I think people still care about effort

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

iA: AI Videos: ******* Psychotic

Computer-generated imagery is not bad in its every fiber. There certainly are great ways to use AI in a creative process. The more you control your tool and the process, the more mindful the product, the less it qualifies as “AI”. This article is not about the complex, controlled, professional use of AI imagery and videos. It’s about the generally praised, advertised, common, lazy use of it.

Bingo. Some people seem to think that using something like ChatGPT or Gemini at all in any creative process is creatively bankrupt, but I disagree. It's like saying using your computer's built-in thesaurus makes your writing invalid or that using Lightroom or Pixelmator's touch up and color correction tools mean you're no longer a photographer.

But it all comes down to proportions. If I use a digital tool to help clean up my writing a bit or to brainstorm ideas, I think that's fine. If I use digital tools to generate a whole blog post and edit a couple words on my own, that's a different thing, and iA's article appropriately skewers this use case.

I also liked this bit:

Rather than a practical way to easily add a good image to our articles, using lazy AI imagery devalues our texts and makes us look cheap, dull, lazy, and a bit creepy. How come? Maybe it has to do with our knowledge of how they are made: We know that it doesn’t take much time and energy to create them.

Back in November 2023 I decided to stop using AI-generated images for my posts. As I said at the time:

it turns out that these hero images didn’t make the post look more enticing, it just made the post feel cheap.

A few months later and I feel even more strongly about this. Whenever I see someone put an AI-generated image in their blog post or in a slide deck, it just makes me think, "oh, you didn't give a fuck, so why should I?"

And I'm sure people will say that end users don't care about how much effort went into making something like art, but I passionately disagree. Just look at how people are enamored with movies that do things practically rather than with VFX (requisite note on people taking this too far). We like seeing someone do something we know is hard. We like seeing human effort. We feel less engaged when it seems like they took the easy way out. Tom Cruise’s entire brand is built on how much effort he puts into his films. I think you have to attribute a good chunk of Keanu Reeves’ career revitalization around how much effort he puts into his performances. Talk to almost anyone who saw the Eras Tour and they’ll likely bring up how physically impressive Taylor Swift’s 4+ hour performance was.

I think people have been impressed with these generative tools over the past year because they've been novel, and novelty is what engages us. I fully believe that human creativity will continue to be what we care about most. Generative AI tools will be parts of the process for some, but those who rest too much on these tools will be considered tacky.