Technology hype cycles that get people excited and concerned are as expected as the changing seasons. This year the conversation is around artificial intelligence (AI).
OpenAI’s ChatGPT will either save the business world or automate it away. Stable Diffusion and Lensa apps are either going to destroy the art business or open up a new world of creativity to newcomers with big ideas. Like all innovations, these tools will lead to as many questions and concerns as optimistic use cases.
This article is part of CoinDesk’s “Culture Week.” Caitlin Burns is Palm NFT Studio’s director of story.
Thankfully, another technological innovation, Web3, could drive AI in a more manageable and democratic direction. The difference could be seen by examining earlier hype cycles around virtual and augmented reality (aka VR and AR), which required big budgets, big teams and bulky hardware.
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While there are large players in Web3, it is also a field for anyone to join and make an impact. And, at least for today, the same is true for AI. Together, these technologies have emerged to make technology more “multiplayer.” And in particular, Web3 and AI are democratizing art, making it more accessible to more creators.
AI art tools make creating with code accessible
The next several years will be fascinating to watch as AI art apps battle it out with artists in court about the sourcing of the images their tools were “trained” on, and whether or not their tools make it easy to spam people or create malware (they do). The debate will continue. But for many creators these tools have become rapidly integrated into workflows. OpenAI went from zero to over one million users in less than five days.
There is clear demand for tools that help people create written and visual content quickly. For creators who are good at ideas and prompts but aren’t skilled artists themselves, access to text-to-image apps is particularly exciting. Being able to conceptualize your ideas can mean creating better pitches, working faster with creative teams. You can build projects faster and at less cost. And while the output of these images may not be perfect, it’s good enough to convey an idea in a simple, visual format.
There’s some really delightful pieces being built using AI art tools, despite it being early days for public use. The Bestiary Chronicles uses AI art to flesh out original human-written stories by Steve Coulson. An 11-year-old wrote a text-based video game in ChatGPT that went viral. MusicLM lets users create music from text. There’s an infinite "Seinfeld"-like show on Twitch. Finally, CatGPT will generate text based on human language prompts in cat. It may be a chatbot but you’re nothing in the zeitgeist until you’re a cat meme.
The world will continue to refine, regulate and determine long-term demand for these technologies’ capabilities but they make a promise: AI art tools allow creators to convey their ideas quickly and at lower cost than ever before.
Web3 projects teach people how to create together
While a solo creator can create a work of art using AI art apps without collaborators, Web3 projects help people learn how to create stories and productions together in real time. Non-fungible token (NFT) collections like Broadside, DC Bat Cowls and DuskBreakers are built to bring audience members together through highly interactive features accessible through ownership. They’re designed to create a community and allow that community to create together.
These generative storytelling NFT projects give each holder a character and the keys to shape the storyworld. For some collections, like the original Batman comic book series "Batman: The Legacy Cowl," work is done in real time by DC Comics artists, based on the votes of the community. Other projects like Broadside grant collectors the ability to write and create their own in-world stories thanks to CC0 licenses.
Similarly, governance tooling provides a framework for individuals to learn how to create, together. DAOs rely on collective decision-making supported by Web3 technology to guide the growth of shared tools, resources and environments. While these communal structures are also emergent and developing alongside regulatory precedent, it’s clear that two major innovations are happening, and as they converge, very interesting things will come to life.
The multiplayer era
What we’re beginning to see is the foundation for creativity’s multiplayer era:
- AI art tools help creators convey and concept ideas quickly.
- Web3 communities create source materials and distribution channels to communities that share and are interested in shared content.
- Web3 tools allow communities to have a greater voice and share in the decision making process of shared intellectual properties.
As AI art tools show us how to communicate ideas quickly, Web3 tools help us create projects together in more equitable ways.
If you want to bring an idea to life, you can now get your first ideas created fast. If you want to start building a project for what you’ve created, you can leverage Web3 mechanics like tokenized ownership, generative storytelling and governance.
As these technology categories grow together, the possibilities for shared creation are exciting. With more access, and more participation, what will the storytelling formats of the future look like? As we begin to collaborate more deeply with code, we may begin to collaborate more deeply with one another, too.