Opinions on AI in the Creative Industry

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What does “Creative AI” mean for the artist?

There’s a big struggle right now in the realm of the presence and effect of AI in the creative space. It’s creeping into writing, into art, and most recently, into music.

There are some troubling implications about creative AI, including but not limited to:

  • How will I protect my copyrights and keep my work out of the AI machine?
  • How will I outpace the productive abilities of AI?
  • How will my skills match against AI and the pictures it is trained on?
  • How am I going to make a living in the world of AI?

These are only a few of the problems, and they’re just off the top of my head. As I think about them, I wish to share my thoughts on each, and what that might mean for you as an artist.

How will I protect my copyrights and keep my work out of the “Creative AI” machine?

This is a good first question to ask.

As of right now, there are big names in the creative world fighting to protect rights to your work and prevent them from being fed into AI learning systems. I’m not sure who specifically is currently fighting the legal battles, but I know, first off, that Jon Lam, one of the big names in animation production right now is using his platform to advocate for creators’ rights, and educating the public on how to keep their works from being fed into AI training systems.

If you are a visual artist, Glaze is available for you to mark your works and make them unusable by visual generation systems.

And, at least for now, AI work is not able to be copyrightable in part due to a precedent set by the selfie monkey, establishing that creative visual work has to be put together by human hands in order to establish a copyright and generate revenue.

Bear in mind, the world is still inhabited by ruthless monsters, and if your work is worth stealing, your work is still likely to be stolen with little recourse available to you. It sucks, but you’re still the original artist with the original ability to generate ideas from the pure creative ore of experience and life, not from the digested material of a visual dataset that has to pre-exist you.

How can I outpace the productive capabilities of “Creative AI”?

Simply put, you probably can’t.

There’s a famous folklore story about a man, John Henry, and his struggle against a machine that was supposedly capable of doing his job faster and longer. There’s a famous Johnny Cash song about it.

According to the legend, John Henry beat the machine, but his heart gave out in the process.

Now, while you many not be able to defeat the ability of a machine to go faster and longer and do more of a certain task than you, humanity still has a clear advantage for as long as a machine has to spend catching up.

While you can’t spit out 35 pictures in response to a prompt you are capable of these things where an AI is not:

  • You know when something doesn’t look right, and you can fix it before you finish the picture.
  • You know how to design 3d space and arrange things inside it.
  • When you make a mistake, you have the ability to learn from it ad fix it in one or two generations, and you don’t need a cloud computer or team of AI specialists to correct that error.
  • You have the ability to keep your pictures out of the uncanny space and in the space of design that appeals to people and touches their spirits.

You can’t make 35 pictures in response to a single sentence. Your skills and ideas will lead you to make just one picture. But it will be a good picture, and the right picture.

How will my skills match against AI and the pictures it is trained on?

After a certain fashion, you probably can’t, but that’s not a reason to despair.

AI is dependent on learning from a dataset made up of art from people who have been working for one or more decades each. In a sense, AI has centuries or even millennia of knowledge, but it still gets things wrong and still usually has to be corrected and finished by a human being before the work is presentable.

You don’t have 100-4000 years of experience in pure visual design ability, but you do have a skill that AI does not.

You are human and you know how your art connects to the human soul. You know how to speak to your audience.

You don’t just know how to make a picture. You know why a picture crosses the gap from the page to the person looking at it. You know why that picture connects to your viewer and what kind of response you are intending to generate.

All an AI is capable of is reassembling visual data to match the letter of a question, not the spirit of the question. As the system advances, you may see more happy accidents in the generative responses, but it’s going to be hard-pressed to inspire and ennoble your viewer on a consistent basis.

How am I going to make a living in the world of AI?

That’s a worthwhile question to ask, and the answer is going to depend on how you were intending to get your living to begin with.

The simpler your work is, the harder it will be for you to beat AI. Asset-centric creative jobs are most likely to go first, and they probably will the moment you can be automated out of the system.

If your work doesn’t evolve very far past “person standing in environment with nice rendering”, you’re going to have a bad time.

Your work is going to have to be more than just lone figures floating on a canvas because that’s very easy to generatively produce and repurpose.

Visual style is important, and being able to execute a single picture at a high level is always a good skill to have, but it will not be enough.

What will set you apart in a new world with generative AI will be your ability to tell a story and express and communicate values, which is a skill that will always exist beyond the scope of AI.

AI will never ascend beyond humanity, but your life and work must be as fully human as possible.

AI is only ever as smart as what you feed it, and in most cases it is strapped down to whatever values and ethics are fed to it by the people who created it. This means that anywhere AI is present in creative work, it’s going to be informed more and more by corporate, financial, and political interests, because machines don’t have principles that are inconvenient for directors and shareholders.

The implication I’m getting at is that the “lowest common denominator” may no longer have creative production jobs available. Office jobs for creative people in big-name studios might be on the way out, or at the very least, we may be seeing a decrease in the availability of these jobs. This depends on how the large-scale legal fight in the world of AAA creative production goes.

We should hold he industry and these studios accountable for sure, but there’s a second set of implications to consider separate from shaming and re-indexing the interests of big companies.

As big studios and their interests become more and more homogenous, so will their art and message. This is where you get the opportunity that they could and probably would never give you: Making art you actually believe in.

You’ll have to ask yourself some questions and possibly wrestle with the answers, but you as a human artist will always have the ability to ask and answer questions The Machine can’t answer.

  • Who am I?
  • What’s important to me?
  • Who am I creating art for?
  • What about my art is unique?
  • How does my art reflect my values?
  • Who am I trying to reach with my art?
  • What kind of stories can I tell inside my drawings?

These are only a few such questions, but The Machine can’t ask itself these questions and give good answers. It can only follow directions given it by its system administrators, informed by the agenda of people paying the system administrators. Companies evil enough to outmode real artists with AI probably don’t have values you would want to contribute to anyway.

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