Until then, we'll keep taking advantage of these tools—and debating their relative merits.
Take LiveSurface for example. With its library of image templates, LiveSurface lets designers make comps of just about anything look real—and look really frickin' good. The first time we used it marked the last time we'd ever again download a Getty photo, clone out the watermark, clean up the background, and squeeze in a logo to make what amounted to—at best—a pretty bad, low-res visual approximation of what that logo might look like in a real world application.
Of course, just because something is quick and easy to do doesn't necessarily make it appropriate. Putting lipstick on a pig is still a no-no, even if that pig no longer needs to spend hours in the make-up chair.
While LiveSurface saves time—time that can then be rededicated to higher-value tasks (concept refinement, etc.)—does using it mean we're missing an opportunity to learn something new by actually working through the challenge of helping a client visualize a concept? Are the muscles we used to use to find creative ways of showing our work atrophying? In an increasingly look-alike/sound-alike world, do we risk seeming "unoriginal" by presenting the same billboard/t-shirt/magazine spread as the firm across town? And here's the big question… if you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, does that really matter?
No tool should ever lead the designer, and the same goes for LiveSurface. We use it when appropriate, and we'll continue to do so. It can be a much-appreciated time-saver with the potential to free us up to make our ideas more awesome. That's good, because now that we have a ready solution to the problem of showcasing ideas in context with hi-res images, the pressure is on like never before to come up with genuinely great ideas.