GPTs’ Dependence on Appropriation and Remix: Forethoughts about Speed and Creativity

Curator's Note


In 2015 I wrote, ‘There may well be a time not too distant in the future, when we may be able to access databases with image, sound, text, and video sources to express what we want just as fast as we utter a sentence.’[2]

Eight years later this is a reality as AI models such as ChatGPT, DALL-E-2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion among others offer text and speech interfaces to produce content with simple prompts. The speed of creative production is reaching another stage I also described in the same essay: ‘It is therefore not farfetched to consider the possibility that, if technology is to move in the ever-increasing way it has thus far, we will leave our current speed of communication in the near future—for a speed that may be as fast as a person can think—and likely faster.’[3]

We are nearing the speed of thought as AI models produce in seconds essays and complex image compositions. It has already moved past minutes to seconds to nanoseconds as it constantly strives for economic efficiency.[4] Speed faster than seconds can only be performed between machines, leaving humans out of the process until the result is produced for human consumption. Computational processes such as stock trading and social media communication, and, more generally, Internet information transfer are clear examples where the exchange process is moving much faster than humans can perceive. Why the urgency for such speed? To what end will such speed lead humans? Based on this trend, it may not be far-fetched to consider the following statement becoming reality: no need to utter. No need to write. Prompts are no longer needed. No need to think. Thoughts are no longer fast enough: just a dot. Period.[5]

Cultures and societies may reach a moment of production and consumption in which there is no delay in the process of economic exchange: zero. This would be a capitalistic dream—or nightmare. Reality as we understand it would collapse: no delay between birth and death. We come to the end of our sentence: period. Non-existence, perhaps nirvana: the ultimate state of production and consumption in which capitalism reaches its culmination, and humans reach their state of being through non-being. Artificial intelligence is exponentially increasing this paradoxical process.

Humans are supportive of this self-detrimental process because AI is a trope for the apparent improvement and experience of human life closely dependent on recycling pre-existing material. The ever-increasing drive to optimize the creative process by harvesting, datamining, repurposing and redeploying already-existing content and objects for ongoing production and consumption relies on remix principles, which are the fundamental drivers of artificial intelligence innovation.

If humans are to continue participating in production and consumption, we need to remember that people need time to think, to engage with others, to be social: to experience life. This process is also based on remix principles: recall, reflect, repurpose, adjust behavior based on understanding of previous content to move into our futures. In this regard the ability to project oneself onto people and cultural objects we identify and empathize with paradoxically resists the ongoing drive to increase the speed of production and consumption because such reflection demands time.[6] From this stance creative production and the time needed to engage with it through empathy are a form of resistance against the incessant speed we continue to experience with AI implementation. The human challenge is to find a balance between the existential need for appreciating human existence and the obsessive drive for never-ending innovation.   


[1] Image Title: No need to utter. No need to write. Prompts are no longer needed. No need to think. Thoughts are no longer fast enough: just a dot. Period. Variation 4. Medium: DALL-E-2. The title of the image is the prompt used to produce it. The image is a visual metaphor of the argument posed in the text itself.

[2] A short version of this premise was published in Eduardo Navas, ‘Im/material Regeneration,’ in Seismographic Sounds: Visions of a New World, eds. Theresa Beyer, Thomas Burkhalter, Hannes Liechti (Bern: Norient Books, 2015), 495–501. For the longer essay see, Eduardo Navas, ‘Regenerative Culture,’ March 2016. Accessed April 8, 2023.

[3] Navas, ‘Regenerative.’

[4] For an in-depth conversation on the incessant drive to the bottom for pure profits see ‘Max Tegmark: The Case for Halting AI Development | Lex Fridman Podcast #371,’ April 13, 2023. Accessed April 26, 2023.

[5] The prompt used for the image that accompanies this writing is based on lectures I gave during the month of March for History of Digital Art (Art 476), School of Visual Arts during the Spring of 2023.

[6] For more on this issue see my chapter: Navas, ‘Compression,’ in The Rise of Metacreativity: AI Aesthetics After Remix (New York: Routledge, 2023), 83–89.

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