Why the Grumpy Designer isn’t sold on the AI ​​Hype Machine

It’s like clockwork. When a new technology emerges, you can count on a few things: some will consider it society’s greatest achievement, and the naysayers will cry foul. Artificial intelligence (AI) continues the trend.

As ever, the reality is more nuanced. For all the good things that can come from technology, there seem to be so many downsides. And finding balanced expertise on the subject was a challenge.

I am personally on the fence. From what I’ve seen so far, AI can do some very useful things. And I think it could be very helpful for web designers.

But certain aspects really worry me. Partly because I think I’ve seen this movie before. An innovation that is expected to change the world. But it is not necessarily the Utopian dream some are selling (see Zuckerberg, Musk, et al.).

With that, perhaps we should take the AI ​​hype with a grain of salt. And, to keep up with that sassy Bing chatbot, enter the grumpiness.

AI Solves Problems and Creates New Ones

It’s no surprise that some of AI’s biggest proponents are also its biggest achievers. And it’s hard to blame them. A salesperson’s job is to emphasize the positives – not dwell on the negatives.

And tools like ChatGPT have some positive aspects. They are able to increase efficiency and remove technical barriers. This benefits everyone from writers, and medical researchers, to car mechanics.

Even better is that these tools don’t have to do everything for us. Something as small as a gentle nudge in the right direction can save us precious time.

Using web design as an example, a few brave souls (and myself) use ChatGPT to generate a WordPress plugin. But it might also help to write CSS or JavaScript. You could even use it to help explain a complex concept to a client. Imagine the burden this could lift off our shoulders.

On the other side of the coin, some potential negatives could also come into play:

Inaccurate Content and Built-In Bias

Humans have built AI tools. Therefore, they are imperfect. They are also subject to the inherent emotions, biases, and motivations of their creators.

In practice, every tool is only as good as the people who created it. The quality of the content they put into the app makes all the difference.

So what are the disadvantages? One example seems to illustrate the possibilities: a social media company’s algorithm.

Let’s imagine a social media network whose algorithm is biased towards displaying inflammatory or inaccurate information. That’s what users see most often in their timelines.

Likewise, there is no guarantee that an AI tool will provide the correct answers. And even if its creator is famous, it may still be returning biased information.

Big companies can use the opportunity to share their point of view, as well as facts. Or maybe he was given material that inadvertently promotes stereotypes.

Therefore, AI is not immune to human fallibility.

People May Trust AI Too Much

If an AI app gives an inaccurate answer, there is no guarantee that a user will accept it. Like much of what is written on the internet, some may believe what they read.

And this does not affect fact-based content such as news or medical information. It could also find its way into the code produced by these tools.

Take an AI-generated WordPress plugin, for example. You could test the results and find out that it indeed works. That’s great! But how do you know best practices have been followed?

A gap in the code could be a security hole. Even worse, it could be hiding something malicious. Once deployed, this generated plugin could cause a lot of trouble.

Sure, a human coder could do the same thing. But that’s the point. Quality and accuracy are not guaranteed in either case.

Information returned by AI tools cannot be guaranteed to be accurate.

Creative Works May Be Used Without Permission

Not long ago we saw a wave of legal threats from stock photography services. When an unlicensed (allegedly) version of a copyrighted image was discovered, the provider came down hard on the offending website owners.

AI is already providing plenty of work for the same lawyers. For example, Getty Images filed a lawsuit against a tool that generates artwork.

At first glance, this may seem like a battle between corporations. But the impact could trickle down to end users as well. The risk of using AI-generated images on your website should be considered. Will it leave you open to legal threats?

Code is also a potential trap. Maybe open source materials are fine to use. But what if a tool indexes a fragment from a private repository? And how can an end user tell the difference?

Without processes in place that allow creators to opt out of feeding AI tools, we’ll never know where content comes from. That’s a risk.

The Diffusion Stable AI art generator is controversial.

There’s More To Life Than Meets The Eye

Those touting AI’s game-changing potential aren’t necessarily wrong. There is every reason to believe that this technology can reshape entire industries – if not the world.

But the suspicion in me is that we are only getting a partial story. After all, any tool that can be used for good can also be used for harm. And the final judgment is truly in the eye of the beholder.

The bottom line is that individuals, organizations and governments will use AI in ways that benefit them. Their interests will not always coincide with everyone else’s. We need to be smart enough to evaluate their reasons and decide if they are acceptable.

That’s worth keeping in mind as we’re bombarded with big announcements about this new technology.

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