Artificial Intelligence and Ethical Creativity. Our in-house brand strategist Sabina Sysantos discusses the rise of Generative AI & how this has forced her to reflect on her role working for clients in the fashion, lifestyle, and design sectors. Here, the concept of “ethical creativity” is put forward; questioning how new technologies challenge this, and whether it ever really existed in the first place.
“As the crisp air descends and snowflakes begin to dance, it's time to embrace the thrill of the slopes and indulge in the exhilarating world of skiing.” Words that would have ever exited my own brain, but it’s exactly what the deliverable called for, and the client loved it. Thank God for ChatGPT.
I did tweak a few words and rearranged the sentence structure a bit, trying to make it sound slightly more human-like. In essence, what the platform originally spat out was no different, but it just felt too dirty doing a lazy copy and paste. Something in my consciousness said it shouldn't be allowed to be this easy.
Before ChatGPT, there was staring at a blank page for hours on end. There were scribbles on notebooks and drafts that you never hit “publish” on and “let's circle back to that” conversations that never got circled back to.
Now, there’s Generative AI in everything. ChatGPT is, of course, the poster child, backed by both Google and Microsoft. There’s also Apple GPT, Meta’s LLama 2, and likely a million others.
While you have probably poked and prodded at the tool just for fun, ultimately, this technology, as with every other, was designed to make lives easier. Generative AI has primarily been spoken about as a means to help businesses, to make us workers more efficient, and to erase human error.
ChatGPT and all its successors have largely been applied within the marketing context. It’s almost impossible to talk about tech advancements without relating them to the implications they might have on creative industries. Across common public discourse and the academic study of technology, discussions have often revolved around the thought: What happens when machines become smarter than us?
I remember a conversation amongst my team in the office when ChatGPT first reached New Zealand consciousness - “Will the job of a copywriter even exist in the next 12 months?”
As a marketer working with fashion, lifestyle, and design brands, it’s my job to be creative, to come up with ideas. I felt dirty, almost sinful, using ChatGPT to write a simple piece of marketing copy for a client. Like I wasn't doing my job, like I was cheating the system. It felt unethical.
But it got me thinking. Did ethical creativity ever really exist?
The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a paradoxical statement. Ethical Creativity. Postmodernist theory argues that everything current is merely a pastiche; there is no such thing as an entirely unique idea, that new things are just a different combination of multiple things that already existed before. Then I thought, perhaps the term ‘ethical creativity’ is just as paradoxical as the term ‘artificial intelligence’.
As humans, we feel threatened by AI. We are threatened because we know it is inherently smarter, more capable than us. That is no longer up for debate.
Generative AI is what it is today because it has learned so much. It takes mere seconds to analyse, edit, and curate billions and trillions of pieces of information that our brains would not be able to process. In turn, Generative AI is designed to create things that are objectively good, things that essentially have nothing wrong with it. While the human perspective is, and remains, subject to error.
In this case, our role is to take something from objectively good to subjectively good. AI might have been designed to erase human error, but the way I like to use it is to add the risk of being wrong back into it.
I do not know what ChatGPT knows, and I never will. But while ChatGPT lives and grows to correct itself, I have lived a life of trial and error without forgetting the error. To take your experience and bring it into this new world of AI where a computer that is much smarter than you has forced you to rethink what you already knew and look at everything that already existed in a new context - that is how the two can work in synthesis.
Maybe you want to plan a runway show. There is a vague theme and some key pieces of the collection that you throw into DALL·E 2 as a prompt. DALL·E 2 gives you the perfect idea. You take the perfect idea and you make it less perfect. You think about the people sitting in the front row, how they would respond, and how it will look on their Instagram and in the press, and then you make changes. You think about what will actually help sell the collection in this economic climate. You remember the reference that your creative director came across at a cafe in a small town they passed by on a road trip, you need to add it into the show somehow. You think about your budget. You took the perfect idea and added the imperfection back into it. You didn't cheat but you had ideated your concept against something ultimately objective and created something you would not have thought of that way otherwise.
AI can be optimised, but it cannot be inspired. It can’t dream, it can’t hope for something far out of its reach, it can't miss something that once was but now isn’t. Technology is logical and it makes sense. Creative thinking is mere delusion until it isn’t. Perhaps the very discomforts of human existence is what saves us from irrelevance.
This thing is so much smarter than me. But does it remember the first time it saw its name in a byline? Did it ever sit backstage and see a designer contrive a team of models, makeup artists, hair stylists, and photographers like the conductor of a mad orchestra? Did it spend afternoons in secondhand bookstores ripping ad campaigns out of magazines from the 2000s? Did it ever own a Tabi boot?
Maybe my job as a marketer, as a creative in the age of AI, is not to think of new things, but to simply have perspective. To add style and substance to whatever it is that has already come from something else. Maybe that has always been the case.