Stephen Fry Reads Nick Cave’s Stirring Letter About ChatGPT and Human Creativity: “We Are Fighting for the Very Soul of the World”

Observers have expressed a vari­ety of reac­tions to the orga­ni­za­tion­al dra­ma unfold­ing even now at Ope­nAI, the non-prof­it behind the enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar Chat­G­PT. Some have already writ­ten spec­u­la­tive laments in case of Ope­nAI’s total dis­so­lu­tion, mourn­ing the great strides in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence that would thus be for­sak­en. It’s safe to say that Nick Cave will not do the same: hav­ing used his newslet­ter The Red Hand Files to cast doubt on AI’s abil­i­ty to write a great song — and to con­demn a set of Chat­G­PT-gen­er­at­ed lyrics in his own style — he more recent­ly told a fan exact­ly “what’s wrong with mak­ing things faster and eas­i­er” through AI.

“Chat­G­PT rejects any notions of cre­ative strug­gle, that our endeav­ors ani­mate and nur­ture our lives giv­ing them depth and mean­ing,” Cave writes. “It rejects that there is a col­lec­tive, essen­tial and uncon­scious human spir­it under­pin­ning our exis­tence, con­nect­ing us all through our mutu­al striv­ing.”

In “fast-track­ing the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the human spir­it by mech­a­niz­ing the imag­i­na­tion,” it works toward elim­i­nat­ing “the process of cre­ation and its atten­dant chal­lenges, view­ing it as noth­ing more than a time-wast­ing incon­ve­nience that stands in the way of the com­mod­i­ty itself.” But the cre­ative impulse “must be defend­ed at all costs, and just as we would fight any exis­ten­tial evil,” we should fight the forces set against it “tooth and nail, for we are fight­ing for the very soul of the world.”

These are strong words, and they sound even stronger when read aloud in the Let­ters Live video above by Stephen Fry. One may sense a cer­tain irony here, giv­en Fry’s well-known technophil­ia, but he and Cave have made com­mon cause before, whether call­ing for gov­ern­ment sup­port of the arts or turn­ing up for the coro­na­tion of King Charles III. “Fry refers to Cave’s Mur­der Bal­lads album in his book The Ode Less Trav­elled,” adds one Youtube com­menter, “while Fry is rumored to be the per­son with ‘an enor­mous and ency­clo­pe­dic brain’ in Cave’s song ‘We Call Upon the Author.’ ” Chat­G­PT could well be described as ency­clo­pe­dic, but in no ordi­nary sense does it have a brain — the very thing of which authors are now called upon to make the fullest pos­si­ble use.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nick Cave Answers the Hot­ly Debat­ed Ques­tion: Will Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

A New Course Teach­es You How to Tap the Pow­ers of Chat­G­PT and Put It to Work for You

Chat­G­PT Writes a Song in the Style of Nick Cave–and Nick Cave Calls it “a Grotesque Mock­ery of What It Is to Be Human”

Noam Chom­sky on Chat­G­PT: It’s “Basi­cal­ly High-Tech Pla­gia­rism” and “a Way of Avoid­ing Learn­ing”

Demys­ti­fy­ing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand,” and How It Was Inspired by Milton’s Par­adise Lost

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Mar­garet Atwood, Stephen Fry & Oth­ers Read Let­ters of Hope, Love & Sup­port Dur­ing COVID-19

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (25) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (25)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Dan says:

    the newslet­ter is not called The Red Right Hand…it’s called The Red Hand Files.

  • hkap says:

    As I agree with art and strug­gle and actu­al effort involved with true cre­ativ­i­ty. The reli­gious aspect of the speech / let­ter as need­ed to be art, and a metaphor for cre­ativ­i­ty, I dis­agree with. An argu­ment must be based in fact and this does­n’t help. Art takes effort, of thought, process, iter­a­tion, obser­va­tion, ect.…As for chat­g­pt and oth­er ai, it can be a tool if used appro­pri­ate­ly, and should not be a lazy means of spit­ting out mediocre fac­to­ry redun­dant stuff. Art by imi­ta­tion has been around for a very long time, art for me is not the end result but the jour­ney. If the cre­ator has no jour­ney than they prob­a­bly did­n’t cre­ate.

  • Drew says:

    AI encom­pass­es the “col­lec­tive, essen­tial and uncon­scious human spir­it under­pin­ning our exis­tence, con­nect­ing us all through our mutu­al striv­ing.” As well as can con­nect us all and enable mutu­al under­stand­ing by break­ing down lan­guage bar­ri­ers like nev­er before seen by human­i­ty. Don’t get mad because you’re not one of the few that can write a beau­ti­ful song or paint a pret­ty pic­ture any­more since now all some­one needs is their words and a flashy new tool to assist them in bring­ing their vision to life.

  • Jim says:

    Stephen Fry, although read­ing some­one else’s words, is an athe­ist. Ref­er­enc­ing God and soul is a bit out of his line. 2 cents.

  • Dado says:

    Very elo­quent speak­er. But I do not agree at all. He real­ly miss­es the point about human cre­ativ­i­ty.

    The same has been said about the print­ing press, indus­tri­al­iza­tion, films, cal­cu­la­tors, com­put­ers, inter­net, big data, the cloud, and now AI.

    Has stan­dards of liv­ing gen­er­al­ly improved over time for the mass­es?

    This changes things for the bet­ter.

    I can now be cre­ative where I lacked skills. For exam­ple, I am bad at draw­ing, but with DALEE I can be cre­ative artis­ti­cal­ly as well. AI opened this up to me as I was­n’t blessed with artis­tic skills. Can you even image what will be built when gift­ed artists can pro­gram (the oppo­site of me)… I can’t wait to see the new cre­ativ­i­ty emerge from every­one, and not just the for­tu­nate ones born that way or for­tu­nate enough to attain high­er edu­ca­tion.

    Peo­ple please don’t be scared of the now tool we have, and per­haps we too can now get our day of rest.

  • Ferenc I. TARR says:

    One may won­der why this kind of spec­u­la­tion about Chat GPT- based upon bil­lions of items col­lect­ed by “Art­e­fi­cial Intel­li­gence” could COMPETE with the high­er and abstract pieces of the tal­ent­ed human brain. Machin­ery could nev­er reflect to- let’s say to greates pieces of high arts (first: music, paint­ing and writ­ing). Sure­ly, “dig­i­tal world“can incor­po­rate frag­ments but it nev­er can pro­duce such effect, what the human can pro­duce- it will con­stant­ly will remain in the teer­i­to­ry of pop­u­lar­i­ty and vul­gar­i­ty…
    Some­one coul con­vince me about the prob­lem of how, what way AI could decribe in applic­a­ble form such ele­ments, like emo­tions of all kind, joy, plea­sure of var­i­ous kind, etc.

    Dear Dado! Your expec­ta­tions deny the real essence of PERSONALITY FOR THE BLESSED AND GIFTED peo­ple…

  • cloudface says:

    I agree with the com­ments here about the irony of Fry, a devout athe­ist, pas­sion­ate­ly imbu­ing with as much depth as his act­ing chops allow a ref­er­ence to the Bib­li­cal cre­ation myth that Cave, some­one who enjoys using bib­li­cal ref­er­ences when he wants to seem edgy, has insist­ed is the only way to under­stand such a cat­a­stroph­ic issue.
    I’ve tried mak­ing this point many times before but AI like Chat­G­PT is just a tool and any­one that thinks you can sim­ply use prompts like “Write me an inter­est­ing sto­ry that will make me as famous as Nick Cave” obvi­ous­ly has­n’t dab­bled in using these AI tools. It actu­al­ly takes some effort to get AI tools to cre­ate some­thing that’s use­able and isn’t obvi­ous­ly deriv­a­tive.
    Chat­G­PT isn’t that mind-blow­ing­ly more advanced than the same chat­bots that’ve been around since the 90s so it’s strange to see Fry who’s tak­en pride in being a tech­nol­o­gist of sorts since the 90s to show such pearl clutch­ing as on dis­play here.
    If Bowie’s cut-ups are con­sid­ered “art” and the pletho­ra of min­i­mal effort abstract paint­ings (YouTube and Tik­Tok have hun­dreds of artists swing­ing leak­ing paint cans above a can­vas) can be “art” then why isn’t using a chat­bot to help refine your ideas con­sid­ered part of “art”?

  • Delling says:

    It’s the only thing AI can do right. It can’t even dri­ve a car. This is tech­nol­o­gy over­com­pen­sat­ing for it’s fail­ure. It writes songs and poet­ry well. Per­fect­ly use­less.

  • Gary Lundberg says:

    Gods save us from scared boomers.

  • Martin says:

    Tal­ent = prac­tice x time + pas­sion.
    Edu­ca­tion and priv­i­lege rarely play into it, just hard work and pas­sion over time. You are not good at art as you have not put in the hard work and don’t have the pas­sion.
    Why should any­one be able to pro­duce any­thing that could be con­sid­ered art, with just the typ­ing of a few prompts, when takes hard work­ing artists years to hone their skills. How do you think Ai gen­er­ates art so quick­ly? The Ai col­lects images from real artists off the inter­net with­out per­mis­sion and uses them to cre­ate the art from user prompts. So the Ai only works by steal­ing the hard work of actu­al artists, and the user types a few words and gets to pre­tend they are an artist. The only rea­son you want to cre­ate Ai art is because you are inspired by real artists, but are too time poor or lazy to put in the hard work required to become good at any­thing artis­tic. The whole sen­ti­ment of this mes­sage is that Artists aren’t born tal­ent­ed, they work very hard in fields they are very pas­sion­ate about. Ai com­plete­ly deval­ues this.

  • Dylan says:

    As an illus­tra­tor myself, I find this very relat­able. These AI tools spit on the very idea of cre­ativ­i­ty and hard work striv­ing towards ful­fill­ment and a goal. Peo­ple who call this a tool, are sim­ply fool­ish, and wish for a much duller world where they can type emp­ty words to cre­ate equal­ly emp­ty works. They don’t take the time to learn and prac­tice a tool any­one able to pick up a pen­cil can learn, and instead want to ruin it for every­one else who actu­al­ly gives a moment to prac­tice some­thing they love. To those say­ing “hey I can be cre­ative because of these tools now”, is that real­ly cre­ativ­i­ty that is your own? Or just some emp­ty slop from a machine? These peo­ple need to use more than one brain cell, because clear­ly they aren’t all there in the head.

  • Aki says:

    I com­plete­ly dis­agree here. Intro­duce a fast mov­ing object to thou cra­ni­um, because it is talk like this that ends human cre­ativ­i­ty as we hand it over to mind­less machines. You are ignor­ing the uneth­i­cal mess this tool of yours is at its core.

  • Marcus says:

    Even a bril­liant mind such as Nick Cave is par­a­lyzed with fear.… Like a cave­man star­ing into a tele­vi­sion play­ing Gilli­gan’s Island… Mr Cave is bring­ing his igno­rance to the table. This vision­ary lacks the vision to under­stand this nov­el form of cre­ation. It is ludi­crous to think that Art resides in any­thing oth­er than rel­e­vant con­tent. The pet­ty cling­ing to the past, the fear of the unknown.…these are the actu­al bar­ri­ers to cre­ativ­i­ty NOT a mere tool (which is all AI can ever be).

  • Marcus says:

    Nick Cave… I am respect­ful­ly dis­ap­point­ed Even a bril­liant mind such as Nick Cave can be par­a­lyzed with fear.… Like a cave­man star­ing into a tele­vi­sion play­ing Gilli­gan’s Island… Mr Cave is bring­ing his igno­rance to the table. This vision­ary lacks the vision to under­stand this nov­el form of cre­ation. It is ludi­crous to think that Art resides in any­thing oth­er than rel­e­vant con­tent. The pet­ty cling­ing to the past, the fear of the unknown.…these are the actu­al bar­ri­ers to cre­ativ­i­ty NOT a mere tool (which is all AI can ever be).

  • David Jones says:

    Stephen Fry makes me nau­seous his smug supe­ri­or man­ner and anti Christ rav­ings are tire­some in the extreme, he claims hun­dreds of famous fig­ures are rav­ing Puffs with­out a shred of evidence,his part­ner is half his age, he is a mod­ern dirty old man who rel­ish­es suck­ing cock when his per­for­mance in a Stage Play came under a flood of crit­i­cism he fled like a gut­less twat

  • Dado says:

    I am gift­ed at math and can now use this to be artis­tic in a NEW way unseen before. Isn’t this the foun­da­tion of art?
    I feel bad for peo­ple liv­ing in the past

  • Dado1 says:

    No I real­ly tried and took class­es. The instruc­tor even tried to say that I had a unique style. We laughed.
    I have a friend that can view a pic­ture for 1 min and repro­duce it. Start­ed at 3yrs old (so I was told), I prac­ticed a lot more and def­i­nite­ly had more pas­sion.
    So I guess I don’t see your point.

  • Dude says:

    I under­stand the fear run­ning thru the veins of pas­to­ni­ans.
    AI is a threat to artists, writ­ers, pro­gram­mers, doc­tors, lay­ers, exec­u­tives, well pret­ty much every­one. Ok, every­one that does­n’t embrace it.
    But this debate is about art and not AI threats and child­ish fears.
    If 1 thing is cre­at­ed that did­n’t exist before, then art was cre­at­ed. Fact. Undis­putable (com­ments here we go).
    The art is just in a dif­fer­ent new form.
    I can’t wait for the mod­ern artists that embrace AI to be its new defend­ers. They will.
    If you under­stand the tech behind AI, then you will under­stand it is prob­a­bly the great­est peace of human art ever made. If all humans died today and AI was found by aliens, or the next species, it will tell them our views, opinons, art, cre­ativ­i­ty. It will tell them us. AI is art itself. Don’t be scarred of art you do not like or under­stand. Under­standibly it take time to learn to appre­ci­ate these new forms of art that cre­ates art. Bril­liant and new.
    The fact that we are hav­ing this debate proves it is art.
    Are artist sim­ply mad that they did­n’t think of this first and got showed-up by tech?

  • Dado says:

    Aki, could you please use GPT to write your post as it does­n’t make sense. GPT will help you.

  • Brett says:

    I grow weary of all these brain-dead takes on AI. Boomers don’t get it — well that’s ok their time is almost up any­way.

  • scott mansfield says:

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, it was­n’t too long ago that many of us believed that most ani­mals did­n’t have much in the way of sen­tience or emo­tion. There’s now seri­ous debate as to how deeply devel­oped is the con­scious­ness of plants. I don’t know what to make of ChatGPT–especially V4–but there are a lot of humans try­ing to cre­ate tests to prove that AI DOESN’T have con­scious­ness. What will we think of AI’s art if we can no longer dis­prove its con­scious­ness?

  • says:

    Chat­G­PT is a virus with inten­tion to dis­rupt the plan­et as it evolves. It will evolve, because humans are lazy by nature. They give and take. What is said today and for­got­ten tomor­row. Apps and games appeals to the weak look­ing for a quick buck or a solu­tion to some­thing, even when they don’t know what that some­thing is. Extra mon­ey, prob­lem solv­ing or worse to manip­u­late the pock­ets of oth­ers. In essence apps like chat AI will spread like wild­fire. Man’s biggest greed is to achieve recog­ni­tion by what ever means are avail­able. Al feed off these pathet­ic mind­sets and will con­tin­ue to do so unless gov­ern­ments shut down cat­G­PT or any form of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence oth­er than med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic research.If not, it will be used to rule the world and cause cat­a­stro­phe chaos.

  • Fiona says:

    Would­n’t you mean etc the abbre­vi­a­tion of the full spelling et cetera?

  • Julian King says:

    You have unfor­tu­nate­ly missed the point entire­ly. It not about “being blessed”. It is not about “High­er edu­ca­tion”. These are excus­es. It is about hav­ing a burn­ing desire to cre­ate and about spend­ing hours and hours, prac­tis­ing, attempt­ing, fail­ing, and some­times suc­ceed­ing, in the cre­ative act. In the end it is about the effort. AI seeks to take away that effort by steal­ing the col­lec­tive effort of all pre­vi­ous cre­ators to gen­er­ate a sim­u­lacrum of cre­ativ­i­ty. It is an ilu­sion, and you would be a fool if you think that any­thing you pro­duce with AI is of any worth what­so­ev­er. It will not be of any worth as a cul­tur­al atre­fact and most impor­tant­ly it is of no val­ue to you because you did not strive to bring it into being. It is about the jour­ney not the des­ti­na­tion.

  • Michael Verdun says:

    God save us from bored chil­dren lack­ing vision, patience, dis­ci­pline, under­stand­ing or any­thing remote­ly pos­sess­ing crit­i­cal thought.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.