Friend of Elsewhat Sean Micheals has a great piece about AI and its relation to art up in The Baffler. Sean has an impending novel which explores the use of AI to create poetry. His years of writing the book, and his use of AI to help write it gives him a unique perspective on a topic that is generating a lot of discussion. Here he discusses how AI are being pitched to be large scale generalists:
So far, we have been bamboozled by big AI companies into assuming that we want big AI. Products like ChatGPT prioritize authority over personality, predictability over innovation; the same is true even of tools like Notion and Sudowrite, which are directly aimed at writers. All the major stakeholders seem focused on one-size-fits-all solutions, rather than developing tools that allow ordinary people to imagine original, artificial minds—trying out different architectures, applying different training data, embracing glitches, hunches, and obsession.
This idea of AI being monolithic and authoritative is not intrinsically part of the technology. I’m already seeing many smaller uses of AI pop up in my daily life. I used ML to enlarge the image above, and often use AI to identify plants and mushrooms using photos taken on my phone.
Here he describes how AI, when not trying to be authoritative and reliable, can actually generate surprising (and maybe poetic?) results. He describes their use of a ‘temperature’ setting, which can be used to set how ‘out there’ the LLM’s results are:
Platforms like Bard, Bing, and ChatGPT have their default temperature set relatively low: it’s more important to be “normal” and accurate than interesting. But other AI tools allow users to specify the temperature, increasing the likelihood that they will make the wrong—or inventive—choice. Years ago, I asked an LLM to finish a sentence that began “The rose’s color was . . .” With the temperature turned down, it only ever answered “red”—or, perhaps, “a vibrant shade of crimson.” When I dialed up the temperature, the system’s tenor changed. “The rose’s color,” it wrote, “was affected by the blade.”