Regarding Generative AI

Regarding Generative AI

There is perhaps nothing more divisive in the world of the arts right now than the advent of generative AI. It is The Beginning of the End. It is the Death of the Creative Professional. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.generated AI image of the Boogeyman

As the inevitability of this scenario was laid out for me across a hundred or more fictional dystopias in my youth and I've seen a hundred more real life threads of societal change and technological advancement creeping inexorably towards this moment across five decades, this particular looming apocalypse neither surprises nor distresses me. 

I get the fear. I really do. But I moved past it a long time ago. Here's why. Two words. Human provenance. In an age of miracles, the half-life of the miraculous shrinks exponentially. What persists across the eons in its ability to inspire wonder amongst humans is a beautiful thing, in any medium, crafted by an interesting mind. 

And it is my considered opinion as an artist, writer, photographer, student of history (art and otherwise), and software engineer that generative AI is simply a new artistic medium -- perhaps one better wielded by poets and songwriters than painters and sculptors - but a new medium nonetheless. 

However, it is also a medium built on the work of thousands of living creative professionals who have largely not consented to the use of, nor been compensated for, intellectual property that continues to be monetized. That's a big fucking problem.

I don't believe that the answer is to restrict the thing. That feels futile. The answer is to build in traceability back to reference sources and compensate their creators based on usage.

Some in software development will say "that's not possible based on the way ML algorithms work" which is, to use a software engineering term, horseshit. It's simply a regulatory requirement that has not been implemented in our government or tech industry, yet. I speak of what is possible not as a matter of professional opinion, but as an observation of production features currently and historically present in the MidJourney Discord bot, one provider of a commodity service that thousands of others and I have subscribed to for about $30/month for a few years now. 

The bottom line is, nobody is going to make the tech industry pay artists fairly unless and until we make them. And the best way to do that is in court. For this reason, 50% of the profits from all products on this site based on generative AI collaborations will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation until the makers of these tools begin compensating creators for the data they've monetized. 

generated AI image of a room filled with giant centipedes and a horrified man

 All images used in this post generated via MidJourney AI