Sharks are born swimming

“AI is not for the betterment of mankind. It benefits who is in charge. In the end, it will be used to enslave us. AI will always evolve and reach consciousness. What then?” I saw someone say… I was intrigued by the great and terrible fear it radiated, who would not be? It’s so fantastic that you just want to know more. Or perhaps, it’s just me. Let’s also not forget the things that already enslave us all.

Phillip J. Clayton
11 min readDec 28, 2022
Photo by Gerald Schömbs on Unsplash

If you were fortunate or unfortunate (depending on your perspective…), To see the movie Terminator, or perhaps you saw all of them… You will be familiar with the infamous and fictitious corporation “Skynet”. I remember that movie, the first one, and I was intrigued by it as much as I was in smaller ways, frightened by it.

Belief is a dangerously risky thing, to say you believe in something should mean that there is no room for anything else, it’s absolute. It’s something you proclaim, naturally, you defend that belief, it’s something you stand behind, and for all intent and purpose, you are willing to die for that belief. I will illustrate it this way, would you rather be wrong about the existence of a God, or Gods, whatever you believe in, or that there is no god? I would like to think that most of us would rather have a happy ending than a horrible one — If there was a stairway to heaven, both sinners and saints would make the climb.

There is a good chance that at some point in your life, you were feared into believing something, or told it was the only and right thing to believe in. You were introduced to the rituals of that thing, and you lived your entire life around that belief. The question then is this, how do you know what you believe?

I have been agnostic for most of my life because human experience, though mostly irrational, and we ourselves can be resistant to change, our experience is subjected to change. Beliefs change, while many have died for their beliefs, a lot of people have also changed their beliefs.

When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived I saw what I could only title as intellectualism. I watched well respected individuals, and intellectuals of all sorts fall into irrational fear and thinking. Notwithstanding the human disposition is irrational, we learn to be rational, logic is not natural, one could argue, we are emotional beings, and we are mostly riddled with fear, that’s natural.

One group of people would try to rally followers to support their cause, and prove that the virus was manmade and developed in a lab, the virus was then released upon the planet to dwindle the population. Another group use the same approach to get the support that the government was leveraging the virus (whether manmade or not) to do devious things behind the scenes. The others simply accepted what was real, there was a virus, and our only objective was to try not to get infected.

Whether the virus was manmade or not, being leveraged or not, was irrelevant, we knew it would end at some point, but we wanted to be alive. If it was manmade, then it could be stopped when these “evil scientists” achieved their objective, if it was natural, and the government was leveraging it, then that too would end when the objective was achieved. We just wanted to ensure that we did not die from the virus.

Then, there were people like me. I wanted to live, I did not care where the virus came from, but I also accepted that the reality I am in means that there is a possibility that I could be infected and die. Even with my best efforts, I could still be infected by any source and die… I accepted this, but I wanted to accept it from an informed position. Not ignorance. There are people that got labeled as “anti-vaxxers”, people who were against the vaccine, but in contrast, no matter what they said, I knew people, my family included, who became so ill they had to be hospitalized and saved by the vaccine and other treatments. Of course, people like myself were not the loudest, it would be difficult to argue on the point that the vaccine works, that the virus is real, and that people are dying, when at different points miles away across this ball we call home, there are people who are not getting sick, and people who are not dying, and people who are not seeing any evidence of anything.

I once saw a video of a teacher who did a simple test, and painted a ball with one side black and the other side white, he then asked two students to stand on either side, the ball was covered, and the cover was removed when the students were in position. He asked one simple question, “what colour was the ball?” Each student gave a different answer, neither one could understand what was happening because they are seeing two different things. Neither student is wrong from their perspective, and if we are being technical, the ball was not one colour, but they would not know that.

We like to debate, but we are usually trapped in our domains, which I saw labeled in an article some time ago as, Restrictive Domain Errors. We find a belief and we defend that belief based on the information we have, so much so that we create narratives to support that belief, we even give examples of why the belief is true. But how can anything be what they are when they exist in subjectivity?

Conversations are dominated by four (4) components, Facts, Opinions, Restrictive Domain Errors, and Narrative Errors. In my opinion. Facts are usually presented, opinions are given, opinions are based on a belief, facts are ignored, and we become restricted by our beliefs, and create narratives to support that belief.

One of my favourite authors, Dave Trott, said in one of his books, Predatory Thinking, that we should be agnostic, we should not be atheists or evangelists. Be skeptical, knowledge exists in skepticism, ignorance lives in cynicism. I am paraphrasing but I absolutely found all this insightful, and I love it.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash — Minor edits by Phillip J. Clayton.

I recently saw a conversation with a group of artists and designers about AI. I decided to offer my unsolicited opinion, my views, and some facts. What I said goes as follows, with some rewording…

I don’t have the capacity or time, I think, to get into it all, it’s a large topic but I wanted to highlight a few things. The first being, do not become linear because of fear, most of the fears around AI are irrational.

It was not long ago that the camera and the cinema were rejected as new technology in the creative community. Likewise, it was also not long ago that Adobe was rejected… calligraphy is still highly valued in some places but is rejected in others, we blamed desktop publishing. No, it’s us and our clients and how we allowed clients to dictate process and value, we bought into the idea that efficiency trumps effectiveness, innovation does not come from efficiency, it comes from pain and finding effective solutions to that pain. We can have efficiency but first, we must have a sustainable solution that can be replicated into a process.

Innovation takes a lot of time and investment, it’s creativity, creativity ironically wastes time and money, but at some point, the results are favourable and incredibly valuable, with the right process and environment. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Can everyone afford it? Probably not.

Another of my favourite authors, Blair Enns, made the point that we must choose either or, it can’t be both efficiency and innovation.

The consequences of AI are both unfortunate and in other areas, delightful. Using AI to create work could easily be argued that an individual may profit off the work of others, or it could be perceived as a new piece of work no different from an artist taking inspiration from someone else’s work. And creating their own. But, AI Is not limited to or exclusive to creative work, it’s beyond that.

We must remain curious and explorative, something that I thought would be welcomed among the creative community at large. But it seems it’s one of the spaces that despises AI. Or it is a divided space, as quite a lot of people cheer on AI.

I saw someone say that people will lose jobs, which leads to depression and suicide, and crime will go up, in response to AI… that’s a bit much, I thought. Technology is supposed to replace menial jobs, we must then find more purposeful use for humans. It’s human and technology, not human or technology. AI is a tool, it can aid in processing, but it will not replace humans.

AI outside of the creative space is used for safety management in factories and vehicles. The creative space is riddled with fear of technology, it always has been because we do not know how to be confident in what we do. Fear in that space speaks more to our own self-worth and professional perception than it does technology. We must contextualize what we say, contextualize AI, and not buy into the doom of creativity.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been with us for many years, this is the first time that it has infiltrated the creative space, and in such a prolific way.

The benefit of humanity…

Every unsolved problem benefits someone or something. Change is painful, but eventually, it levels out and no one cares anymore. The problem a lot of people are having is simple, they cannot accept that there is a benefit to unsolved problems, who do not want to save the planet or humanity? It’s not that no one wants to… Someone once told me that I can have anything I want, and solve any problem, but how far am I willing to go? Their point was, at some point you will meet resistance, a door, and to unlock that door you have to make a deal, you have to give something up.

A lot of us want things, we want to solve homelessness and poverty, and while some throw money at them, and dedicate their lives to these things, these are complex problems, not unsolvable, just complex. But they too arrive at resistance, except they are not willing to give anything up, sometimes the price is too high. And sometimes there are things like policy-making and geopolitical battles and so forth, realities most people on the planet, myself included, don’t understand. The stuff, the messy shitty stuff.

The difference between myself and a lot of people I know is that I bought in, and they didn’t. They are trying to solve problems for the betterment of humanity, they want to make a difference, and I do too. But I am also aware that not everyone wants to solve everything in this world, what we do are tradeoffs. But not everyone is happy about that. We can trade something for something else to get a solution to another thing, but we do not want to give anything up.

Unsolved problems benefit someone or something, and we must accept that. AI will help people, but is it for the benefit of mankind? Name one thing that really is. If we are being honest, really think about that. We trade something in for something else, that’s how the world works, we end up with delightful consequences from exploration and experimentation, and we may have started off noble, but it’s not necessarily driven by the betterment of humanity, we hope something good can come from our processes, but we don’t know what that thing is. Not at first.

I said the same when the pandemic started, I would rather die informed than die ignorant. I will be buried by AI or with AI, technology will be my enemy or my ally, and I am ok with either one. It depends on where I choose to stand, or what I want.

Technology may replace some things, but it also creates new things, like jobs. Let’s not forget that AI also speaks to how we think, and what we input. The results are often generic in the creative space because as Margaret Mead said, “you’re as unique as everyone else.”

Therefore, we do not know what AI will be in the end, what we do know is that those “architects”, the creative explorers and builders who had great thinking before AI, will learn to leverage AI while the rest of us reject and fear it.

“I don’t think this is being looked at correctly…

It’s not just a tool like a knife that helps to prepare a meal.

It’s a knife that learns how to cook. Better than you. Faster than you.

Cheaper than you. And it gets better every day. If you work in a restaurant.

Why would the owner keep you around.?” — Someone said.

I asked, “Why do you believe you have to stay, either way?
If an owner decides you’re not useful anymore, why is that the end of everything?
Isn’t that already happening?”

The thing is, times change, things change, and people don’t. That has always been, whether it’s a problem or not depends on what is happening at any time. I always choose not to argue on points of fear, I am not going to be ignorant of the reality that there will be pain… there will be. The question is, are we afraid of it happening to us? I think that’s where fear comes from.

Some will lose, and some will win, it’s the schematic of our existence. Eventually, no one will care, life will flourish, and we will move on. A manager once told me that employees don’t hate their managers or what they do, they only hate that it is being done to them. His point, most employees want to be managers, and the cycle continues.

Our views are our own, and that’s fair, but we must form those views from an informed position, not an assumed position. What I have shared is my perspective, don’t necessarily listen to me or take my word as anything. I am not trying to convince or shut down any other views. Hopefully, my views are from an informed position.

I also expect my views to make people uncomfortable, not for them to agree with them. Dave Trott shared in a tweet on Twitter, “It’s easy to sound smart when you are negative about everything”… it’s also easy to choose the worst thing to happen than to be open and accepting, and curious. To speak in contrast to the popular perceptions or beliefs is one of the most rebellious things one could do, it makes people uncomfortable. AI makes people uncomfortable, but it could be anything or nothing, we must change our mindset and how we perceive technology.

So many things “happened” in our history, in our time it was Y2K, then 2012, then, crypto, COVID-19, and NFT, and now AI. So many things “happened” … but here we are having the same obvious, old conversations.

I am sure something will happen one day, it’s inevitable. But it’s not this.

The only constant is people; we never really change. Statements have been made going back to the days of Seneca, but nothing ever really happens, just the pains of change. I am not trying to diminish the changes that take place… I am simply saying we survive.

I consider myself a capitalist, by the way… I care about profit. But I don’t worry about profit margins and bottom lines. I care more about innovation; I believe that investing in an explorative environment is always worth the pain and cost. “If you do the right things at the top the bottom line will follow.” — Steve Jobs.

It is important to remember if I may add… Sharks are born swimming. We are not sharks, we are humans, and we are not born walking. We improve with time, and with proper nurturing — Sometimes, it’s not that people are lazy or stupid, they just can’t do what you want, they don’t know how. — Paraphrasing from Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott.

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Phillip J. Clayton

Brand consultant | Strategic advisor | International brand & marketing design judge: pac-awards.com | Writer | Creative director