It's Super Bowl commercial time again, and this year's promo from Microsoft pushes its mission to get its AI efforts off the ground – although all while setting up a worrying vision of the future of creativity.
Microsoft, despite its foresight to invest heavily in the early days of ChatGPT, has seen its own separate efforts to integrate AI tech into its products not exactly go to plan. Since launching its revamped AI-powered Bing, it has seen its share of the market grow a miserly half a percentage point, while ChatGPT manages to attract over a hundred million active users a month. Google's more hesitant rollout of Bard (potentially now called Gemini) hasn't hurt its market share with over ninety percent of search.
In an effort to actually get people to use its AI tools, Microsoft is ditching the often punchline Bing branding for its AI tools and moving everything into a shiny new service called CoPilot - which is what its new Super Bowl spot is here to promote.
The ad serves up several people hoping to achieve their dreams - the only issue, they don't have the skills to actually make it a reality. Do they go out and find a crack team of paid professionals to help? No, of course they don't – in perhaps a worryingly accurate vision of the future, Microsoft's CoPilot AI does it all for them.
We see a budding movie writer create a storyboard using generative AI. AI "designs" a logo for a new business. And a wannabe video game developer, but one that didn't think to learn how to code themselves, has CoPilot build a video game for them.
Perhaps more concerning is Microsoft's suggestion of using CoPilot to help you get a degree - when AI has been heavily linked with the incorrect information and plagiarism that is currently plaguing schools and universities.
But what message does this commercial send to the millions of people who work in the creative industries that Microsoft is basically suggesting we will no longer need? Thanks for your service (and your scraped AI training data), we'll take it from here.
All these tasks highlighted in Microsoft's ad are ones that would have taken one or several paid persons to complete - people with skill and training for that unique purpose. And with fewer properly skilled people checking AI’s working, then it's only going to introduce more errors.
As someone who works a few different creative jobs (photography, web design, journalism) it's hard not to see commercials like this and get a little knot of panic form in my stomach about the future – my future – as I see not just how easily replaceable I am, but also how fast this future seems to be coming.
Okay, it's not really Microsoft's responsibility alone to prevent or solve the global socio-economic issues that AI is about to introduce. But with great power comes great responsibility - if there is some impetus to at least try to regulate AI for the benefit of society, then maybe we can avert the worst effects on the creative industries.