As an early advocate for AI (Artificial Intelligence) I get some pushback from people who don’t know anything about the technology and who just want to persecute the entire idea of AI anything. They argue AI text responses are wrong; they bray that AI images are stolen. I have little patience for having a conversation with those types of Luddite deniers because, in the end, their arguments are both boring and wrong. Here’s why.
The one thing that trips up these AI deniers is that AI learns just as we do: through exposure to information and by exploring the relationships of experience. We may not be aware that the piece of Art we saw in the museum inspired our own “original” creation later, perhaps even years later; but if we are being direct with ourselves, we have to confess there are no ideas that are fresh and original. Everything has already been created and published — we just may not know it yet due to geography, education, and lack of exposure.
AI serves to compile and process vast amounts of information, making it more readily accessible and condensing it into an instantly discoverable experience. AI doesn’t steal Art; instead, it draws inspiration from existing art and transforms it into something new — a process that mirrors human creativity, even if we don’t always recognize it. Merging two ideas to create a novel concept is not copying or stealing but rather reflects the age-old human method of internalizing and reinterpreting information. While we might believe we are inventing something groundbreaking, our work is often rooted in previously established ideas.
When the portrait painters began to notice this new thing called photography was taking hold around 1840, the painters said the same thing about photographers what many “artists” today are saying about “AI Art.”
“Oh, a camera is just mechanical. There’s no art to it.”
“Photography is just copying, it isn’t original like what I paint.”
“A camera is not a human mind, so it cannot create originality.”
That was the thinking back in 1840, and now, today, instead of painters vs. photographers, we now have NFT Artists claiming AI Art is “stealing” their stuff and that AI Art is mechanical and uninspired. Sound familiar? Today, photography is considered original, and important Art; and one day, the same will be said about AI generated Art.
Another accusation that is tossed at AI Artists is that we are “only writing text” and that we aren’t actually “creating” the Art — the machines are creating the Art. To that argument, my answer is that writing a prompt that actually creates the intended idea is Art itself: Function meeting inspiration, like a photographer uses a viewfinder to set the context of the captured image, so too, does a text prompt set the parameters of the AI image return.
Plus, many of those accusers are using computers to create their Art. Their iPad is picking the shape, color and angle of their lines and scenes and they are only “prompting” the “embedded AI” in their computers to “create” their end goal.
My final argument with those accusers is that Art takes many forms and has many angles of creation, and we must not judge one method of creation as being more valid than another.
These issues always come down to prestige and money. “I’m better than you. You’re stealing from me!” A year ago, an NFT artist could sell a 1/1 image for $3,000. Today, an AI Art Bot can create hundreds of thousands of original images for a fraction of that price. Times and conditions change, and the professional artists are using AI to their advantage to create even more spectacular Art. They are not just changing with the times, they are taking advantage of the technology to make their lives even better!
It’s the small-timers, the small-minded, and the perpetually perplexed, who complain about all AI because they fear the inevitable: AI will beat them in every comparable way — unless they, too, change and adapt — but they instead want stasis. They want the world to remain stolid and cold for them, just like them.
- Transformation and recombination: AI systems process and transform the input data in novel ways, generating output that can be unique and original. The algorithms learn patterns and structures from the data, but they do not simply copy-paste existing content.
- Creativity as a collaborative process: AI can be seen as a tool or a partner in the creative process, providing new perspectives, ideas, and inspiration to human creators. Artists and writers have always drawn upon the work of others for inspiration, and AI can be seen as an extension of this tradition.
- Expanding access to creativity: AI-generated chat and art can democratize access to creative resources, enabling people who might not have had the means or training to produce high-quality content. This can empower individuals and communities to express themselves and participate in the global creative landscape.
- Ethical considerations: It is important to address ethical concerns around AI-generated content, such as crediting original sources, respecting copyright laws, and ensuring transparency about the use of AI in the creative process. By addressing these concerns, the conversation can shift from simply “stealing and copying” to responsible and innovative AI-assisted creation.
- Continuous evolution: AI systems are constantly evolving and improving, with the potential to develop more sophisticated creative outputs in the future. As AI technology advances, the distinction between mere copying and original output may become less relevant, opening up new possibilities for human-AI collaboration in creative endeavors.
If human artists were more forthcoming about revealing their sources of inspiration, the Art world would undoubtedly become a more harmonious environment.
I encourage you to seize every opportunity to interact with AI — through text, chat, and Art — so you can witness firsthand the potential it holds. AI is not our adversary; instead, ignorance and fear are the true foes. Embrace the challenge of experimenting with novel experiences, and you’ll uncover a vast array of possibilities awaiting your exploration.
@boles Yeah, but websites like stackexchange have nurtured a community for so long. Now GPT can learn from it, why ever use stackexchange again? It's one thing when search engines and people consume websites, but when an AI company can just "steal but not steal" the stuff a community created, it just feels wrong. I agree AI is generally a positive, but you have to consider fairness a bit. If artists knew AI would crawl their art 10 years ago, they wouldn't have posted it, for example.
What’s the difference between stealing and inspiration? Where are you drawing the line? As a publisher for many years, hundreds of people have scraped my ideas, republished my work, and stolen my text with copy and paste and no attribution. A place like the Internet Archive can help with provenance, but some think the Internet Archive is stealing ideas and republishing them. I can spend my time DMCA-ing those who “steal” from me, or I can just continue to create and propagate my work and not worry about the imitators and those who take without asking because, I have come to realize in my old age that there are no original ideas, and there never really have been. There are only people who have convinced themselves that their work is original and proprietary when it is not.
@boles Very good points and well written, David.
I appreciate your comment and support. Having this discussion about AI quickly gets old because those who know, are all the way in, and those who don’t really get the whole idea of AI and they put up the hardest fight against its existence. There is no interest on their part — or even a spec of moderation — to learn about the specifics of the intent of the AI. They just point to limited case proof that, in the whole, really isn’t convincing. Their favorite current Straw Man argument is that AI images are not Copyrightable; but the law has always lagged behind technology, just look at streaming music as a quick example, and the law hasn’t really been able to stop the technical inevitable from happening anyway. If Andy Warhol can paint a Campbell’s soup can and sell it, then the only thing that matters is perception, and enforcement — which are interchangeable, and modifiable, every moment of the day — just to suit the present whim of context.
As an autistic, dyspraxic person who found school art classes a misery, I can only say that AI Art from DALLE and Midjourney has changed my life. Suddenly in my 60s I can make images! It’s like I couldn’t walk all my life and someone invented the wheelchair. It’s not as good as walking, but it’s better than going nowhere.
Having said that I wouldn’t want artists not to be paid for the contribution they make to the AI databases. I don’t entirely agree with you that there’s nothing original in art – what about Impressionism? Picasso? Steampunk? They might owe much to what came before, but they were genuinely new in their time, in an impatient, animal way that I’m not sure a machine will be able to match. We need to pay the people feeding the machines to help keep our culture healthy – I would be quite happy to do so. It’s like putting compost on soil, you just need to do it. And it’s only fair too.
Thank you for your reply! I appreciate how you feel about being able to create art with AI. Nobody in the real world gets paid for inspiring someone else by default. It’s impossible to actually prove. As for your comments about Impressionism and Picasso and Steampunk not having influences or opportunities for imitation, I will let ChatGPT-4 Plus provide answers:
Claude Monet, a founder of the Impressionist movement, was influenced by a combination of factors that informed his distinct artistic style. Some key influences include:
Nature: Monet’s love for the natural world greatly influenced his work. He sought to capture the changing light, color, and atmosphere of landscapes, seascapes, and gardens, often painting the same scene at different times of day or in different seasons to document these variations.
Barbizon School: The Barbizon School was a group of French painters who focused on plein air (outdoor) painting and capturing the essence of the French countryside. Their approach to landscape painting, which emphasized direct observation and naturalism, influenced Monet and other early Impressionists.
Realism: The Realist movement, led by artists such as Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet, rejected the idealized and romanticized subjects of Academic art and aimed to portray life as it truly was. Monet was influenced by this focus on everyday scenes and the importance of painting from direct observation.
Japanese art: Monet was fascinated by Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e), which gained popularity in Europe during the second half of the 19th century. The Japanese prints’ flattened perspective, bold composition, and emphasis on pattern and color influenced Monet’s approach to painting and can be seen in his treatment of water, gardens, and other subjects.
Camille Pissarro: Pissarro, a fellow Impressionist painter, was an important influence on Monet. The two artists shared similar artistic goals and often painted together. Pissarro introduced Monet to some key Impressionist techniques, such as the use of broken brushstrokes and vibrant, unmixed colors.
Eugène Boudin: Boudin, a landscape and marine painter, was an early mentor to Monet. He encouraged the young artist to paint outdoors and introduced him to plein air techniques. Boudin’s atmospheric seascapes and emphasis on capturing the effects of light and weather on the landscape had a lasting impact on Monet’s work.
Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, drew inspiration from various sources throughout his career. Some of the main influences on Picasso’s work include:
Early years: Picasso’s father, José Ruiz Blasco, was an art teacher and painter, who provided him with early artistic education and exposure to the world of art. Spanish artists such as El Greco, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco Goya also had a significant impact on Picasso’s early work.
African art: In the early 20th century, Picasso became fascinated with African art and artifacts. This interest played a crucial role in the development of his iconic style, particularly in his groundbreaking painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), which marks the beginning of his African-influenced period and the emergence of Cubism.
Georges Braque and Cubism: Picasso’s close friendship and collaboration with French painter Georges Braque led to the development of Cubism, a revolutionary art movement that rejected traditional perspective and sought to depict subjects from multiple viewpoints simultaneously. This style dominated Picasso’s work during the 1910s and had a lasting influence on his art.
Classicism and Surrealism: After World War I, Picasso shifted his focus to classical themes, exploring ancient mythology and neoclassical forms in his art. In the 1920s and 1930s, he also engaged with the Surrealist movement, incorporating elements of dream and the subconscious into his work.
Personal relationships: Many of Picasso’s muses and lovers, such as Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and Dora Maar, had a profound impact on his art. He often depicted them in his paintings and used their personalities as a source of inspiration for various themes and styles.
Political events: Picasso was deeply affected by the political events and social issues of his time. His masterpiece “Guernica” (1937) is a powerful anti-war statement created in response to the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
The Steampunk movement is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. It often takes place in an alternate history setting, typically in the Victorian era or the American Wild West. The Steampunk movement has been influenced by various factors:
Literary works: Steampunk has its roots in the works of 19th-century science fiction writers such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. Their stories often featured advanced technology and machinery set in Victorian-era settings, which laid the groundwork for the Steampunk aesthetic.
Cyberpunk: The Steampunk movement was also influenced by the Cyberpunk genre, which emerged in the 1980s and focused on high-tech, futuristic settings often characterized by dystopian societies and advanced technology. Steampunk can be seen as a reaction to and reinterpretation of the Cyberpunk genre, replacing its high-tech futuristic settings with a more nostalgic, romanticized vision of the past.
Victorian era: Steampunk is heavily influenced by the aesthetics, fashion, and culture of the Victorian era. The elaborate clothing, architecture, and fascination with science and invention during this period have all contributed to the distinctive Steampunk style.
Industrial Revolution: The technological advancements and machinery of the Industrial Revolution play a central role in Steampunk. Steam engines, clockwork mechanisms, and other inventions of the time are often reimagined and integrated into Steampunk narratives and designs.
Art and design movements: Steampunk aesthetics also draw inspiration from various art and design movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Art Nouveau, Gothic Revival, and the Arts and Crafts movement. These styles contribute to the intricate, ornate designs often associated with Steampunk.
Maker culture: The DIY ethos and the maker culture have been influential in the Steampunk movement. Many enthusiasts create their own Steampunk-inspired clothing, accessories, and gadgets, often using repurposed and recycled materials.
Pop culture: Steampunk has been popularized and further developed through movies, TV shows, comics, and video games that feature Steampunk-inspired settings, characters, and technology. Examples include movies like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003) and “Sherlock Holmes” (2009), as well as video games like “Bioshock Infinite” (2013).