"Message in a Bottle"

Kunwoo Kim

                “AI”. It’s a word that you encounter every day.  “It’s the next big thing! You should study it and understand it!” Even before the rise of ChatGPT, AI has been suggesting my Youtube videos and handling my Doordash complaints. Now, it’s creating a “rock-paper-scissors” anime in incredible quality, and generating music based on a linguistic prompt.

                Even so, my emotions have never really gone beyond, “Wow, that’s pretty cool!”. But maybe it’s peer pressure or being a Stanford student – I don’t know – but part of me had a thought of, ‘I should probably really study about it one day’. But that ‘one day’ came pretty quick as Ge told me that he’s teaching a course called, “Music and AI”.

                For the past few months getting my hands wet with AI, I felt like, “maybe I didn’t miss out much!”. I’m not saying this with an arrogant tone, but I’m saying that my premise of AI has changed. What my superficial knowledge of AI thought was that it absorbs a massive amount of data and generates a magic button. Of course, the results are magical too. However, based on my experience, AI didn’t seem to be too different from any other tools. First, AI has its own specialty just like others, but its specialty isn’t as magical as the hype, enough to make other tools utterly meaningless. Second, just like other tools you have to learn, understand, and suffer.

                Experiencing my classmates’ projects in “Music and AI”, I was less swept away by AI’s capability, but more by everyone’s creativity. The reactions I had weren’t the same kind of amazement from witnessing the functional excellence of ChatGPT or MusicLM, but it was the kind of amazement from witnessing a part of an “inner universe”. Every project creatively embodied a part of the designer, hence the myriad of different paths resulted from the same starting point. Even in reading responses, I think the fictions that ChatGPT wrote was pretty cool, but what was essentially amazing was Antonio’s prompt, “Can you retell that story, but with a dark twist?”.

                However, the current world seems to be quite frantic on technological power of AI. And it is frequently experimented on art, music, and games – things that we enjoy the most. Someone said that the final form of creation is creating themselves. Perhaps it comes from that desire? But if I exist already, what is the meaning of it? Just like life, art is more than accuracy and efficiency. If you need a place to experiment those, you can also do it on IRS or DMV (In line with Celeste’s reflection).

                If you ever want to use AI to make art, it needs your inner universe. Like Rebecca Fiebrink’s Wekinator, AI can be an indispensable bridge from A to B, or a thing to you. Also, like Allison Parrish’s Creative Writing Using AI, AI can be used to open new perspectives. But it probably isn’t only the power of AI technology that makes Wekinator-used designs or Allison Parrish’s work amazing.

                But here’s my confession. I don’t really understand how to wrap my inner universe on the AI technology. I feel like an analog artist who says, “Why use a computer, when you can draw better with a brush? Why have a digital filter between my brush and canvas?” Similarly, I can’t really let go of the question, “Why use AI, if I can better realize my design with my algorithms?” For me, AI still feels like a limitation to my design’s North Star. But that’s probably because AI is just like any other tools. I haven’t studied, understood, and suffered enough. Am I compelled to study further then? I don’t know, maybe when my North Star requires its values. But one thing I’m close to certain is that my inner universe won’t change with or without AI.