'LLM Free' is the new '100 percent organic'

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As soon as Apple announced its plans to put generative AI into the iPhone, it was as good as official: the technology is now all but inevitable. Larger language models will soon be printed on most of the world's smartphones, generating images and text in messaging and email apps. AI has already colonized web search, appearing in Google and Bing. OpenAI, the $80 billion startup that has partnered with Apple and Microsoft, is felt everywhere. Its automated products of ChatGPTs and DALL-Es are ubiquitous. And for a growing number of consumers, that's a problem.

Rarely has a technology been highlighted—or forced—in the midst of such controversy and consumer anxiety. To be sure, some Americans are excited about AI, although a majority said in a recent survey, for example, that they are concerned that AI will increase unemployment. In another, three out of four said they believed it would be misused to interfere in the upcoming presidential election. And many AI products have failed to impress. The launch of Google's “AI Review” was a disaster; The search giant's new bot cheerfully tells users to add pizza glue and potentially poisonous mushrooms that are safe to eat. Meanwhile, OpenAI has been mired in scandal, inflaming former employees with a controversial non-disclosure agreement and reportedly poaching one of the world's most famous actors for its voice assistant product. Until now, much of the resistance to the spread of AI has come from watchdog groups, concerned citizens and creators concerned about their livelihoods. Now the consumer response to the technology is also beginning to emerge – so much so that a market has emerged to capitalize on it.

Take an April press release from Dove declaring, “The greatest threat to the representation of true beauty is artificial intelligence.” The personal care company was celebrating the 20th anniversary of its “Campaign for Real Beauty,” a marketing effort that aspires to showcase women from all walks of life, sans digital retouching. Doe marked the occasion by pledging to “never use AI to represent real women”. (The main purpose of such a statement, of course, was to promote Doe, and in that, it succeeded—the appreciative headlines started pouring in.) At the same time, you may have seen an ad with a clear opposite. AI slant from Discover: “You robots are looking more human every day!” Jennifer Coolidge says to a call center employee. “At Discover, everyone can talk to a human representative,” the worker replies.

It could be a subsidiary of Unilever and a major credit card company, respectively—not, in other words, the organizations we'd normally look to for moral clarity—yet their ads answer a real problem. have been. And it's not just corporate advertising campaigns: new companies are being created to cater to frustrated consumers with creative AI. Cara, a social media and portfolio app for artists, has expressly prohibited users from displaying AI-generated artwork in its terms of use since its launch in 2023. It has seen an influx of users in recent weeks, following the news that Meta, which owns Instagram, is automatically feeding all public posts into its AI training data. The app briefly peaked at number five on the iOS social network chart, and went from 40,000 users to nearly 1 million in a matter of days.

“I want a platform that excludes images from scraping by default, that AI won't host media unless the dataset is ethically obtained,” Jingna Zhang, Cara's founder, told me. Don't happen and don't pass laws to protect the work of artists.” Consumers seem to want it too. In a June 2 post on Kara, artist Carla Ortiz said, “I can't explain how good it feels to come here and know that what I see here is man-made. ” The post has been liked 10,900 times so far. (Ortiz is the named plaintiff in a recent class-action lawsuit alleging that AI companies infringed on artists' copyrights.)

Perhaps his joy at finding a port on an AI-filled Internet shouldn't be surprising: As AI-generated content proliferates online, so have concerns about the quality, ethics and safety of the technology. Generative-AI services are still prone to “cheating” and providing false and unreliable information, can be used to create scams and misinformation, and train non-consensual creators to work. Most of them have not received any compensation. Thus, a steady tick of companies, brands, and creative workers have decided to explicitly advertise their products and services as human-made. It's a bit like the organic food labels that popped up years ago, but for digital labor. 100 percent AI-free certified.

Authors and media outlets are slapping disclaimers and “No AI” declarations on blogs and websites. An organization called Not by AI offers a downloadable badge that anyone can use (it claims that 264,000 web pages currently do). A classical radio station in Omaha issued a “No AI” pledge, and the Perth Comic Arts Festival issued a statement banning AI-generated media from its events. Hashtags such as “#noai,” “#notai,” and “#noaiart” have been posted by users on Instagram — a modern take on the #nofilter trend that suggested the image was rendered without digital enhancement. Is. Tech journalism outlet 404 Media describes itself as AI-free: “Media for humans, by humans.” In a digital ecosystem controlled by monopolistic tech companies like Google and Meta, each bent on deploying new AI products whether consumers want them or not, even these small announcements to protest, There are ways to signal dissatisfaction, and make waves. Flags to rally around other AI skeptics.

All of that discontent is visible in the Hollywood writers' strike aimed at limiting the use of AI, class-action lawsuits like the one Ortiz is participating in, and around AI in the gaming and journalism industries. There has been an increase in organizing around workplaces. Highlighted a broad and passionate desire to put work in human hands and for high-quality, human-made art, writing and services.

Yet, it was a tech startup that hosted the first prominent “AI-free” marketing content, months ago, when I started following this new trend. Her back story struck me as particularly relevant and prescient.

Inqwire's site looks like many of its peers, with a minimalist design and playful branding—in this case, for products like a smart journal that “helps you identify and explore meaningful topics from your writing.” helps.” But instead of advertising how it leverages the latest AI technology, as most tech companies won't be doing in 2024, it prides itself on rejecting it entirely with a module in the middle of the homepage. she does:100% LLM Free: Inquire Technology does not use Large language models (LLMs) and never offer chatbots or conversational interfaces that perform human tasks or mimic human experts.

Jill Nephew, founder of Inqwire, told me, “I'm happy to see people say, 'If this LLM was free, I'd pay for the service.'”I Definitely will.” Nephew says he was driven to make it. Free from LL.M Label for several reasons: she doesn't want to promote tools that can take people's jobs, she's not convinced that LLMs are viable as a business solution, and in her early days that first dot Work at a start-up was taught in the com boom. Because, ultimately, clients want intelligent tools whose products they understand.

The nephew told me that right after college, in the '90s, he took a job working on “black box algorithms” for a company called Red Pepper Software, which was a hot startup at the time. (The company was acquired by PeopleSoft, which was then acquired by Oracle.) It sold enterprise software aimed at helping companies optimize their manufacturing and distribution schedules. Clients often had no idea why the software was producing the results it did—a problem that persists in AI systems today. Nephew spent years helping to refine the system, learning an important lesson, and one that echoes the problem facing the AI ​​industry today: “People initially bought all the promises of a super megabrain. are affected by, but the things they actually value are things they can explain, defend, and understand. If they can't realize it, it's a nonstarter .

In other words, Nephew believes that tech is over-hyped and under-done, that it's a smart move to separate his company from the pack before the trend explodes. Similarly, AnswerConnect, a Portland, Oregon-based call center company, also trumpets the “People, Not Bots” tagline. It released a report by market research agency OnePoll, which found that 78 percent of respondents “prefer to talk to a real person when they contact a company.” If all this is true, then abandoning AI in favor of human workers makes sense.

Behind them all AI-free The labels mask a question, which rings even louder as the limitations of generative AI become painfully clear, as the companies responsible for it become more ethically compromised: What is AI-generated type? ? of the? People generally prefer humans in customer service over AI and automated systems. AI art is widely denigrated online. Teenagers have begun to denigrate it as “boomer art”. AI does not offer. better Products, essentially: It just offers. More, and for less money. Are we willing to trade humanity for it?

In the 2000s, organic And GMO free The labels were a response to concerns about sustainability, pesticides, and factory farming. organic Food labels were to determine quality versus poorly made items. But there's a lesson here—branding, of course, has a limit. gave organic The label is expensive to obtain and difficult to verify—in many cases rendering it meaningless—and has given rise to businesses like Whole Foods that have traded in branding for little discernible nutritional benefit. Is.

The richest companies on Earth are pushing creative AI output as a cheap, easy-to-produce alternative to human art and services—and a few ad campaigns from Doves and Discovers aren't going to stop them. Put up badges, ring AI-free bells, and create an entirely alternative platform for asylum seekers from predatory-trained LLMs — but if we want to preserve the human economy for creative goods and services, we have to fight for it. will have. This too.

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