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Artificial Intelligence Will Not Beat Human Creativity, Egyptian Professor Says

Artificial intelligence will not beat human creativity, Hala Zayed, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at Egypt University of Informatics, told a forum this week during the Cairo International Book Fair.

“Despite the growing concerns about the impact of AI, it will not overcome humans in terms of creative abilities in their true sense in many fields, including the literature and knowledge industries,” Zayed said.

Zayed spoke during a session of a Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the Knowledge Industry, which Egypt University for Informatics (EUI) organised as a component of the book fair. The conference, held on February 3, explored how developments in artificial intelligence were affecting publishing, creativity and translation.

“Despite the growing concerns about the impact of AI, it will not overcome humans in terms of creative abilities in their true sense in many fields, including the literature and knowledge industries.”

Hala Zayed, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at Egypt’s University of Informatics

Reem Bahgat, the university’s acting president, said that the forum aimed to discuss ways to keep pace with modern technologies and attempt to benefit from AI in literature, culture, and knowledge.

Ahmed Bahi El-Din, chairman of the Egyptian General Book Authority, said that the troubling question whether AI could replace authors and creators “needs to be reconsidered based on correct concepts.” 

Yousry El-Gamal, a former Egyptian minister of education, said that the unprecedented success of applications like ChatGPT had drawn attention to the potential role of generative AI tools in supporting the knowledge industry and improving research and education. Yet that success also raises many concerns over issues including privacy, biases embedded in databases the tools are built on, and whether the tools are threat to the labour market.

كتب ونقاشات ومؤتمرات.. الذكاء الاصطناعي يحضر بقوة في فعاليات معرض القاهرة الدولي للكتاب
A presentation during the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the Knowledge Industry, which Egypt University for Informatics
organised as a component of the Cairo International Book Fair. (Photo: Al-Fanar Media)

El-Gamal believes that there are “legal, ethical, and technical challenges” which require the cooperation of all parties, including researchers, legislators, and academics, to reach solutions that can maximise the benefit of such important technologies.

Partner or Threat?

Ashraf Mahdi, an assistant professor in EUI’s Faculty of Digital Arts, said AI offered both advantages and disadvantages in areas like designing book covers. It could boost creativity by generating ideas for designers, but it could also take away jobs. 

“I urge publishers not to lean towards AI techniques and their dazzling options, because then everything will be similar,” Mahdi said. “With time, we will lose the element of uniqueness, which is one of art’s main characteristics.”

Ahmed Bedeir, chief executive of the Egyptian publishing house Dar Al-Shorouk, said that fears about AI competing with human creativity were normal, and could be read in the context of “the anxiety that accompanies the emergence of new technologies, prompting industries to feel threatened.”

“Publishing is primarily based on freedom of expression and creativity,” Bedeir said. “It is positive that workers in this sector use AI in developing their work, whether in research or analysis, especially editors who can adapt these technologies to improve the final product, without being replaced by it.” 

“I urge publishers not to lean towards AI techniques and their dazzling options, because then everything will be similar. With time, we will lose the element of uniqueness, which is one of art’s main characteristics.”

Ashraf Mahdi, an assistant professor in EUI’s Faculty of Digital Arts

“Modern technology’s role is basically to make things easier for humans,” he continued. If the publishing industry had not adopted new technologies over the years, “we would still be engraving on stones.”

Hatem El-Kadi, an associate professor at Cairo University’s Faculty of Computers and Artificial Intelligence, said AI could help publishers in ways like detecting whether a submitted text was plagiarised or had been copied from another foreign language.

In the end, he said, it works alongside the publishing industry, rather than threatening it.

AI and Translation Challenges

Concerns about AI and translation were also raised in another discussion at the Cairo International Book Fair, at the “Kalima Project for Translation” pavilion, affiliated with the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

These included the question of whether it is possible for AI to replace translators. The Egyptian translator Rasha El-Dakhakhny said that AI techniques can help translators do research.

Artificial Intelligence Will Not Beat Human Creativity, Egyptian Professor Says
A panel discussion during the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the Knowledge Industry at the Cairo International Book Fair.
(Photo: Al-Fanar Media)

Some speakers distinguished between technical translation, such as commercial, scientific, and legal matters, where AI has made considerable progress, and the art of translating literary works. Simply feeding algorithms with vocabulary doesn’t work, they said, because capturing an author’s style requires the skills of a literary translator.

The Egyptian translator Mohamed El-Fouly cited his experience of translating the Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos, saying: “Literature is about writing one thing in order to say something else. No matter how developed AI is, it will not be able to catch the spirit of the text and the author’s style, and resolve the confusion posed by words with double meanings, the apparent and the hidden.”

Artificial Intelligence Will Not Beat Human Creativity, Egyptian Professor Says
Over its two-week run, the 55th edition of the Cairo International Book Fair drew nearly five million visitors, a record number, Egyptian officials said. (Photo via the fair)

He added: “How do AI algorithms deconstruct the author’s style, comprehend paradoxes, and the hidden relationship between the translator and the text? Feeling the text cannot be fed by equations and algorithmic calculations. And this becomes two times more difficult when it comes to the Arabic language, with its peculiarities.”

“Publishing is primarily based on freedom of expression and creativity. It is positive that workers in this sector use AI in developing their work, … especially editors who can adapt these technologies to improve the final product, without being replaced by it.”

Ahmed Bedeir, chief executive of the Egyptian publishing house Dar Al-Shorouk

El-Fouly pointed to a study issued by a Spanish university on artificial intelligence in the literary translation of Virginia Woolf’s works from English to Spanish. The study concluded that “there is still a long way to go before we can rely on it, as AI has not been able to decipher the ambiguity of many of Virgina Woolf texts’ contexts, nor attain the transmission of her own style.”

The Cairo International Book Fair kicked off on January 25 and ran through February 6. This year’s event featured 1,200 publishers from 70 countries and welcomed nearly five million visitors.  

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