“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race… It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” —Stephen Hawking, BBC (2014)
Imagine a world where you could use technology that will personally recommend for you a song based on what you are currently listening to, and a world where face recognition is used to access your most sensitive information. Imagine a world where a teacher can ask specific software to develop a complete and comprehensive lesson plan on the US Civil War that includes group activities and homework, a world where you can create an artistic masterpiece by just entering the right keywords into specific software. Well, we don’t have to think of some distant future; all these scenarios are possible with the advancement of AI technology.1
What was once thought of as just science fiction is now our reality. But when mid-20th century logician Alan Turing first started his work with artificial intelligence, little would he have known how much his work would influence the world a century later.2 Turing’s creation of the Turing Machine in 1936 was an abstract computational model capable of solving problems in computer science and testing the limits of computation. We can see the influence of his work in every algorithm encounter we run into daily. The framework of his exploration also posed the question that if humans can make their own decisions, why couldn’t machines also do the same?3
Within the last 25 years, we have seen an explosion of AI technology that has made it more accessible and powerful than ever before. It has impacted the way we live and interact with each other. AI systems have developed the power to perform sophisticated calculations by analyzing large amounts of data to identify patterns to help businesses make better decisions.4
“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.” — Amit Ray, AI Scientist (2018)
Recently, AI technology has impacted an unexpected area: the world of art. If you have social media, you may have seen the sudden uprising of AI-generated artwork across your timelines, feeds and user profiles. AI art generators like DALL-E 2 allow you to type up a prompt that is as detailed or vague as you like and has an image created for you instantly. When given the prompt “a bowl of soup that is a portal to another dimension as digital art,” the results are remarkable.5 DALL-E 2 cannot only modify existing images but also combine images to create new compositions.
Another example of the AI generation taking over social media can be seen with the worldwide use of the Lensa AI app. Lensa AI can generate hyper-realistic stylized avatars from existing images.6 We can see from the example that when senior writer Sarah Cascone used the Lensa app, about 1oo images were created based on 2o of her own photos. The results varied and showed different styles like fantasy, fairy, kawaii and cosmic. The remarkable thing about this app is that it can easily create multiple images in a few moments compared to the time it would take for a professionally trained artist to produce the same images.7
The rise of AI-generated art is most certainly a trend that is sweeping social media platforms, but have we stopped to think about how these AI generators can create this art? When it comes to ethics, are we asking the right questions?
“The real question is, when will we draft an artificial intelligence bill of rights? What will that consist of? And who will get to decide that?” — Gray Scott, Artist and Philosopher
When exciting new apps arise, it’s common for most social media users to want to explore the latest social media trends. When AI-generated art began appearing on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, some users questioned how these AI generators could create such realistic artwork. For these AI image generators to work, it needs to be fed millions of images to train themselves on how to reproduce similar images.8 When artist Kelly McKernan realized that her name had been used in over twelve thousand public prompts within the AI generator Midjourney, she filed a class-action lawsuit against Midjouney and two other AI image generators, DreamUp and Stable Diffusion. When McKernan’s name was included in these prompts, her distinct art style of mixing Art Nouveau and science fiction created images similar to her artwork. McKernan argues that artists have not consented to have their copyrighted work included in the database of inspiration that helps the AI software produce the images. McKernan’s class-action lawsuit also explains that the artists were not credited nor compensated for their involvement.9
The question of authorship is also something that should be considered. Who owns AI-generated art, the human or the AI program? Both are essential to the development of the artwork. The human must tell the AI program what they want it to create, but the AI program ultimately does the work to produce the artwork. Also, consider that while a human is giving the command to the AI generator, the AI generator is eventually making its own choices of how the artwork should look. At the moment, copyright laws in the US have yet to catch up to answer this question. The law will have to adapt or not.10 For the law to change, lawmakers must perform a massive rewrite to define copyright rules between humans and AI. Some suggest that we treat AI software as an employee hired to perform a task that would make the artwork eligible for copyright.11 Is this fair or will AI businesses fight this change?
“If the government regulates against the use of drones of stem cells or artificial intelligence, all that means is that the work and the research leave the borders of that country and go someplace else.” —Peter Diamandis, CEO and Entrepreneur.
While policymakers attempt to begin AI regulation, 12 we should also question how the rise of AI-generated art will affect artistic professionals. Usually, if you want to become a professional artist that creates illustrations, it takes years and years of constant practice with unwavering discipline.13 With the ease and accessibility of AI image generators to images used for social media and personal use, the work given to professional artists can now be done by artificial intelligence for a fraction of the price and a fraction of the time. Will everyday users choose AI to cut costs to have more control over the end product? Only time may tell.
The future of AI and its effects on the world is uncertain, but we can expect it to continue to spread into more aspects of our lives. We are used to hearing someone say, “Alexa, what’s the weather like?” but can you imagine AI that can perform more than its designated task? Imagine AI that can think freely while having the ability to learn, perform and adapt under any circumstance. AI developers are working fast to take significant steps to make this a reality. 14 While the advancements in AI seem to grow almost daily and policymakers work to regulate AI, we should all take a minute to consider how AI may affect our own lives and professions.
Computer generated art work
Charles Perez graduated with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from the University of the Incarnate Word. Charles works in the Office of University Communications at St. Mary’s University as a Graphic Designer. He is the Art Director for the Law Edition of Gold & Blue magazine. He is working on obtaining his M.A. in Communication Studies at St. Mary’s University.Author Portfolio Page