AI Art: Implicating Implications
It might have taken a few weeks, but serious decisions about something you love doing take time. AI art is something I have a passion for and something that was called into question by a video that I recently saw. AI art is a debate that just will not be solved in a single blog post like this, nor in a long debate between friends. It is not an easy issue, but it is a debate that needs to be had.
Like a lot of artists, I disagree that algorithms are a mere tool to be added to the artist's toolkit. First of all, if someone has the skill of, say, John Carling, one has spent years perfecting it and honing it. The simple fact is that I cannot do anything like that. Taking an individual such as myself and turning me into someone who can generate some pretty cool images in a week, AI “tools” are clearly more than tools.
This is not denied by the language used by the makers of these algorithms, either. While not stated directly, it is not a wild leap of thought to see a world in which artists of the manual type are replaced.
OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI)—by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work—benefits all of humanity. — OpenAI (Makers of Dalle-2)
Given that “economically valuable work” is performed only for the profit it bestows, “outperform” here really implies “replace”. If you are an artist (and that is not the limit of the potential replacement of humans), this just does not bode well.
Furthermore, I can prompt Nightcafe to search for styles like Jon Carling, which might skirt close to breaking the Terms of Service for Dalle-2, but has not stopped anyone doing it. Nightcafe even has artists' names in the trending prompts section. As someone who has a strong sense of theft, this is pretty much it.
Even beyond the ethical concerns I have, there are the control issues. Nightcafe forbids users to copyright the images generated there. Other services forbid commercial use altogether. At the moment, these organisations are small companies with a great deal of control over what is allowable and who has rights to various use models. That level of control over the artistic process and outcome concerns me. With artists gone, the only art will be in the hands of a select group of companies with the technology to do it. Midjourney, Nightcafe and OpenAI all have a major head start in this.
Looking at the abuses of companies that have just reached the news, one would be naive at best to think developers of AI algorithms would have any more virtue if they attained a near-monopoly and the attendant sums of money.
For the same of disclosure, I have deliberately painted a one-sided picture of AI art. People will disagree, none more so than those people who have a significant part of their identity connected to their status as “AI Artists”. This understandable. I understand the anger that my own position might prompt. However, that does not mean the debate should be drowned out in abuse, name-calling and emotional outbursts, as so many other debates have been and continue to be.
I am Bryan Kēhua. I was an Nightcafe user. I was never an artist.