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AI Art: A Leap into the Future

Art has always been a reflection of human creativity and expression. It captivates us, provokes thought, and pushes boundaries. But in recent years, art has taken a massive leap forward with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) art. This transformative technology has revolutionised the art world, allowing almost anyone to create stunning artwork in a matter of seconds. One need only look at the jaw-dropping sale of an AI-generated artwork at Christie’s auction house, fetching over four hundred thousand dollars in 2018, to understand the magnitude of this phenomenon.

The Rise of AI Art

The incredible advancements in image generators, such as Dolly and stable diffusion, have democratised art creation. These AI models have the remarkable ability to mimic various artistic styles and even replicate the work of specific artists. How do they achieve this? Through a process called training. These models ingest millions, sometimes billions, of images scraped from websites across the internet. Accompanied by text descriptions, this vast dataset enables them to generate a wide array of images from a simple text prompt. The results are undoubtedly fascinating, but they come with a significant ethical dilemma.

The Ethical Concerns of AI Art

While AI art has opened new possibilities for creativity, many artists find themselves unwittingly embroiled in a controversy. These artists never gave their consent for their artwork to be used in AI image generators. This raises the question: what should artists do to protect their artistic integrity? The problem of art theft is not new, but the scale at which it occurs in AI art is unprecedented.

One artist who experienced the invasive nature of art theft is Carla Ortiz, a talented concept artist based in San Francisco. As a concept artist, she provides initial visuals for movies, including Magic the Gathering and Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Last year, Carla discovered that her fine artwork had been scraped into an AI image dataset without her permission. The realisation left her feeling violated and compelled her to take action.

Carla Ortiz’s Battle Against Art Theft

Carla’s work had become readily available on popular AI image generators like Mid-Journey. These platforms made it incredibly easy for users to generate artwork that closely resembled her style. This not only affected Carla but also numerous other artists who found their work being replicated without their consent. Determined to protect her art and the art community at large, Carla joined forces with a group of artists to file a class action lawsuit against Stability AI and other AI image generator companies.

In the meantime, Carla made the difficult decision to remove her work from the internet wherever possible. She believed that minimising its availability would help prevent her art from being exploited by AI generators. However, she longed to find a way to showcase her work online without risking its misuse.

Glaze: A Solution for Artists

Amidst the turmoil caused by art theft, Professor Ben Zhao and his team at the University of Chicago’s lab have developed an innovative solution called Glaze. This groundbreaking tool capitalises on the fundamental difference between how humans and machine learning models perceive visual images. Glaze introduces subtle changes to artworks that are almost imperceptible to the human eye but dramatically alter how AI models interpret them.

For artists like Carla, Glaze offers newfound hope. By applying Glaze to their art before sharing it online, they can rest assured that any attempt by AI models to mimic their style will result in learning an entirely different, incorrect style. Glaze acts as a shield, protecting artists’ work from unauthorised replication and potentially thwarting the AI art theft dilemma.

Exploring Glaze in Action

To truly understand the power of Glaze, we delved into its capabilities by witnessing it in action. Glaze subtly modifies an artwork’s texture, brushstrokes, or even color distribution. These changes are challenging to discern for human observers. For instance, when comparing the original and glazed versions side by side, one might notice slight variations in the face’s texture or blotchier brushstrokes. However, without close examination, these discrepancies remain inconspicuous.

Glaze empowers artists to confidently share their work online, knowing that any attempt to replicate their style will result in a distorted imitation. While the AI-generated artwork may retain similar content, it will lack the artist’s true style and essence.

Critics and the Argument for Inspiration

Critics argue that AI art generators derive inspiration much like humans do when studying other pieces of art. They claim that AI-generated artwork is not a direct copy but rather a product of learning from and building upon existing artwork. This argument has prompted the companies facing the class action lawsuit to request its dismissal.

Carla, however, finds this comparison inadequate. She explains that humans cannot instantaneously memorise billions of images and reproduce them effortlessly. AI image generators, on the other hand, possess the ability to generate strikingly similar copies within seconds. The ethical implications of using artists’ work without consent cannot be understated.

AI Generated picture using Midjourney

The Opt-In vs. Opt-Out Debate

The controversy surrounding AI art and copyright infringement has sparked a crucial debate regarding the process of using artists’ work in AI image generators. Some artists argue that the use of their work should be opt-in, meaning explicit permission is granted before incorporating their art into AI models. Conversely, companies like Stability AI claim that their new generators will be opt-out, allowing artists to remove their work if they wish.

Adobe, another prominent player in the AI art space, states that its image generator Firefly only uses images from its stock library. However, even some Adobe contributors claim that such usage was never explicitly stated in their agreements. The disagreement highlights the need for clarity and transparency in the usage of artists’ work, regardless of whether it is opt-in or opt-out.

The Need for Regulation and Public Input

As AI art continues to evolve and reshape the artistic landscape, it is crucial to establish regulations that safeguard artists’ rights and creative integrity. Glaze offers temporary respite, buying artists time to navigate this uncharted territory. However, it cannot be the sole solution. The input of artists, regulators, and an informed public is essential to ensure that these revolutionary tools align with the interests of those who contribute to their development.

In conclusion, AI art represents a significant leap forward in the world of creativity. While it offers incredible possibilities, it also raises ethical concerns, particularly regarding art theft and copyright infringement. Artists like Carla Ortiz are fighting back, seeking justice and protection for their work. Glaze provides a ray of hope, empowering artists to defend their artistic styles. However, the path forward necessitates a balanced approach that considers the perspectives of artists, companies, and the general public.

FAQs:

1. Can AI-generated art be considered original?

AI-generated art, while often visually impressive, raises questions about its originality. While AI models learn from existing artwork, their outputs can be seen as derivative works rather than entirely original creations.

2. How does Glaze protect artists’ work from AI replication?

Glaze subtly modifies artworks in ways that are nearly imperceptible to humans but significantly alter how AI models perceive them. By distorting the AI’s interpretation of an artist’s style, Glaze helps safeguard against unauthorised replication.

3. Is Glaze a foolproof solution to protect artists’ work?

Glaze serves as a valuable tool for artists, but it is not immune to potential circumvention. As with any technology, there is always the possibility of new techniques or advancements that could undermine Glaze’s effectiveness. Its purpose is to provide artists with a temporary safeguard until comprehensive regulations and solutions are developed.

4. What role should artists play in shaping the future of AI art?

Artists should have a prominent voice in shaping the future of AI art. Their insights, concerns, and creative perspectives are invaluable in developing ethical guidelines, consent frameworks, and collaborative approaches that respect their rights and contributions.

5. Will AI art replace human creativity?

AI art is not intended to replace human creativity but rather augment it. It offers new tools and possibilities for artistic expression. The human touch, emotions, and unique perspectives will always remain integral to the creation of art.