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Apple's new ad: "Crush" is apt

Apple crushes the tools of creatives

I just saw the new ad from Apple for the latest iPad Pro, and I can understand the backlash that filled my news feed this morning.

That Apple thought this would be a successful ad isn't surprising. Folks are using AI in their everyday lives and work, and they're actively looking for more ways to incorporate it. This morning the New York Times posted an article that described a reporter's experience with new apps that allow users to create AI companions and interact with them. Suggestions were made that this could help alleviate the loneliness epidemic, allow people to practice their social skills or explore their sexuality, and even talk folks out of self-harm or suicide attempts.

I can only see this as a new low for humanity. AI friends and romantic partners are the epitome of how dysfunctional our social lives and relationships have become. But no matter how horrifying the prospect, I won’t be shocked if people choose the easy route of downloading an app and creating a best friend over the hard work of putting themselves out there in the real world and building relationships with actual humans. AI is the quick fix that an increasing number of people are addicted to.  

Painters, sculptors, artists, musicians, singers, songwriters, recording engineers, dancers, videographers, photographers, video game designers, writers, editors, and countless other people involved in imaginative, groundbreaking, creative work rightfully see in this ad a threat to their livelihoods, their passions, their contributions to making the world a better place. How else could one interpret the literal crushing of the means to entertain and to create art, music, beauty? Creatives have already begun to feel the effects of AI on their incomes, and Apple’s name for the ad could not be more fitting: “Crush.”

While it may be amusing to play around with AI and poke fun at the things it gets wrong, it’s not a toy meant to entertain. As more and more creatives’ hard work gets fed to these large learning models (the majority without compensation or consent, I might add), they will improve. And then where will we be?

If a robot and a computer can collaborate to make a statue of David’s like, will it be as beautiful or as awe-inspiring as the original? As photos are manipulated to create perfection, will travelers cease their wandering since no place lives up to the AI-generated world? Will reading fall by the wayside because books all have a similar authorial voice? Worse, can we trust the written word when AI makes up what it doesn’t know?

I have no delusions that AI is going to disappear. Just as automation changed industry forever, forcing people to learn new skills and find new sources of income, AI is going to change our world. But it’s my hope that we don’t lose our humanity—our creativity, values, work ethic, culture, language, compassion, wonder, curiosity, joy—in the process of using AI to make our lives easier.


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