“What holds the world together” is the title of this issue’s series of images, all of which were generated by artificial intelligence, or AI. Using the software tool Midjourney, we transformed text prompts into photographs – with astonishing results. The sculptures depicted on these pages of Globe don’t exist in reality; the software simply selected an arrangement of pixels that would give the impression of a three-dimensional object. True to its name, generative AI has created something that would not exist without it.
Various software programmes are now capable of generating text or holding conversations with people via chatbots. The best-known of these is ChatGPT. Developed by the US company OpenAI, it communicates using natural-language text generated by AI – and its rise has been nothing short of meteoric. The app crossed the 100-million-user mark in under two months. That’s a milestone that took Facebook more than four years to reach – or 75 years in the case of the analogue telephone. Google is now keen to follow suit with its recently released chatbot, Bard.
Criticism of ChatGPT wasn’t long in coming. Lawsuits have been filed alleging that the use of data to train the underlying large language models infringes copyright law. Critics also point out the difficulty of knowing whether ChatGPT’s output is correct when no sources are cited and there is no way of knowing how the chatbot reached its conclusions.