British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has quoted the response Nick Cave gave on Chat GPT at the recent Letters Live event. Cave more specifically addressed fans’ inquiries about ChatGPT’s impact on human creativity. The backdrop of these questions is the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence and its implications, highlighted by ongoing developments at OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT.
Nick Cave, known for his engagement with fans through The Red Hand Files – his interactive blog forum – recently (August 2023) responded to two fans, Leon and Charlie, about the use of ChatGPT in creative processes. In his reply, Cave expressed deep skepticism about the increasing reliance on AI for artistic creation.
At the Letters Live event which took place on November 16th, marking its 10th anniversary, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Fry read Cave’s letter during the second part (“We are fighting for the very soul of the world”) of his speech, emphasizing the musician’s concerns about AI’s role in the arts. Letters Live is renowned for its celebration of literary correspondence, featuring a variety of performers reading significant historical and contemporary letters.
Nick Cave skeptical about the use of AI in the creative process
In his response, Cave critically addresses the issue raised by Leon, who works in the music industry and discussed the growing use of ChatGPT for songwriting, noting its efficiency. Charlie’s question sought advice for a young songwriter just starting out. Cave’s reply, as read by Fry, highlights his stance on the matter.
Cave argues that AI, like ChatGPT, is accelerating the commodification of human creativity, reducing the value and necessity of human participation in the creative process. He criticizes the use of AI for art creation as a threat to the essence of human spirit and creativity.
Earlier, responding to a fan named Mark who shared an AI-generated song in the style of Nick Cave, Cave had dismissed the piece as lacking authenticity and depth. He expressed his unease with the enthusiasm surrounding AI in creative fields, fearing that its perpetual infancy and relentless advancement could undermine the essence of human artistic expression.
Below is Nick Cave’s original response.
“Dear Leon and Charlie,
In the story of the creation, God makes the world, and everything in it, in six days. On the seventh day he rests. The day of rest is significant because it suggests that the creation required a certain effort on God’s part, that some form of artistic struggle had taken place. This struggle is the validating impulse that gives God’s world its intrinsic meaning. The world becomes more than just an object full of other objects, rather it is imbued with the vital spirit, the pneuma, of its creator.
ChatGPT rejects any notions of creative struggle, that our endeavours animate and nurture our lives giving them depth and meaning. It rejects that there is a collective, essential and unconscious human spirit underpinning our existence, connecting us all through our mutual striving.
ChatGPT is fast-tracking the commodification of the human spirit by mechanising the imagination. It renders our participation in the act of creation as valueless and unnecessary. That ‘songwriter ‘you were talking to, Leon, who is using ChatGPT to write ‘his’ lyrics because it is ‘faster and easier ,’is participating in this erosion of the world’s soul and the spirit of humanity itself and, to put it politely, should fucking desist if he wants to continue calling himself a songwriter.
ChatGPT’s intent is to eliminate the process of creation and its attendant challenges, viewing it as nothing more than a time-wasting inconvenience that stands in the way of the commodity itself. Why strive?, it contends. Why bother with the artistic process and its accompanying trials? Why shouldn’t we make it ‘faster and easier?’
When the God of the Bible looked upon what He had created, He did so with a sense of accomplishment and saw that ‘it was good‘. ‘It was good ‘because it required something of His own self, and His struggle imbued creation with a moral imperative, in short love. Charlie, even though the creative act requires considerable effort, in the end you will be contributing to the vast network of love that supports human existence. There are all sorts of temptations in this world that will eat away at your creative spirit, but none more fiendish than that boundless machine of artistic demoralisation, ChatGPT.
As humans, we so often feel helpless in our own smallness, yet still we find the resilience to do and make beautiful things, and this is where the meaning of life resides. Nature reminds us of this constantly. The world is often cast as a purely malignant place, but still the joy of creation exerts itself, and as the sun rises upon the struggle of the day, the Great Crested Grebe dances upon the water. It is our striving that becomes the very essence of meaning. This impulse – the creative dance – that is now being so cynically undermined, must be defended at all costs, and just as we would fight any existential evil, we should fight it tooth and nail, for we are fighting for the very soul of the world.
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