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AI & Chicken Feet

A little while ago I was doing the mindless scroll through my socials.

A friend had posted …. “What’s with the AI stuff suddenly flooding the feed?!”

“What AI stuff?” I thought, then scrolled on and forgot it.

But forget it for long, I would not for the algorithm then did its thing.

Yup, my socials exploded into a frothing, frenzy of AI infested spam-noise.

Build a course using AI? No problemo.

Write your content using AI? Five seconds and it’s done.

Make art using AI? Click your fingers, input some key words and you are a 2023 Di Vinci.

Had my pausing on that one post triggered a cataclysmic flooding of AI content into my online world?

Or had AI, after bubbling beneath the surface for ages, suddenly hit a critical mass in the media and suddenly erupted in every direction, into every life and into every industry of our time?

“So, using GPD Chat, some kid just wrote all of his A Level course work using AI,” Roo said to me, one evening. “The teachers don’t know what to do about it.”

“Is there even any point in our kids doing A Levels?” Became an concerned debate amongst parents. “Entire industries are going to be wiped out and completed by robots. What’s the hope for them? What sort of future are they walking into?”

Meanwhile, in my artist groups, illustrators and surface designers were freaking-the-hell-out.

AI art is everywhere. People using AI for art were rocketing their numbers and out-selling many of the mere mortal artists and makers who use their hands, brains, paint and pen and pigment.

“Surely AI Art is illegal?” the human artists were asking. “AI scans the internet for images that artists have shared and amalgamates them into the images that it then produces. Isn’t that plagiarism of some sort?”

A blanket of hopelessness and disempowerment folded over my artist community.

Fast forward to now (All of two weeks later - ha).

I am sitting in the sun, in a coffee shop garden, with my friend Ced who has brought to show me some beautiful clay tiles, imprinted with chicken footprints. These tiles have been hand made on the edge of the Mekong River in Cambodia. The tiles, along with some other fair trade items, were being sold through Ced’s family company for people’s fireplaces.

“They are sooo beautiful!” I hold one of the tiles in my hands. I can almost smell the earthy, mulchy scent of the mud and river water. I can almost feel the sun baking the slippery red clay onto my skin. I can almost hear the cockerels crowing, the sounds of Cambodian children laughing and the water lapping at the reedy banks.

“I love them!” I say to Ced. “How did the idea of the chicken footprint come about? Did one walk across the tiles while they were drying?” I venture with a grin.

“That’s exactly how it happened!” He laughs. “We’d gone out to the village in Cambodia to see the tiles being made and suddenly the chicken walked across the wet clay. The tile makers were like “noooooo!” And we all gasped and were like, “YES!”

I pick up another tile. This one has leaf prints embedded rustically into the surface. It’s not a perfect leaf shape. Part of the edge of the imprint is torn. Wabi Sabi. Real.

Ced and myself have already discussed many things that morning; our children, the school system, technology and the changing face of the world … AI inevitably infiltrated the chat. Specifically, how it is impacting artists, writers and designers.

And yet, sitting here, these raw, human-made items on the table between us, I am suddenly struck by how are so different to machine produced goods. I mean, seriously? B&Q tiles or these terracotta beauties, produced on the edges of the Mekong river and dried in the sun?? I KNOW which ones I’d choose any day.

There’s something about them – some invisible THING – that anything factory produced just lacks. It’s an ingredient … a quality … that can never be synthetically manufactured.

What is this thing??

I frown, trying to work it out. Turn the tile over in my hands, again and again.

A thought pops into my mind …. And it’s about Adam, my husband.

When I first met Adam he was already an award winning chef … and creating me lovely food was definitely in his schmooze-tool-kit. As someone who lacks any interest in cooking but does have an interest in delicious flavours and creativity in all forms, I asked him the million dollar question:

“Why do you think the dishes you make are so good? What’s the difference that makes the difference with your food?”

“Love,” he said, with a smile and a shrug.

I know.

Cheesy as hell, right?

But, having now been in his life for 12 or so years, I believe him.

I’ve watched him conjure up, create in his mind, then manifest on the plate, hundreds and hundreds of dishes. I’ve witnessed the focus, the care, the attention, the detail and the presence that he puts into everything he makes.

Even a cup of tea, he makes with love.

And he swears that this is what makes the difference.

like a domino effect of thinking, I can suddenly think of countless creations that stand out as exceptional pieces of art because of the unique creative energy and love that only a human maker has put in. I think about my original Grow Your Own Gorgeousness book, that started off as a handmade book and yet had such a potent effect on my life and that of those it touched.

“You know, I think human creativity is going to be safe,” I say to Ced, placing the tile back down on the table. “I think that in this completely artificially intelligent world, true handmade, human formed things are going to become sacred. Desired. Valued.”

I fumble about for the words. “There’s something that a human puts into a thing that they make that is the difference that makes the difference and it’s tangible. You can feel it. It’ s…. ”

I don’t say “love”.

Because that’s Adam’s word and … let’s face it … super cheesy.

But – it’s true.

So fuck it.

“ … it’s love,” I say, and put the tile on the table.

Ced, like the good man he is, wholeheartedly agreed.

So, my friends, there’s my take on AI engineered art, writing, design and creativity.

Yes, I’m sure it will be useful for dry, soulless marketing copy that doesn’t capture the heart. I’m sure it will be great for academic structured essays for savvy school kids trying to smash out their course work the night before. I am sure it will continue to grow, evolve, swell up like a massive mechanical penis that will continually ejaculate more and more mind-blowing developments into the way we live, consume, communicate and work …. but I also believe that human creativity is sacred and powerful and TRUE and will stand the test of time.

And maybe it won’t …

but I’m putting it out there that it will. Xx

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