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What Is Generative AI And How Does It Work?

    Reposition Services UK
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    By Dev
    September 27, 2023
    ~ 7 minutes to read

    What Is Generative AI And How Does It Work

    Generative artificial intelligence (AI) refers to a type of AI system that can generate new content, such as text, images, audio, and video, based on the data it has been trained on. Unlike more traditional AI systems that are designed to analyse data and make predictions or classifications, generative AI models can create completely new artefacts that may not exist in their training data. Some of the key examples and applications of generative AI include:

    Text Generation

    Text generation using AI has seen rapid advances in recent years. Models like GPT-3 created by OpenAI can now generate human-like text on a vast range of topics, in a conversational style. The key steps in text generation models are:

    – Training on a massive text dataset: Billions of text samples from books, websites, and other sources are used to train the language model on statistical relationships between words.

    – Learning a word representation: The model learns to represent each word as a high-dimensional vector known as an embedding. Words with similar meanings have similar vector representations.

    – Building a predictive model: A deep learning model like a transformer is trained to predict the next word in a sequence given the previous words and their embeddings.

    – Generating text: The trained model can generate new text by sampling predicted words one after another. Temperature parameters control creativity vs. coherence.

    Some of the major applications of AI text generation include conversational agents like chatbots, content writing support, summarisation, and translation.

    Image Generation

    Generative AI has made stunning advances in synthesising photo-realistic fake images and editing images. Some examples:

    – GANs – Generative adversarial networks consist of two neural nets, a generator and discriminator, competing against each other to create realistic outputs. GANs can generate convincing fake faces, objects, and entire scenes.

    – Variational Autoencoders (VAEs) – VAEs learn to encode images into a latent space and can generate images by sampling points in this space. Allows editing images by changing the latent code.

    – Diffusion models – These generate images by starting with random noise and refining it over repeated steps guided by the model. Can generate high-fidelity images.

    – Image-to-image models – Models like DALL-E learn the relationship between text descriptions and images. This allows the generating of images from text prompts and editing images by changing the text.

    Key applications of AI image generation include creating artwork, icons, logos, and VR environments based on text prompts, and assisting graphic designers and artists in their creative work.

    Audio Generation

    Text-to-speech systems convert text into human-like speech using deep learning. Key steps include:

    – Text processing – The input text is processed and normalised to expand numbers, abbreviations etc.

    – Text-to-phoneme conversion – Words are converted into their phonetic representations based on pronunciation rules.

    – Waveform generation – Acoustic models generate the speech waveform, modelling aspects like pitch, tone and volume.

    – Vocoder – final lifelike audio is created by modelling the human vocal tract.

    Advanced systems can now mimic voices, accents, and intonations very realistically. Some models like ElevenLabs’ Anthropic system can generate audio speech from simple text prompts. Audio generation has applications in accessibility, virtual assistants, gaming, entertainment, and more.

    For musical audio, AI systems like Google Magenta and AMPED Studio use neural networks to generate new music mimicking different styles and instruments.

    Video Generation

     Generative models can also create artificial but convincing video content. Although more complex than other domains, some examples include:

    – Text-to-video models like Cascade, which can turn natural language into video by decomposing the process into generating a sequence of scene graphs, 3D poses, voices and faces.

    – GAN models for generating and editing faces in videos to create deepfakes. Models like Nvidia’s StyleGAN can create photorealistic videos of non-existent people.

    – Animation & simulation – AI systems can simulate physics and animate objects automatically for use in video game engines and CGI.

    – Editing and modifying video – Models that interpolate between frames can create slow-motion effects or edit footage seamlessly by training on unmodified videos.

    Applications include creating video game animations more efficiently, producing fake user-generated video content, and special effects, and enhancing existing video footage.

    Tradeoffs with Generative AI

    Despite its promise, wider adoption of generative AI brings many risks and challenges including:

    – Bias and harm – Generative models often perpetuate and amplify societal biases and harms seen in the training data. More diverse data and techniques to reduce unwanted bias are needed.

    – Misinformation – Synthetic media like deepfakes can spread misinformation and be hard to detect. Developing better authentication methods is crucial.

    – Intellectual property – Generating outputs derived from copyrighted training data raises IP issues around ownership, attribution and fair use.

    – Automation and jobs – Generative AI could automate creative jobs like designers, writers, and composers. But it may also create new human roles in curating and managing AI systems.

    Overall, generative AI holds enormous potential but also needs ethical oversight and governance to develop responsibly. Striking the right balance between innovation and regulation will help determine its future.

    What Is Generative AI And How Does It Work

    How Generative Models Work

    At a high level, generative AI models work by:

    1. Learning patterns from massive sets of training data like images, text, or audio. This allows them to build a statistical representation of the underlying structure.
    2. They use their learned knowledge of these patterns to generate completely new outputs. The outputs resemble the training data but are unique creations of the model.

    Let’s go through some key principles and algorithms used in major generative AI models:

    Neural networks

    Most advanced generative models use neural networks – computing systems modelled on the human brain’s neurons. Neural nets transform input data through multiple computational layers, each detecting different features. They learn to make predictions by optimising their internal parameters from training examples. Generative models use neural nets in creative ways to generate data.

    Learning latent representations

    Generative models create lower-dimensional latent representations of their input data that capture the most salient features. For images, this latent space encodes features like edges, textures, object parts etc. Text representations may encode semantics, topics, stylistic features etc. Generating new outputs boils down to navigating this latent space in creative ways.

    Variational autoencoders

    VAEs learn the latent space by training paired encoder-decoder networks. The encoder compresses the input to a latent code. The decoder tries to reconstruct the original input from this code. The model is trained to minimise reconstruction loss. VAEs allow editing by tweaking the latent codes.

    Generative adversarial networks (GANs)

    GANs consist of two competing neural nets – a generator G that tries to produce realistic outputs, and a discriminator D that classifies outputs as real or fake. The generator learns to fool the discriminator through this adversarial training. GANs can generate sharp images but can be difficult to train.

    Diffusion models

    These start with pure noise and train a model to progressively refine it into realistic outputs using thousands of small steps. Each step is guided by the model predictions. Versatile for generating both images and audio. Diffusion models avoid the stability issues of GANs.

    Autoregressive models

    Autoregressive models decompose the generation process into a sequence of steps where the next symbol is predicted based on previous ones. They model complex dependencies and are widely used for text generation. Transformers like GPT-3 are powerful autoregressive models.

    Customising and Controlling Generative AI

    Leveraging generative AI models for practical applications requires customising and controlling how they generate outputs, such as:

    – Fine-tuning – pre-trained models are adapted to new datasets or domains through continued training on relevant data. Improves the quality of generated outputs.

    – Conditioning – Additional context like class labels or text captions are provided as input to steer the model’s outputs. Allows user control.

    – Curating datasets – Training data is carefully curated to remove unwanted bias and shape model behaviour. Models amplify patterns in data.

    – Monitoring – Continuously evaluating model outputs for issues like bias, toxicity, and plagiarism through automated and human review.

    – Editing tools – Interfaces that allow editing discrete model parameters or latent vectors to modify outputs. Provides intuitive control.

    – Orchestration – Chaining multiple generative and discriminative models together to get desired outputs. Each performs a sub-task.

    Advances in areas like multimodality, reinforcement learning, and knowledge representation will further improve our ability to make generative AI systems both creative and controllable.

    The Current State of Generative AI

    Generative AI is one of the most rapidly advancing fields of AI research currently. Some key trends include:

    – Increasing scale – Models continue to grow larger, now reaching billions of parameters. Larger models show improved generalisation and the ability to generate more domains. Scale increases as computing power grows.

    – Multimodal capabilities – Models that can generate synchronised outputs across image, text, audio and video modalities are emerging. Allows more consistent, integrated generative abilities.

    – Higher resolution outputs – Generative models are steadily improving in their output resolution and fidelity across modalities. Megapixel image generation, Hi-Fi audio, and 4K video generation are now possible.

    – Geared for creators – Tools are emerging that make it easier for graphic designers, artists, and writers to integrate generative AI into their workflows through interfaces tuned for creatives.

    – Startup and open-source activity – Many startups are building products around generative AI. Open-source models allow wider access and customisation. Investment and talent interest is rising fast.

    – Specialised domain applications – Domain-targeted models for drug discovery, material design, code generation etc. are demonstrating generative AI’s versatility across industries.

    We are still in the early days of exploring how generative AI can augment and enhance human creativity. As models continue to co-evolve with computational power and data availability, generative AI will drive disruptive changes across sectors.

    Future outlook

    Generative AI paints an exciting picture of the future where intelligent algorithms become creative collaborators amplifying human ingenuity. Some promising directions include:

    Hybrid human-AI creativity

    Rather than replace artists and thinkers, generative models will augment how humans can create, imagine, and reason. AI assistants will rapidly produce alternatives for human judgment, selection and refinement. Co-creativity will unlock new creative boundaries.

    Democratisation of creation

    Generating personalised photos, videos, designs, and music will become accessible to everyone, not just experts. This can support wider participation in cultural production and help find undiscovered talent.

    Ethical AI

    Better datasets, controlled generation, bias mitigation and human oversight will improve the ethics and safety of generative models. This is essential for earning societal trust and preventing harm. Integrating ethics into the R&D process will unlock generative AI’s benefits.

    Generative coding

    AI techniques that can generate, analyse, and refine software code will augment programmers and allow rapid customisation of applications. Automating rote coding tasks will amplify productivity.

    Scientific insight

    Generative models that create novel molecules, materials, mechanisms etc. will accelerate scientific discovery in domains like chemistry, quantum physics, and biology. AI’s unbounded creativity will aid human researchers’ intuition and rigour.

    The future of generative AI looks bright across industries and aspects of society. With responsible development, generative AI can open up a world of new creative possibilities that augment human intelligence in wondrous ways.

    References and Resources

    – Anthropic research page on conversational AI: https://www.anthropic.com

    – OpenAI blog on DALL-E image generation model: https://openai.com/blog/dall-e/

    – DeepMind on MuseNet musical AI: https://deepmind.com/blog/article/musenet

    – Analysis of AI creativity from Stanford HAI: https://hai.stanford.edu/research/ai-and-creativity

    – Overview of generative models from Google AI: https://ai.googleblog.com/2022/04/pathways-language-model-palm-scaling-to.html

    – Generative AI applications from Nvidia research: https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2022/03/23/what-is-generative-ai/

    – Technical tutorial on GANs from Stanford: http://stanford.edu/~shervine/teaching/cs-230/cheatsheet-generative-adversarial-networks

    – IEEE journal paper on generative AI safety: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9732960

    Let me know if you would like me to expand or clarify anything further! I aimed to provide an accessible introduction to this rapidly evolving technology and its future potential.


    Generative AI is ushering in an era of machines that can synthesize novel content with increasing realism and versatility. The algorithms powering systems like DALL-E, GPT-3 and MuseNet hint at the enormous creativity unlocked by artificial intelligence. However, thoughtfully curating the training data, honing the human-AI interaction, and proactively addressing risks is crucial to steer these technologies toward benevolent and enriching applications. If developed responsibly, generative models could profoundly expand how we create, discover and even comprehend our world, bringing human imagination and AI together in a collaborative dance. The future looks bright for this union between human creativity and artificial ingenuity.