image title

The state of artificial creativity

February 6, 2023

AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence share their thoughts on content-generating technologies

​If you have been on social media in the past month, you may have been tempted to submit your photo to a content-generating website to see yourself transformed into a futuristic cyborg, a pop-art portrait or a mystical woodland creature. Or, you may have explored the depths of your imagination to pull the most obscure themes you could think of to see what image the technology could dream up.

With the help of artificial intelligence, or AI, all of this creativity is possible and accessible at the click of a button.

Content-generating AI technologies have kickstarted a global conversation, with tools like Lensa AIDALL·EChatGPT and GPT-3 dominating headlines. While these platforms are helping users access their inner artists and writers, they are also sparking a heated debate on a range of topics from privacy to academia to national security.

RELATED: The pros and cons of ChatGPT

AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, shared their perspectives on these technologies.

What is content-generating AI?

Chitta Baral, a professor of computer science and engineering, believes it is important to step back and analyze this technology by “taking the ‘A’ out of ‘AI.’”

“When we just look at intelligence, we’re trying to simulate or mimic human intelligence and achieve the same result in an artifact, robot or program,” Baral says. “The main themes of intelligence are if these tools can learn, reason and understand, which we are constantly striving for in the AI community.”

Lensa AI and DALL·E are examples of tools that generate images. Lensa AI reimagines and edits existing photos submitted by a user and DALL·E uses its own content database to generate unique images based on a brief description provided by the user.

Generative pre-trained transformer, known as GPT-3, uses deep learning and natural language processing, or NLP, to write human-like text. Examples of this have been seen in a broad range of applications from recipe writing to producing a scientific research paper using Meta’s Galactica tool — a practice that faced immediate backlash and was removed due to concerns about accuracy and misinformation.

Leaders from ASU’s Enterprise Technology team also weighed in on the advancement of these technologies. 

“AI is already being used on campus successfully to support learners with tasks such as financial aid guidance through services like Sunny, ASU’s AI chatbot," says Allison Hall, senior director of learning experience. "The question now is how these kinds of advancements in generative AI can be leveraged to further assist learners, as well as faculty and staff, to accelerate progress without sacrificing the undeniable need for human-driven critical thinking.”

Baral says what AI still lacks is context and reasoning, factors that are crucial in elevating these technologies to the next level of content-generating capabilities.

“Most of the time, AI-generated information makes sense, but the human brain can discern when context is missing and is able to tell this content apart from human-generated content,” he says.

Baral notes that holes in communication generated by AI technologies can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication, resulting in material that can potentially be problematic or insensitive.

Addressing concerns

Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor of computer science and nationally renowned AI thought leader, believes the risk that image-generating tools pose when they are in the wrong hands should be alarming to the general public.

He notes that while Lensa AI, DALL·E, GPT-3 and, more recently, ChatGPT are receiving national attention, they are among dozens of similar tools, some of which are not supervised. Many of these platforms take an open source approach, like Stable Diffusion, allowing the users to run the systems on their personal machines.

“While DALL·E has a filter to remove any violent, sexist or racist prompts, many other AI tools do not have regulations in place,” Kambhampati says. “There is no limit to the upsetting, potentially dangerous or explicit content that can be created. Once Pandora’s box is open, it can be very challenging to get the lid back on.”

Outside of creating generally misleading or offensive photos, Kambhampati says the lack of regulated images also has the potential to create political tension and even to go as far as create national security risks. He says some of the images appear so realistic that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart from authentic photos. The same has been seen in deepfakes, which use a kind of AI called deep learning to alter videos and fabricate events.

For example, Kambhampati explains that AI tools could generate images of political leaders appearing to share confidential documents, shaking hands with controversial business executives or having seemingly cheerful conversations with disputed politicians. This material could have the power to impact elections or alter relationships between sparring countries.

On the creative end of the spectrum, AI-generated artwork is winning national competitions and artists’ work is being used without their knowledge to train AI algorithms, causing an uproar among working artists.

Among the creative community, impacts of AI advancements are raising concerns that the roles of artists and writers could become obsolete. YooJung Choi, an assistant professor of computer science, believes there will always be room for humans in the creative world. She compares the phenomenon to the creation of the camera, which she notes did not destroy the art of painting but only evolved it from hyper-realism to modern art  a form cameras were not able to replicate. Anticipating a similar evolution for artists and writers, we must wait and see what they bring to the table that AI cannot.

Future advancement

As AI technologies continue to improve, countries are taking notice and passing legislation to establish more consistent regulations.

In the meantime, researchers like Baoxin Li, a professor of computer science, are addressing solutions to verify AI-generated content.

“Most fake media out there is fairly easy to detect, but the issue is that the technology is getting better and better,” he says. “When countries are investing funding and manpower in producing this content for terrorism-like activity and the average person can’t tell the difference, it becomes a very serious issue.”

Li and his visual representation and processing student research group are exploring the defense angle of image verification, building technologies to define and detect AI-generated content.

Looking at machine learning and AI systems, Li and his team are also researching how to make these systems more robust. By improving these systems’ ability to identify fake images on their own, Li can embed an added layer of defense if potential attacks go undetected.

“An example of this could be someone using a deepfake or AI-generated image to try to gain access through facial recognition software,” he says. “With teams to actively defend against adversarial attacks and mechanisms in place to make systems less vulnerable, attacks are harder to accomplish.”

Although there are important concerns to address as AI technologies continue to advance, AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence also see great potential.

“If used in the right way, AI can help bridge the gap between anything humans can imagine in our wildest dreams and the ability to make it a reality,” Kambhampati says.

Top image created by Erika Gronek/ASU.

Annelise Krafft

Communications Specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Ukrainian first-gen grad perseveres in the face of tragedy

February 6, 2023

When news first broke of Russia's invasion of Ukraine nearly one year ago, first-generation Arizona State University graduate Tatyana Klyuchnyk immediately thought about her family and friends who lived in Ukraine.

“It seemed surreal. I just couldn't wrap my brain around it,” Klyuchnyk said. “Obviously, there's a lot of wars, but when it happens to your home country, that hits close. Not hearing from our family and friends, not knowing what's going on, not knowing if they're OK — that was very hard.” Portrait of ASU grad Tatyana Klyuchnyk wearing graduation gown, stole and cap and smiling at the camera. In the fall, Tatyana Klyuchnyk completed her master’s degree in forensic psychology from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy Tatyana Klyuchnyk Download Full Image

At the time, Klyuchnyk, who lives in California, was an ASU Online student working toward her master’s degree in forensic psychology from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

“In terms of school, this whole experience made me start reevaluating my entire life and it was hard to just do my daily, regular activities like waking up, going to work, doing homework. ... All of that just seemed so trivial to me,” she said.

As time went on and Klyuchnyk received news that her friends and family were safe, she found that immersing herself in her education was the most productive way to cope with what was going on in Ukraine. In the fall, she completed her degree. Here, she shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Question: Did you have an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study forensic psychology?

Answer: All through high school, I knew I was going to do something with health care. I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. I took a lot of prerequisites and volunteered at a hospital, and that's when I figured out I didn’t really want to be a nurse, but I still wanted to do something with health care. I changed my major and I got my bachelor's in health care administration from Sacramento State University, and I worked in that field for a little while. 

I have two passions in my life. One of them is health care and taking care of people, and the other is criminal justice. After a while of working in the health care field, my interest in criminal justice was still brewing in my mind. I’m a total addict to true crime documentaries and podcasts. I would just sit and watch court hearings for hours; I just found all of that to be fascinating. … I knew I wanted to get a master's degree; I was thinking about it for a very long time. I ended up realizing that I could do something like forensic psychology that would speak to both of my passions. 

Q: Who at ASU taught you the most important lesson?

A: My success coach Paulina Peng was amazing because she would call me every session to just check up on me, figure out if I needed anything and see how I'm doing. She was definitely there to keep reminding me to take breaks because she knew how busy I was with everything going on. She taught me how important it is to have somebody you can talk to and to have a good support system. Just knowing that I could pick up a phone and call her and figure something out because she would always be there and knowing that I had options was tremendously helpful.

Q: What message or advice would you share for future first-year students?

A: I am a first-generation college student and an immigrant. When we came here, I was 9 years old. I still remember my first day at school when I didn't understand anybody. I didn't speak the language. I've always had this feeling of an outsider. … Even when I went to high school and when I was getting ready to go to college, I couldn't go to my mom and ask her how to do stuff. … After I got my bachelor's degree, that's when it kind of clicked. I realize I can always go and get help if I don't understand something. There's a process and there's always people to help. So my advice would be: If you really want it, you can do it. You can do anything.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am planning to go on to get my PhD because I might as well finish the road. I'm also very interested in becoming a forensic psychologist. … That would be my ultimate dream goal to achieve because this profession does combine my passions in criminal justice and health care. That’s what I’ll be working toward and I'll see where I end up.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences