Calm down, no one is being attacked here. I come in peace. Just one thing up front: it is not theft. Now, hear me out! Whoever came up with that sure knows how to do
propaganda marketing. At least that's where tactics like that come from. Please understand: "AI Art is Theft" as a catch phrase is what the literature calls "... [shifting] the focus of attention away from facts and information, and towards altering the context within which people act" (MINDSPACE document, UK government, p. 14). It means using shock and awe (for instance) to make you stop thinking about a topic and start acting in a certain way ... in this example, it negatively associates something with theft to elicit either guilt to avoid it or compassion to "fight" those "thieves". I don't like harmful shit like that and it makes me wary instantly.
Think, do the research, form an educated opinion, share it with others in open discourse. Repeat ... So I'm going to make my argument here, and you can read it or leave it. If you come to consider my points, I'd be happy to talk about it some more.
This post will be illustrated with results from InspiroBot. You brought this unto you. It also ended up being a bit rambling. Just a bit ... If I repeat a point I deem important, just nod and move on :)
That age-old question: who earns a pretty buck by having things go their way? Closely followed by: who benefits from halting this innovation for as long as possible? And (something you should ALWAYS ask yourself): who benefits from you not thinking about it? You get answers to those three questions, you get a good idea what's going on.
I'm going to say it up front: in my opinion, AI art does not infringe on meat space artists. Or to be more precise, not more than technology already does. That I can write these words here to share it globally instead of screaming them words against a cave wall cost at least one person a job: the guy I had to pay to walk to the next village to tell my story to the people there.
I know, I know, it is a pointed argument, but not without merit, I believe. Technology happens. Always did, does so more frequently now. Just imagine all the tools we already use. Do you know which of those already use some sort of AI to support an artist's work? Just type in "Adobe and AI" into a(n AI supported) search engine of your choice and get up to speed. They already do that with the visual arts and frame it as "tools to support creators".
And rightly so, but the uproar was about the implication where the machine learned to do what it does. Anyone exploring that for Adobe or Amazon or any of the big gorillas in the room? No, not that I know of. Midjourney and Stable Diffusion just painted a huge target on their back by being public about what happens, but it's been happening all along.
As a matter of fact, DeepDream by Google is already seven years old (went public 2015). You think that program did NOT learn from what it found online to look at? Someone suing google about it? Not that I'm aware of ... But there is more! How many apps on our phones already use AI to, for instance, alter pictures? Making you look older or adding a fancy filter to a picture? If AI was used, what do you think that AI learned from to work towards?
I could go on and on. We are already knee deep in AI, for years now, full well knowing where it leads to. HAS to lead to. If you are a (visual) artist and NOT aware of what's happening and what the trajectory of that development is, you are among few. It has been known, witnessed, demonstrated and talked about. So what's the fuzz all about now?
|Be like that? [source]|
It is also work an artist could earn money with, as they should be very capable to use their skill to pretty up prompt results.
For artists themselves, it also is a great opportunity. Midjourney is dirt cheap. Even if they just go for inspirations and elements, I imagine they could speed up their workflow tremendously with AI art at their disposal. Actually, that is already happening! Still making their own thing, but the AI takes some of the heavy lifting ... a tool, just as Adobe put it.
And then you have another important aspect of this whole thing: all of a sudden lots of small artists and publishers are able to compete with mainstream aesthetics. I kid you not, for a small publisher like myself tech like that, for as long as it lasts, is a godsend. Although lots of work, it helps me giving my products the look I imagined for them but couldn't pay for (and I already do a lot, drawing just isn't my strong suit at all).
That whole argument that the AI learning from existing artwork is "theft" is faulty to begin with, actually, as it rests on the idea that it reduces future incomes because it "copies their styles". Or learned by "looking" at pictures posted online in some form of public setting. As pointed out before, no one did that with apps or whatever, but that's not even were I'm going with this.
The point I'm making here, is, that the same happens when I get an inspiration for a layout I saw somewhere else. No one is earning a dime when I do layout and writing myself, even IF I'm inspired by someone else. Which can't be helped, of course, because we constantly look at the outputs of others. Just as the AI, but even that's not the point I'm making here. What I was aiming at was that if I can't pay an artist, I will find ways around that. The whole public domain is full of material a creative mind could make use of.
(And yes, I know, I'm not an "artificial intelligence" but a "natural
intelligence", so it is a bit different. Still, how much different
should be a matter of debate in this context.)
It's also a lot more work than it sounds, but the opportunities and applications of the public domain (and open source in general) are (within their limitations) endless. There are fonts and pictures, millions of books and illustrations ... Everything used from the public domain has an active artist not earn money. Everything I can do myself has someone else not earn money. Is that all frowned upon now? No. But, obviously, the whole public domain and open source movement isn't very popular with people that are actually in a position to hurt them.
Keep that in mind.
Especially since all those AI art services under fire right now are deeply rooted in OpenAI, for instance (all using technology provided to the public via google, among other open sources). The point being, those services used publicly available technology to innovate to a point where they were able to create successful businesses with LOTS of growth and potential.
So established artists have some reason to grief, yes, but only because innovation changed their world (yet again!) and we have to adapt. That's stress, of course, but also a great opportunity for all that can make it work. So did printers not that long ago, for instance, when printing went digital. So did publishers when the whole DTP movement made Print on Demand such a success ...
I know you guys know that it happens all the time. What's different now? Nothing. It is the same players protecting their benefice. And who's that? Not the little artists trying to get by. Not even the big artists, as it has only benefits for them (imagine to be that good that your style is so recognizable, an artificial intelligence can produce work like that). Can't be them. And dead visual artists? Well, same for dead actors or writers ... new technology will revive them for our entertainment. It's inevitable.
As a matter of fact, IF AI learning could be traced to having learned from one specific artist, I doubt they would benefit more if it hadn't. In other words, if this is the future, you'd be better off if it's part of your legacy than if you are being scratched out of it, because this WILL shape our immediate cultural future.
But who really earns from using that technology?
|InspiroBot, reading minds again ... [source]|
You will find that it is THREE artists that are suing through a big law firm specialized in cases like that. And that they actually have a weak case, since their claim seems to be, for instance, that the AI stores those pictures, which it doesn't, and it has an open source/fair use angle plus an international aspect the court could not even begin to address.
We'll have to see how that turns out, BUT it is not a lot to begin with. And that's, to me at least, suspicious. We have seen a tendency in recent years to manipulate "the masses" via social media engineering into acting as Trojan corporate mouth pieces (of sorts), through psychological skullduggery explained, for instance, in that document I shared right in the beginning. We have learned that the "mainstream" media is complicit in this, to a huge extent (see the Twitter Files, for a really, really great example).
Not all voices online are equal. Some are bought or have a vested interest in following a certain agenda, some are more vulnerable to manipulation than others. Needn't go as far as arguing that kids, for instance, are one big group deserving more protection than we are giving them right now. There is VERY solid science about how to manipulate others into doing ... well, anything, really. Public, too! And yet, for some reason, we assume that social media is "just" an exchange of opinions? Even something where an event perceived as a widely acknowledged outrage might accumulate to something true?
No, it is used to earn money and influence. Or, the other way around, it's targeting your money and manipulating you.
So, I don't know about the intention of those three women going to war against AI art. It certainly helped them getting a profile. I also don't trust all the media attention this one got. Yes, it's all new and shiny an TROUBLED, but isn't it also pretty clear cut? What makes me skeptical the most is the perceived social media war drums, the cancel culture looking for new victims. It smells of social engineering. And who does that? Who earns the big bucks with technology? Who benefits from halting innovation forced by a couple of start-ups? Who does not want you to think about those things? Well, the conclusion is, in my opinion, the direct competition.
|Not sure how true that one is :D [source]|
They also have the money, expertise and means to do so. Have been doing so for years, which is pretty evident by now ... so why assume they are not somehow involved? They are, or so I'd argue, the only ones benefiting from this NOT changing the media landscape as fast as it does.
Nowadays, in general, when I see an outrage like this online, my first impulse is to question it. It all became a huge battlefield of psychological warfare and propaganda in just a couple of years, and it is bad for all of us.
So who benefits? I tell you, it's not the little guy. We are, again, reduced to being pawns in a bigger game. Evidence for that is all around us, and it is a safe bet that it is the same machinations being at work here. If not that, than it is mimicking those processes, which is (arguably) just as bad, because:
It's the wrong attack vector ...
Here is the thing, given the huge potential of the technology we are discussing here, the whole discussion that is surrounding it is asking the wrong questions. Technological advancement is (at least) exponential until the innovations happen so fast, they might as well be happening all at once. At that point, the only arguments we as a society/culture will have about what's worth saving (or safeguarding) are those already anchored in our respective cultures/societies.
When that singular event, that singularity happens, the decision what happens next is out of our hands and only our legacy will be able protect us ... or damn us.
So at this point we know AI art will be perfect in a year or two, then films and books and comics, even computer games will be done by AI within, I'd say, the next 3 years. If that slow. The whole media complex: imploding.
That'll also mean that you can have AI programming utilities, it'll teach, it'll do medical procedures. It'll do, in the foreseeable future, ALL the work. We are at that point in time RIGHT NOW. The generation born into the world as I write this will see it in ruins or live to have no need to learn and build and care other than for prosperity. None of our institutions are prepared for that other than using force to conserve the (corrupted, it seems) established. Same goes for the so-called "elites". And the rest of the population seems properly primed and rigged to function under the old paradigms.
So this should be about the BIG QUESTIONS, right? Not some petty bullshit about "the AI looked at my picture" ... no, there are far bigger issues at hand. And yes, I do believe the noise about AI art to be smoke and mirrors. Another fake problem to keep the dirty masses disoriented, disorganized and at each others throat instead of taking a closer look.
As I said, there is, in my view, only one party with a huge interest in keeping it that way, and that would be the direct competition of AI art, and Big Money in general. Proof to the contrary, as far as I can see it, is fucking rare and whimsical at best. The implications are pretty clear: Big Money sees the opportunity to replace a (cheap but still too expensive) working force and just make more profit, with even fewer benefiting from it.
In a sense, they'll tighten and close the economic circle to keep anyone not being part of the inner circle already, out of it indefinitely. To that end, they buy and cheat their way through our institutions. Big Money ALREADY earns too much money to spend, printing new money every day like crazy. So much money, in fact, that a ridiculously small percentage of it is enough to buy EVERYONE earning a regular salary or less into submission with ease.
|There's truth in this ... [source]|
And sure enough, it all connects to how technological innovation is speeding up as well, challenging the existing order of things.
And sure enough, we already see signs of this on a global scale.
Here's what's happening and why ...
small business that works with artwork will sooner or later use AI art
indiscriminately. I'm already seeing this happening here in Germany. It is just a tool and used as such by anyone not caring enough, even, what it looks like (and it'll be only a question of time until it will be perfect).
GPT isn't challenged like we see with AI art, but already censored towards conformity (Midjourney, too, has limitations as to what can be created, and I think there's room for debate about that, too). There is a huge danger, imo (Kim Iverson has a good video on the subject here). The decisions what's right or wrong aren't a
process of culture anymore, they are decided by those at the dials,
following ideas not everyone agrees to (or should agree to, for that
matter). Maybe even following ideas we don't want to be stuck with in the long run? But especially ideas we should have overcome a long time ago already.
Make no mistake, big money is already using this to make more money, and will do so more openly within a year. Elon Musk's (who also had a hand in OpenAI, btw) biggest investment in the last 6 months was into AI tools. This is coming, and it is coming fast.
If Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and GitHUB get thwarted or even destroyed by this, it'll all still happen, with even less access and heavier control by Big Money. We can say that from experience now, it's the pattern they thrive on. Again, look at how Adobe is setting it up. The only bone of contention with Midjourney etc., was to have those tools available for everyone and for a reasonable price.
You think Microsoft or Google would go a less greedy route? Adobe for sure doesn't, and Big Business in general seems to be very fond of some kind of subscription scheme where you keep paying until you die, ideally increasingly so and with debt as well.
So spare me the fake outrage, and start being productive about this. We'll desperately need an informed public very soon. The French are already restless ...
|Fair enough ... or is it? [source]|
There is a recurring pattern in history that huge medial innovations lead to huge upheavals. It has always been that way, and maybe it cannot be avoided to be that way again or that we live to see it, but I'd urge readers to readjust their targeting a little bit. AI art is not theft, we are being stolen from all the time, we are being manipulated to believe that we have reason to hate each other instead of questioning who made us point that finger.
It is quite enough of that, I'd say.
You don't have to believe me when I say that social media phenomena like this are, more often than not, systemic these days, but the evidence is out there for everybody to find. We have open corruption in the highest administrative bodies of our western culture and it goes unpunished, for fuck sake. On a daily basis. Social media is geared to escalate shit, people are geared to get riled up like that, and those in power will use their possibilities to make happen what they see fit. Because they can.
So, just take a step back and think before riding into the next social media craze, all guns blazing. It's not all that it's made out to be. And fair enough, you can disagree with what I was writing here. I believe I made a good case, but fair enough. Allow me the courtesy to disagree with your take, then, and we move along our own paths. Works for me. Just stay positive about it all. And if you are an artist struggling because of AI art, let me tell you
it'll get worse for everyone soon you'll be all right.
Actually, if you are the creating type, I really believe you will be all right. There's always something to do, always something to create, and maybe this development will wake people up to the truth that it is part of human nature to create. Not for all, but for some of us. And we should cherish that as a society. But if all fails, you'll have that drive at least and it will bring you joy. So yeah, it'll be all right and I'm sorry for your troubles. May you find the strength to overcome those difficulties.
One last thing. I am in contact with artists, and the reactions had been always the same: intrigued shock. Something between "I can stop doing that now" and "Uuuh, it's so great, how can I use it to do some wicked shit?!". I imagine it is the same all around.
Other than that, I've said quite enough about this already and I'll close with a couple of quotes and concepts for you guys to think about. First of all, I'll share the "Seven Tells of Cognitive Bias" as per Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame). The guy is a bit full of himself, in a insecure kind of way, BUT he's spot on in this, imo, so I'll share it (a short yt video about it can be found here). If this comes up in a discussion, it is fair to assume that the tells indicate that the person using it has no real grasp of the argument (describing some Rhetological Fallacies, of course, but that's unpopular and complicated).
SEVEN TELLS FOR COGNITIVE BIAS
- Changes Topic (something like "You don't like X, so you can't understand Z!")
- Ad Hominem (if all fails, people will get personal)
- Mind Reading (saying something outrages, implying that you think that way)
- Word Salad (if it doesn't make sense and can't be made sense of, it's most likely just gibberish to avoid defeat)
- Uses Analogy Instead of Reason ()
- Insists it's "complicated" and can't be summarized (basically the "I'm not a doctor." argument, which is bs, of course)
- The "So ..." Tell (basically the Kathy Newman approach of misrepresenting your argument with something akin to "So you are saying [add misrepresentation]")
I'll close with a quote from a Terence McKenna interview I'm very fond of (his last recorded interview, they say, you can see it here). So fond, in fact, that I used it on the back of the RPG I published (ORWELL). It was as fitting on the back of that book as it is here:
"This is what it's like when a species prepares to depart for the stars. You don't depart for the stars under calm and orderly conditions. It's a ﬁre in a madhouse. And that's what we have: The ﬁre in the mad-house at the end of time." (T. M., 1998)
Here's an InspiroBot quote that came up, featuring a base element of ORWELL (the title being Leet Speak and all that), so it deserves a place here as well:
|I liked that on for the Ø, obviously ... [source]|
And with this, I'm done. I'll use the pictures I created in Midjourney for my publications, and I see no harm in that. I'll make a note of it, so people can decide for themselves if it matters to them. I have no way of influencing that decision. After all, it is just superficial garnishing and it should be about the content instead of petty bullshit. But yeah, limits of control and all that. I'd just as quick work with an artist (as I did in the past) or use public domain art or diy it, as best as I can.
Thank you for taking the time. Stay safe out there, friends, it'll be a bumpy ride.
|Yeah, sounds about right ... an AI's dream [source]|