• Thu. May 30th, 2024

It’s time to put the brakes on AI

ByCharles Griffin

Feb 6, 2023
A robot looking pensively at a blackboard with equations.

Kelly McKernan, a 36-year-old artist from Nashville specialising in watercolour and acrylic gouache recently discovered that her art had been used to train Stable diffusion. This keen student was a free ai model used to power heaps of apps such as ‘Lenza,’ with the ability to generate unique and original images based on text prompts. Initially McKernan was excited, now she is one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit that is breaking new ground in the world’s understanding of copyright law.

Anyone can mimic the work of McKernan by simply ending a prompt into stable diffusion with her name. The brush strokes will be immaculately realised by the deep learning processes of the AI as well as the colours, style and, some say, the emotion, contained within her work. McKernan was not asked for her consent by the trainers of Stable Diffusion. Her work existed on the internet and was fed, inside the millions-strong stew of other art, to the AI for it to gain an understanding of what a picture is. 

It seems inarguable that the value of McKernan’s work has been reduced. The former uniqueness that came from the fact that a person, much the same as anyone, had sat down and created art, gave it an element of worth. The ability for the layman to create, without forgery, a piece so similar to that of McKernan that she might mistake it for her own is unfair. The toil and emotional labour of creating art is reduced to meaningless seconds of binary crunching. 

For the consumerist focused art world some may see this as brilliant. Galleries can envision future exhibitions of no cost. No art needs to be bought, as the models get smarter and get trained on more work their quality will improve. Already ‘Dall-E 2,’ the most advanced commercially available resource creates awe-inspiringly crisp images. 

Alongside this, while AI may be able to generate visually pleasing art, it fails to capture the essence of what art is and the role it plays in our society. We must consider the ethical implications of AI art and prioritise the value and importance of human-created art. 

To anyone unconvinced by the risk posed, I point out that the preceding paragraph is entirely the generation of chat-GPT in response to my asking it to continue my article. The warnings about the power of the machines, formally consigned to the words of the mad and unbelieved are now parroted by those with (depressingly) the most power in our society, see Elon Musk. 

I hope that McKernan wins her case against Stable Diffusion. While it will doubtlessly do little to halt the accelerating threat posed to humanity’s uniqueness, we can, at least for now, hope to retain control of our creativity and keep it out of the claws of the increasingly sentient machines.

Image “Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning” by  mikemacmarketing is licensed under CC BY 2.0.