Is AI the solution we are looking for?
In the advent of machines ubiquitously greeting humans back in the early 19th century, mankind has come a long way to a place where it is now possible to interact with these machines deeper than ever before. Back then, machines’ tasks were rather simple; it is to help human reach economies of scale to ensure that demand is met by supply with a push of a single button. It was never like how it is today. A hundred years ago, it is unfathomable to ask a compass on where to go apart from having the same compass suggesting us alternative routes to bypass traffic in case we are in a hurry. Forward almost two centuries later, here we are. Machines are now named (as in more personal names, like Siri or Alexa), and are even capable of responding to calls. In fact, just over a year ago, Google announced Duplex where it can actually make phone calls to outlets and set appointments for a haircut or even make reservations – if you work as a secretary, personal assistant… boy you will have a lot to think about. Daunting, the progress of AI has somewhat appalled the lot of us. What will be left of us?
In 2018, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced Duplex at its I/O developer conference. The summarized video, can be found here.
It is fine, as great as artificial intelligence will ever be, despite the beatings we have been receiving in games of chess and Go, there is one field many of us are quite confident of having the machines wag their tail running, and that would be creativity. It is quite obvious right? Humans are quite complicated. We are filled with all kinds of feeling and emotion. Most importantly we have a ‘heart’. We have even been assured by some of the greats including Jack Ma, that we shan’t ponder much about the possibilities of machines becoming sentient. He has tried to convince us many times, that no matter how smart a machine can get, it will only be smarter than us. However, it shall never possess wisdom, as wisdom comes from the heart.
Unfortunately, that did not do enough to the likes of Elon Musk or Bill Gates who are skeptical about humans’ ability to sustain future supremacy. Although the three have come to a similar conclusion that AI will possess greater knowledge than humans and this may be of help to us, they may bring other threats along too. Elon has akin AI to “summoning the demon” when he talked about it at MIT in 2014 while Bill has noted that he is more concern about AI being used in weapon systems. If it does, the effect will be more frightening than even nukes. To many normal folks though, that will be the loss of jobs.
If we can’t beat, we should join them. Elon Musk thinks there is a real threat to AI, and has created Neuralink where AI computer chips can be implanted directly into our brains. Picture from one of his talks on TED available here.
Of course we could dive in deeper into the stories and possible outcome of machines, and what they can bring about in the future. But, that is not what I am planning to talk about today. Last week, I came into a rather interesting piece. You still remember Tezuka Osamu? The fame creator who created Astro Boy, Black Jack, Phoenix and etc. Kioxia Holdings Corp., a Japanese memory chipmaker has recently created an AI which analysed all the 65 works done by Osamu and then it generated character design as well as basic storyline before professional creators added such elements as clothing and dialogue to complete the work (extracted from the Japan Times). Yes, read it again and again, the AI made a storyline. Even though it is basic as of the moment, this is quite a significant progress, at the same time very interesting. Upon reading some of these pieces, I can’t help but to be curious of what kind of stories these machines would cook up. What stories would these insentient being create and whether if they would be of any good?
The Manga created by an AI which analysed 65 works by Tezuka is called “Paidon” and it is set for a weekly Thursday release via publisher Kodansha’s weekly comic magazine “Morning“. You can see parts of the work previewed here.
The reasons were rather simple. The creation of an AI capable of producing creative works such as Manga was to allow works of predecessors (like Osamu) to be recreated. This also echoes fans’ sentiments that they could no longer read works from their favourite Mangaka and hence, the creation of such capable machine could very well be fans’ salvation in a world where their treasured artists are no longer around. Of course, Makoto Tezuka, son of the late Osamu also mentioned that this platform could be used to assist young and aspiring Mangaka to practice and hone their skills before the real thing. The technology will be a game changer in a society with an impending population crisis. This would uplift the already diminishing pool of talents that Japan has been worrying about for many years and lighten the burden of fellow artists that are constantly up against time to produce work of quality.
I am aware that I may have sounded negative, but I am actually quite optimistic about this particular advancement made in AI technology. Nevertheless, it brings up the question, would a work by an AI be appreciated the same way a human artist work is? Would we be sullying on the good names of those who have long gone in our desperation to resuscitate similar piece of work? Evidently, it is up to readers to decide. Besides, “A manga just has to be interesting. If it’s interesting, of course it will get serialized.” Echoing the words Hisashi Sasaki, Editor-in-Chief at Weekly Shounen Jump from the Bakuman series. I share the same point of view. As long as it is interesting, perhaps it matters not if it is drawn by an AI or a person.
Hisashi Sasaki from Bakuman series.
Well, it is not as if we will be seeing a work done completely by an AI anytime soon. It would probably take years until the AI could manifest its ability to draw and create stories for consumption. In the meantime, the technology will find itself to be of great use to creators and artists. We will be able to see Mangaka spending lesser time on drawing with AI coming up with a draft of the background per se or drawing repetitive assets such as trees then, fellow artists can fine-tune the process. As a result, they won’t have to use much of their time drawing every single day without a break. We have heard countless of times where a Mangaka falls or has fallen sick due to work stress. Manga of their work would eventually be cancelled or delayed consequently. If this could lighten up their workload, I don’t see why not such technology shouldn’t be deployed. I find it welcoming.
Some panel previews of the Manga, Paidon. Image source: Info Seek
Then there is a matter of consent. Had Tezuka been alive today, would he allow people to somewhat recreate his work? This is a hard question. Although from a personal point of view, I am quite okay with this, but I am not sure if this would sit well with others. The creation of an original work detached from already available sources would probably be fine by most, however if the company or companies decide to continue a discontinued work, this may present a problem. Sooner or later, we will have to come up with regulations to ensure that the system is not abused and the rights of an artist is protected if he or she decides not to have an AI reproduced different works of similar essence.
Anyways, I am excited to see where will we go from here. Hopefully, we can see more of the ‘good’ as opposed to the ‘bad’. I believe together with machines, we can see further improvement in qualities and consistencies coming from the industry. What do you think? Will you read works produced by AI? Does this bode well for humanity? I would like to hear your thoughts, so please don’t hesitate to share your opinions!
Below are some previews of the Manga, Paidon:
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