Future First Insight, News  February 10 2023

Original Pirate Material…Can Generative AI ever be more than a sum of its learning model parts?

Al Berry

Executive Strategy and Innovation Director

Is generative AI just Original Pirate Material


I imagined in my head this article would go something along the lines of a beautifully constructed Mike Skinner verse.

I would have not only figured out the best and most effective way to ask a generative AI to write my article in the style of one of musics’ great poets, but the resulting work be undistinguishable from the artist’s own body of work.  It would be like a hidden track (anyone remembers rewinding 2ManyDJ’s CD to find the Kylie remix?) or a much-talked-about rare Japanese B-side on a region-only EP release. Every true fan would be pouring over Reddit to find out the truth.

I digress (were The Streets ever big in Japan anyway?)

Ok, so it’s clearly not that then. 

I wanted to explore the notion that currently, generative AI is doing a very good job at passing off original thought, that’s at best a bootleg version of multiple people’s work, disguised as its own.

“Original Pirate Material” – a fitting phrase, I hope you’ll agree, so before you “Lock down your aerial” allow me to explain.

This isn’t to weigh in on the debate of Getty vs StabilityAi,  we’ll save that for the lawyers. More so that the very concept of what generative AI when used in the creative pursuit of crayoning imagery, moving images or written word, is in fact imitating.

Imitating in the same way, what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. Consuming vast amounts of information and inputs, forming new thoughts, constructs and then ‘originating’ ideas based on those inputs. To use the common TikTok vernacular #IB

And that’s no bad thing… right?

I often find myself reviewing ideas and creative output and always try to deconstruct the thoughts and inspiration that went into it. Unless it’s just a lazy poor ripoff of someone else’s genius, in which case it’s going in the bin. Don’t serve me cold cabbage and tell me it’s freshly steamed Bok Choi.

As humans, we always look for shortcuts. In business, unlike school, we actively encourage stealing with pride and looking at the tactics and techniques of what works and applying them to our situations. Growth Hacking.

With creativity though, it’s a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. In the business of creative commercialism, it’s the difference between bringing a brand new limited edition blue marbled vinyl to the client creative review meeting or a bootleg D90 cassette that’s got all the creative trappings of a recording off the radio…(just wait until you hear the original…)

Has it come to this?

Well perhaps.  For every new creative output  I see on a daily basis created by generative AI, be that whole Seinfeld episodes or ‘better than the official’ Nike x Tiffany product collabs , nothing feels quite well, original enough.

To use the popular Ed Sheeran defence, “there are only eight notes in an octave, so, of course, some music will sound the same or a derivative thereof”.

You’ll bear witness to some amazing feats

So where does it leave us.  I’m certainly not pouring cold water on what is no doubt the biggest distraction to fill our news feeds, since the blue or gold dress debate of February 2015.  Eight years since that fateful day, Martin Sorrel drops a story of how Media Monks are launching a generative AI service for clients as an answer, then we all have to ask what was the question.  

“There’s money in them there generative AI’s”  

And let’s not forget our own business at Green Rock Media who two years ago launched our own AI practice. A new service offering I personally head up. 

“It’s getting a lot of hype right now, but for us, it feels like we’ve been on this train for a while” wrote one AI. 

So where does that leave us?  

Well my theory lies around the human at the centre of all this. The ability for us as species to generate an emotional resonance is deeply rooted in our own psychology. Where does that start and end? Can we feel the same emotive response to something that’s been created entirely by a machine? A non-biological created Linkedin post for example just sits there trying to persuade.

The Emotional connection

I believe it’s why we can’t fall in love with humanoid robot dolls or marry a car. (Call me old fashioned and yes there are exceptions).  Once we get over the hysteria and the natural curiosity of ‘wow that’s cool’ what are we left with?

The moment I tell you this article is not written by a human but an AI, is the moment that a little switch inside your heads makes you care just that little bit less. The same creative analysis that makes us think about what was going on Mike Skinner’s genius head when he penned that seminal album; the moment of genius that is awe-inspiring, and motivating and makes us want to wish we could all do the same, doesn’t exist.

Humans will evolve to deal with AI

Until human nature evolves to adapt to machinery and technology, creating the same emotional resonance as Tchaikovsky, Hemingway, Boyle (Danny not Susan) or Skinner everything else will just be Original Pirate Material.

You’ll bear witness to some amazing feats 

Bravery in the face of defeat 

All line up and grab yer seat 

I am excited as the next innovation freak as to where this journey goes next as gaps in current NLP models, common sense, causality and counterfactuals become honed. When learning models become ever more broad and advanced and someone can play me a music track created by an AI that doesn’t sound like a Casio demo switch on my 1983 keyboard, only then will this be a life game changer.

We’re having great fun experimenting with a plethora of different AI tools. What’s your favourite one right now? Let me know in the comments.

The 20th-anniversary re-release of The Streets, Original Pirate Material, is still available to buy here on Orange Vinyl

This was written by an Al. Al Berry in fact. Innovation lead at Green Rock. Future First storytelling done properly.

Al Berry

Executive Strategy and Innovation Director

With a track record of award-winning marketing communications and content innovation, Al brings over 20 years of brand and marketing expertise to his role at Green Rock as Executive Strategy and Innovation Director.

    Join our newsletter

    Sign up to our newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest future first thinking.

    You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Policy.