us a sense of joy, satisfaction, and belonging.

I also believe that each and every person is creative; perhaps not artistically, as per the traditional perception of what it means to be “creative”, but rather through a myriad of ways in each of our lives. Whether it be in a mundane household chore or even the most complex of algorithms, we all seek to bring order out of chaos in various ways.

Creative Laziness

The main dystopic AI vision I keep coming back to is that of a world under the enslavement of creative laziness — inhibited by what were once mere tools that were meant to aid us.

One of the most important and meaningful parts of creating anything is the journey that it takes to get there. Some of the fruits of enduring these processes include:

  • Freedom to use, and even build on, existing methods — or even start entirely from scratch (Not solely relying on the well-worn paths).
  • The ability to design your own unique process that works for you and your strengths.
  • Flexing your own creative muscles, and thus strengthening them.
  • Learning firsthand what works, and what doesn’t — therefore being able to justify creative direction with real experiences, honesty & authenticity.
  • Form more profound knowledge of aesthetics, artistic styles, and art history.
  • Learn how to use new software, and expand your skillset in those you already use, for full creative customisation of your outputs.
  • Invite collaborators to fill the gaps in your own skillset to create even bigger & more beautiful things as a team.

Ultimately, each of us is going to need to know when to draw the line using AI. For myself, when I notice reliance creeping in, I reflect on the benefits that I may be forfeiting.

Censorship of free-thinking

Furthermore, on my points earlier about bias in ChatGPT, I think it could be incredibly easy for AI to fall into the wrong hands—those who impose their desired ways of working and ideologies, whilst restricting or outright censoring the freedom of others.

To combat this, one would hope the companies developing it:

  • Are decentralised
  • Exhibit radical honesty & transparency
  • Have diverse & free-thinking leadership
  • Embrace accountability & correction
  • Seek to enhance, assist, and improve humanity
  • Prioritise people over profit
  • Know their limits

We already witness very tangible corruption in society, media, and politics, so it would be a real shame for it to also flood over into the technology and tools that we use to help others and solve problems.

Profit over people

This is a sensitive area that already has many people fearing for their livelihoods due to the automation of their jobs.

For example:

  • as a small & agile team without many extra resources, why wouldn’t you use Midjourney to whip up some images instead of hiring and paying an illustrator?
  • as a freelance copywriter & content creator, why wouldn’t you use ChatGPT to help speed up your outputs when the deadlines loom and your personal life beckons as well?
  • as a photography studio, why wouldn’t you use AI to curate images instead of hiring and paying another team member?

There are so many reasons why AI can be an excellent tool where and when needed. However, I really do hope that the financial gain, output efficiency, and overall convenience doesn’t blind us to the more human-centric opportunities of empowering and working alongside others.

/imagine silhouette of robot and a man standing in the distance watching the sunset on the horizon cartoon

In the end, time will tell

In a nutshell, the integration of AI into our work and lives is a double-edged sword.

On one side of the blade, AI can help us to rapidly shape ideas, and improve our efficiency and accuracy, making our work easier and more precise.

On the other, it could strike us with the loss of jobs and livelihoods, privacy issues, and other ethical considerations.

It’s each individual’s duty to be mindful, carefully weigh this all up, and choose to use AI in ways that complement and enhance our individual and collective lives, rather than inhibiting or replacing it.

P.S. This conclusion was co-authored by ChatGPT

Want to know more?

Talk to Charlie Hlavac, Senior Digital Product Designer