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ACM Opinion

With AI, We Are Reliving the Start of the Smartphone Era

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Illustration showing profile view of several heads inside each other, each a different color and textured with digital patterns.

Credit: Getty Images

Leaving aside for now the mess of ethical and legal questions raised by the current crop of artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, the most common criticism is that they just are not very good. Generative audiovisual tools such as Dall-E 2, Midjourney, Runway, or Riffusion create media that is full of nonhuman tells. Text-based AI and chatbots spit out paragraphs that either are not particularly interesting or, worse, are full of errors. It makes the idea that generative AI could replace human creativity still feel pretty laughable.

Yet, we tend to judge the utility of a new technology on how well it deals with the problems of older ones. For instance, in 2007, The New York Times covered the iPhone's launch by rhapsodizing about how easy it was to make phone calls and organize your voicemail: "One button press reveals your waiting messages, listed like e-mail. There's no dialing in, no password."

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