Brianna White

Staff member
Mar 25, 2020
The buzz around generative AI today is deafening.
Generative AI refers to artificial intelligence that can generate novel content, rather than simply analyzing or acting on existing data. No topic in the world of technology is attracting more attention and hype right now.
The white-hot epicenter of today’s generative AI craze has been text-to-image AI. Text-to-image AI models generate detailed original images based on simple written inputs. (See here for some examples.) The most well-known of these models include Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and OpenAI’s DALL-E.
It was the sudden emergence of these text-to-image AI models over the summer that catalyzed today’s generative AI frenzy: billion-dollar funding rounds for nascent startups, over-the-top company launch parties, nonstop media coverage, waves of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists hastily rebranding themselves as AI-focused.
It makes sense that text-to-image AI, more than any other area of artificial intelligence, has so captivated the public’s imagination. Images are aesthetically appealing, easy to consume, fun to share, ideally suited to go viral.
And to be sure, text-to-image AI is incredibly powerful technology. The images that these models can produce are breathtaking in their originality and sophistication. We have explored text-to-image AI’s tremendous potential in previous articles in this column, last month as well as in early 2021. Image-generating AI will transform industries including advertising, gaming and filmmaking.
But make no mistake: current buzz notwithstanding, AI-powered text generation will create many orders of magnitude more value than will AI-powered image generation in the years ahead. Machines’ ability to generate language—to write and speak—will prove to be far more transformative than their ability to generate visual content.
Language is humanity’s single most important invention. More than anything else, it is what sets us apart from every other species on the planet. Language enables us to reason abstractly, to develop complex ideas about what the world is and could be, to communicate these ideas to one another, and to build on them across generations and geographies. Almost nothing about modern civilization would be possible without language.
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