E05 Matthew Cooper (Scotland) 
 E20 Ken Nemoto (Tokyo) 
 E42 Faolan Ayres (Australia) Finalists
Runner-up: E51 Faye Duxovni (US)
Winner: E46 Chris Craigo (US)

The source text is here


E05 Matthew Cooper

Column on Current Events 2023
The economy of ‘idea to product’ made possible by AI
Economist Tomohiro Inoue

The now much-discussed language-generation AI ChatGPT can not only answer any question, but can generate articles, novels, and programs, while an image-generation AI like Stable Diffusion is able to produce an appropriate picture or photographic image with only a text input such as, for example, ‘a couple playing on the beach’.

With this kind of generative AI we can create picture books or manga and also sell them easily as electronic documents. Soon, by connecting with devices such as 3D printers, individuals will be able to make things like accessories or furniture instantly.

AI enables an economy of ‘idea to product’, allowing us to immediately give form to our ideas. Even those who are poor at art or lack design sense can become creators.

On the other hand, those of average skill will be unable to compete with AI, making it difficult to pursue art as a profession. Even now, the job-to-applicant ratio for ‘artists, designers, etc.’ is around 0.18, with only 1 in 5 people able to find work. This ratio is expected to decrease even more going forward.

It is not only artists that will be unable to escape the effects of generative AI, but almost all white collar jobs: professions such as administrative staff, accountants, tax consultants, and teachers and researchers like myself. However, this does not mean that AI will surpass humans in every aspect.

The three things current AI lacks are will, experience, and value judgement. A generative AI like ChatGPT is, as it were, an ‘academic super-elite’, but also a ‘human awaiting instruction’. It does not have the will to actively start a business by itself or establish a new enterprise.

Generative AI is likewise akin to a ‘super indoor type’, shut-up in its room, wrapped-up in obsessively surfing the internet or reading. It has no experience of beach-combing or a camp fire; it cannot create a story or a film based on its own experiences.

Furthermore, unable to make its own value judgements on aesthetics or morality, it is confined to mimicking human judgement. Therefore, unlike humans, it cannot create a work by thinking up a number of novel ideas and selecting the most desirable ones.

In short, an AI would find it difficult to create a work with originality. If you were to prompt an image-generation AI to ‘draw Tokyo Tower in the style of van Gogh’, it would produce an image in that style for you. But, it could not create said style from scratch.

If you are asking whether that is not difficult even for humans, I would have to agree it is true of older media such as paintings.

Oil paints and cameras are technologies, and paintings and photographs are one kind of media. New technology produces new media, and various types of potential art are explored through that media until the possibilities are exhausted.

Put another way, while technology continues to advance, new genres of art will be created, and the opportunities for humans to express their innovative creativity will remain.

In order to flourish in the AI era we need ‘will’, ‘experience’ and ‘value judgement’, alongside creativity that harnesses technology.

Our current education system, which forces children to cram information and turns them into point-scoring machines, must undergo drastic reform.

E20 Ken Nemoto

AI Enables “Instant Materialization” Economy
Tomohiro Inoue, economist

ChatGPT, a language-generation AI drawing people’s attention, is capable of not only answering any questions but also generating theses, novels or programs. Similarly, image-generation AIs such as Stable Diffusion can generate pictures or photos of decent quality if you just enter words like “a couple flirting on the beach” for example.

With these generative AIs, you can create picture books or comic books and even sell them as e-books without much effort. Eventually, people will be able to fashion things like small items and furniture swiftly on their own using generative AIs in combination with devices such as 3D printers.

AI enables what we could call “instant materialization” economy, where you could easily have your ideas materialized and anyone can become a creator without being good at drawing or designing.

On the other hand, more professional artists would find it harder to make a living because ordinary levels of proficiency wouldn’t be enough to compete with AI. Even now, the jobs-to-applicants ratio for “artists and designers” stands at merely 0.18, indicating that only one out of five applicants can land a job. This rate is likely to drop further going forward.

Not only artists but also nearly all white-collar workers, including clerical staff, certified professionals such as public accountants and tax accountants, academics like myself and researchers, are inevitably affected by the impacts of generative AI. It does not mean, however, that AI surpasses humans in every aspect.

There are three things the present AI is void of; they are “will”, “real experience” and “value judgment”. Generative AIs like ChatGPT are, as it were, super-elites, but they are also like reactive human beings. They are without a will to embark on something, never starting their own business or launching a new business.

Generative AIs are also super-indoor types who indulge in web surfing or reading day after day without going out. Never having experienced activities like clamming or campfires, they never create novels or movies based on their real experience.

Furthermore, their inability to make a subjective value judgment on things like beauty and ugliness or good and evil prevents themselves from doing more than following judgments made by humans. Therefore, they cannot create works as humans do by sifting through a number of innovative ideas that germinate and choosing what they think is best.

In short, generative AIs cannot originate works. If you instruct an image-generation AI to create a painting of the Tokyo Tower in a Van Gogh style, it will generate an image accordingly. However, they can never create a style of their own.

If asked whether I find it difficult even for humans to create an original style in this age, I would have to say yes when it comes to conventional media like paintings.

Oil paints and cameras are both technologies, and paintings and photographs are both a kind of media. New technologies lead to arrivals of new media, on which all possibilities of art are explored in various ways and exhausted in the end.

In other words, as long as technologies advance, new genres of art are generated, which means opportunities for humans to be innovative and creative will not disappear.

What is required in order to flourish in the age of AI are will, real experience and value judgment as well as creativity that capitalizes on technologies.

The current education system, which apparently drives children to cramming and develops them into scoring machines, would have to be reformed dramatically.

E42 Faolan Ayres

Column on Current Events 2023
The AI-driven economy of ideas and instant products
By Economist Tomohiro Inoue

ChatGPT, the language-generative AI on everyone’s lips, can not only answer any question you ask it but can also generate essays, novels and computer programs among other things. On the other hand, just by typing in a group of words like ‘couple flirting on the beach’, image-generative AI like Stable Diffusion are able to generate photos or illustrations that coincide with that input.

Generative AI allow you to create content like picture books and manga which can easily be sold as e-books. Once they are paired with technology like 3D printers, AI will likely be able to single-handedly create objects both small and large such as furniture on the spot.

What AI make possible is an economy in which we can instantaneously give shape to an idea and create a product. This means that even if you aren’t skilled at drawing or don’t have design sense, you too can become a creator.

That being said, advances in AI technology will make it next to impossible for artists with average skill to compete, which in turn will negatively impact their ability to make a living. Even today, the proportion of jobs to applicants for workers like artists and designers is only approximately 0.18, so just under one in five people are able to secure employment. This figure will only lower more and more in the future.

Not only artists but also most white-collar workers including office workers, certified public accountants, tax accountants and academics and researchers like me can’t escape the influence of generative AI. However, that does not mean that AI will surpass humans in every way.

What the current AI lack is will, first-hand experience and judgement of value. Although AI like ChatGPT have high deviation scores indicating great academic ability, they are also likened to humans that wait for instructions and don’t take the initiative. That is to say that they don’t have the volition to proactively perform such tasks as starting a business.

In addition, generative AI are akin to shut-ins confined to their room in that they are occupied by net surfing and reading, not engaging with the outside world. In this sense, they haven’t personally experienced anything like shell gathering or campfires, meaning they can’t draw on such experiences to create novels or movies.

Furthermore, without the ability to judge for themselves whether something is beautiful or ugly or good or bad, AI are limited to imitating human judgement. Therefore, they are not capable of creating a work whereby several original ideas are brainstormed and the most preferable one is chosen.

Put simply, creating works with originality is challenging. If you instruct an image-generative AI to draw Tokyo Tower in the style of Van Gogh, it will create such an image for you. However, it can’t create style in the first place.

It is true that it is also difficult for humans to be original, for instance with traditional forms of media like pictures.

Oil paint and cameras are forms of technology, and pictures and photographs are forms of media. New technology gives birth to new media, expanding the various possible art forms to be explored. However, these possibilities will eventually be exhausted.

From a different perspective though, as long as technology continues to advance, new art genres will continue to take form, so humans won’t run short of opportunities to demonstrate their innovative creativity.

What is absolutely essential for thriving in the age of AI is the aforementioned will, first-hand experience and value judgement, as well as creativity that makes good use of technology.

Current Japanese education which drives children to cram knowledge into their heads and moulds them into point-grabbing machines will require drastic reform.

Runner-up: E51 Faye Duxovni

AI and the Birth of the Idea-to-Product Economy
Tomohiro Inoue - Economist

The world is currently abuzz over ChatGPT, an AI text generator which can not only answer questions on any subject, but also generate essays, novels, and even computer programs. Meanwhile, AI image generators such as Stable Diffusion are able to take in a simple verbal prompt like "a couple frolicking on a beach", and generate suitable art and photorealistic images.

Using these sorts of "generative AI", it's easy to create picture books and manga, and even sell the resulting works as e-books. Eventually, by connecting these systems to 3D printers, individual users may even be able to craft tools, accessories, and household items on the spot.

What AI will enable is a new "idea-to-product" economy, in which ideas can instantly be given form. In this new economy, regardless of artistic ability or design sensibility, anyone can become a creator.

Conversely, as ordinary human skill becomes unable to keep pace with AI, it will become increasingly difficult to make a living as a professional artist. Even today, the ratio of "Artist / Designer" job openings to applicants is only 0.18 – in other words, only around 1 artist in 5 is able to find work. As time goes on, this ratio will likely decline even further.

Ultimately, generative AI will impact not only artists, but also clerical workers, accountants, tax preparers, and even academic instructors and researchers such as myself. Virtually all white-collar professions will inevitably be affected. However, this does not mean that AI will become superior to humans in all aspects.

Current AI systems are lacking in three crucial elements: intention, experience, and judgment. Generative AI such as ChatGPT could be described as "top-scoring elite job candidates", but they are also passive and unmotivated employees. They lack the will and intention to begin work of their own volition or start new projects on their own.

Generative AI could also be compared to agoraphobic shut-ins, spending all their time browsing the web and reading books rather than ever leaving their homes. They have never actually experienced things like gathering seashells or building campfires, and are thus unable to create novels and films grounded in their own experiences.

Furthermore, AI are unable to subjectively judge qualities such as beauty and ugliness, or good and evil. The most they are able to do is mimic humans' judgments. Consequently, they are unable to create works as humans do, by brainstorming countless original ideas and picking out the ones we decide are actually desirable.

Simply put, creating artistic works with real originality is a difficult task. If you tell an AI image generator "draw Tokyo Tower in the style of van Gogh", it will generate that image for you. However, it is unable to create a style of its own.

You may ask, isn't this difficult for human beings as well? Looking at the history of old media such as painting, we have no choice but to agree.

Paintbrushes and cameras are both technologies, and painting and photography are both forms of media. New technologies create new media, and as we fumble around discovering what types of art we can create in a new medium, eventually we exhaust all of the possibilities.

However, by the same token, as long as technology continues advancing, new artistic genres will continue to emerge, and humans will still have opportunities to demonstrate our innovation and creativity.

In order to fully participate in the age of AI, we need intention, experience, and judgment; we need creativity that makes full use of the technology available to us.

Our current educational system, which pressures students to simply cram in knowledge and turns children into point-scoring machines, may be what is most in need of drastic reform.

Winner: E46 Chris Craigo

The Instant Idea-to-Product Economy and the AI Behind It
INOUE Tomohiro, Economist

ChatGPT, the text-generating AI tool making headlines of late, is capable of not only answering all manner of questions, but also generating essays, novels and computer programs as well. On the other hand, image-generating AI like Stable Diffusion allows users to generate matching illustrations and photorealistic images simply by inputting phrases (such as “a couple frolicking at the beach”).

Generative AI tools such as these can be used to produce picture books, manga, and more, which can then easily be sold as e-books. It is likely just a matter of time until users will be able to pair this technology with 3D printers and so forth to instantly create small items, furniture and more all on their own.

AI technology opens up the door for ideas to instantly become products, enabling an “instant idea-to-product” economy. In such an economy, anyone has the potential to become a creator, even if they lack artistic skill or a sense for design.

At the same time, this means that those with merely average skills will stand little chance against AI, limiting the viability of artist as a career choice. The current ratio of positions to applicants for active artist/designer job postings sits at 0.18 positions per applicant, meaning that only one in every five applicants will be able to find a job in the field. These numbers are likely to only worsen from here.

Artists are far from the only ones to be affected. From certification-bearing professionals such as office workers, accountants and tax specialists to educators and researchers (such as myself), the vast majority of white-collar positions will be unable to escape the reach of generative AI. That said, this certainly doesn’t mean that AI will trump human workers in all regards.

Current AI lacks three elements: volition, experience, and judgment. In a sense, generative AI such as ChatGPT is both the crème de la crème of the intellectual elite and, simultaneously, a servant awaiting its next command. AI doesn’t have the volition to launch a new business undertaking or to set about starting up a new company.

Generative AI can also be likened to a “super shut-in” of sorts, cooped up in its room and completely absorbed in reading or browsing the web. It has never experienced a campfire or digging for shellfish when the tide is low, nor will it ever produce a novel or movie based on its own experiences.

Moreover, AI is unable to make judgments on aesthetics or issues of right and wrong, falling short of anything more than merely imitating human decision making. It only follows then, that AI is incapable of coming up with a slew of novel ideas and choosing only the most suitable ones to produce a work of art as a human would.

In short, AI finds itself at a loss when it comes to producing original works. Image-generating AI can follow instructions to “depict the Tokyo Tower in Van Gogh’s style,” and do just that. And yet, AI lacks the capacity to ever create a style all its own.

Of course, if you were to put a human to the same task, the reality is that they too would be hard-pressed to create a new style when working with age-old media such as paintings.

Both oil paint and cameras are technology, while paintings and photographs are both types of media. New technology leads to new forms of media, and in turn, the artistic possibilities of those media are pursued in all directions until they finally run dry.

Put another way, however, this means that as long as technology continues to advance, new genres of art will be born in turn, ensuring that opportunities to showcase humanity’s radical creativity will remain.

What is truly needed to excel in the age of AI is volition, experience, and judgment, as well as creativity that makes full use of technology.

With schools training children to be test-taking robots and driving them to fill their minds with all the information they can handle, our current educational system is likely in need of drastic reform.