AI Generated Art: A Creatives’ Friend Or Foe?

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I would like to invite you to think about a sword. On its own, it’s harmless. When brandished by the good, can protect a community. Yet, when wielded by the corrupt, will enslave it.

There is a new sword that has materialized in the art community: AI generated art. The AI behind it isn’t necessarily bad, but has, sadly, been used unethically, which threatens living artists’ livelihood and intellectual property.

Art is a personal form of expression. Making art is a show of vulnerability, so regardless of the art medium, living artists speak through their work. With the security of the art community’s space of vulnerability being threatened, there has to be boundaries made.

What is AI generated art?

AI generated art is typically a product of an AI or algorithm scrapping the internet for images that match either its training or its given prompt and combines them together.

Unlike with living artists, AI can’t just reference or be inspired by these works. Since AI doesn’t have independent thoughts or the ability to interpret, it sticks to replicating the materials it is given.

Instead of being able to approach art as a form of expression, AI treats it as a math problem to solve – it can only follow set rules, never question.

Art, AI Generated Art: A Creatives’ Friend Or Foe?

Why is AI generated art detrimental to the art community?

As of writing this, there is no way to verify whether or not the living artists whose works have trained AI have consented to doing so. It sucks.

Literally anyone with access to AI can train it with any artworks they have copies of and start generating work from there. After the fact, the works generated can be profited off of. Just as it is with the choices of others, it’s beyond living artists’ control what people who generate AI art choose to do with the AI outputs.

In this context, the issue with generating AI art isn’t just one of plagiarism, but also eventual unfair competition.

Think of it through the pie analogy: You, a baker, have bought all the ingredients that you need to bake a pie. You spend a lot of your efforts, time, and resources just to make it. And, after doing such, you share it with others.

While sharing your pie, someone takes a slice – seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. But, this person has taken your pie slice and put it in a pie tin with slices from pies made by others, to sell it as their own. This person has bypassed the need for them to spend on ingredients and dedicate time to making a pie by taking yours.

Personally, I think it’s sad having dedicated yourself to understanding and learning a craft, then just having what you’ve made be pitted against you by a person who, unfortunately for you, came across your passion.

Art, AI Generated Art: A Creatives’ Friend Or Foe?

But is there a way AI can help creatives?

Instead of being used to develop final outputs, AI can be used to help draft artworks.

From personal experience, drafting is a nightmare. Being able to imagine what you want to show in your artwork, but not being able to keep that mental image long enough to translate it to a page is cruel – it’s a cruel, cruel prank our brains pull on their own. In other cases, there are people who have aphantasia and can’t visualize imagery at all.

With how visual art is, it’s common practice for living artists to reference and be inspired by each other’s works; references can be pulled from videos, photographs, painting, drawings, and even text.

If AI was used as a tool to make the creative process easier, it could help living artists create more works that could enhance how they visually communicate what both they, and their audiences want to.

Art, AI Generated Art: A Creatives’ Friend Or Foe?

However, before any of this could be possible, there has to be boundaries set. AI shouldn’t just be able to train off of and use any media that’s been shared publicly. If there was a developed resource space like a public library wherein living artists consent to and are credited for having their works used in AI generated art, media would be ethically sourced, and the art community’s development would be supported.

The last thing living artists would want to do is limit people’s self-expression. The frustration the art community has towards AI generated art isn’t towards the AI, but rather the people who unethically profit off of the self-expression of living artists.

Just because technological advancement has made it possible for people to do things they haven’t done before, doesn’t mean it should be done. Even with AI, we still need to be human.

Banner by: @ysacanlas

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