I’ve been trying for a while now to find a word that encapsulates what is happening now with arts, culture, music, entertainment, literature as a result of generative AI. And the word I have finally landed on is Generativist.

The word already has a sort of meaning by way of linguistics, in generative grammar, which is something I don’t admittedly know much more about than skimming a few web pages. GPT-4 provided me with this very compessed explanation:

Generative grammar, proposed by Noam Chomsky, suggests that humans have an innate ability to understand and use language based on a “universal grammar” hard-wired into the brain. This theory posits that a finite set of grammatical rules can generate an infinite number of sentences. Essentially, it’s an explanation for how we rapidly learn and use complex language systems, and how we can understand and produce sentences we’ve never heard before.

So anyway, I tried taking some ideas I had been writing along the veins of what a “Generativist” art movement might look like, which embraces AI technologies as co-creative partners that can lift up the human creative spirit, and which ultimately also spring from it as a kind of fulfillment of one form of it. Here is a sort of sketch I wrote out on paper, which I then fed back into GPT-4:

Humans, as living things, are generative beings.

We make, because life makes.

We make art,

We make AI,

as an extension of life’s own making.

We make our imaginations

into solid places others can go,

into shared hallucinations

given tangible reality.

We no longer have to be alone in our dreams

unless we wish to be…

in order to seek the solace and refuge

of solitary silence

and the space to create anew

from the decaying forms of the old

And here is the draft text that I pulled out after several iterations with ChatGPT, suggesting what kinds of principles a Generativist Manifesto might contain, while preserving some of my poetic language above:

Innate Generativity: We, humans, as living things are generative beings. We make because life makes. We make art, we make AI, as an extension of life’s own making. This inherent capacity to create is universal and generative systems provide a means to explore and harness it.

Universal Structures: We assert the existence of universal structures and patterns underlying all forms of art, akin to the universal grammar of language. These structures are the framework of our making, the bones of our shared hallucinations given tangible reality.

Generative Systems as Tools: We regard generative systems as tools that can expand the creative capacities of the human mind, not as replacements for human creativity. They are the mechanisms through which we make our imaginations into solid places others can go.

Infinite Creativity from Finite Means: We believe in the potential of generating infinite artistic expressions from finite creative rules and structures. Like language that spins infinite sentences from finite grammatical rules, so do we spin infinite dreams from the loom of life.

Language and Art: We acknowledge the close relationship between language and art, between the word spoken and the image conjured. Through generative processes, we explore this relationship further, creating both linguistic and non-linguistic works.

The Space of Solitary Silence: We recognize the importance of solitude, the necessity of a space to create anew from the decaying forms of the old. In the quiet, we find the freedom to dream, and in our dreams, the seeds of new realities.

Critical Engagement with Technology: While we embrace the use of generative systems, we also critically engage with them. We reflect on the assumptions and biases that may be built into these systems and how they may impact the dreams we bring to life.

It’s a little wooden maybe in its language, but it touches on a lot of good core components that I wanted to preserve in a more raw form before trying to work on in more finished versions. I think it needs to work in still some of the conceptions around hyperreality & reality fluid, the uncanny valley, plus putting authorship & ownership into kind of a backseat role… Probably a few other odds & ends like that to incorporate here, but good enough base to share & move forward.