Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

Generative AI & Creation: Eliminating Production Costs is Not Enough

You won't get rich selling AI-generated stuff

When Generative AI was introduced, there were people who were concerned that the technology would lead to an avalanche of computer-generated junk that would bury meaningful human creation. These concerns came to life very quickly. There were reports that Amazon became flooded with AI-written books. The same thing started to appear on Etsy by the summer: people started using AI along with on-demand print and merchandising firms to flood the design platform with products.

The fundamental problem with this strategy, as this video by YouTuber Jensen Tung illustrates, the market for this kind of art is flooded. It is hard to break through the clutter to have your generated product viewed, let alone purchased. You can use all of the automation in the world to find audiences, develop concepts, design the product, and work out the production chain. In fact, tons of people already have. So even your narrowly targeted specialty product may already be in competition on Etsy with tens of thousands of competing products.

I am sure that someone will make money through the generation and commercialization of mass-designed products, but that many more will lose money trying to build businesses like this. The problem with this strategy is that it focuses on capitalizing on lower production costs, but does not have a strong strategy for building demand, establishing a brand, or creating thoughtful innovations. It’s just blasting craft markets with undirected, weakly-processed cheap stuff.

It takes more than low costs to produce a successful cultural product. In recent years, humans have already started producing and distributing things like writing, images, videos, podcasts, or software for free. Just because it is out there does not mean that it will be found and valued. Successful products need to find markets, and it can be difficult to find a market if you are chasing already-established markets with “me too” products.

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