For those that know me, I’ve been involved in the arts for more than 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of development during this time, and have been in fact instrumental in helping shape the commercials, movies, and televisions show special effects that we all watch today. Without going into all the details, I have a significant background in publishing, digital illustration, and 3D modeling that spans over two decades. I would even go so far as to say that I got my start with the Commodore 64 and the old tape drive along with the dot matrix printer and a 64 Baud modem. So yeah, I’m old school and I do know how to do stuff the old fashioned way, along with a mouse and a stylus. However, my background is not the focus of my writing. It’s only being presented because I’ve seen a rise in hostility towards artists, whether or not they choose to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) in their works. So I want to clear the air here. I don’t expect to change your minds, but at least let me provide you with a different perspective through my lens.
Let me start by asking you a few questions:
- Do you watch Marvel, Star Trek, or Star Wars movies and shows? Do you have an issue with them (aside from plot which could probably use a good dose of ChatGPT at times)? Do you think there’s no craft or art involved? Do you not think that they are using AI in trying to develop prototypes for creatures, outfits, and spaceships? Do you accuse everyone working on these films of lacking talent?
- I had a friend who considered Photoshop to be “cheating” during the early 2000s. Later, he came around and changed his opinion stating, “I think in some cases, people might lack finer control of their hands and a mouse makes a good substitute.” I’d even forward to today and ask, how many of us still think “Photoshop” can be used as an insult? At one point, photos were being improved, blemishes removed, so on and so forth and people used it to put down others. It was modern derogatory term used to imply that someone or something was a fake. So have we all come to eventually accept the fact that it’s just a “part of our daily lives”? I would say yes. I think most people would be happy to have their drunk uncles or a big fat zit removed from their wedding photos.
- My wedding videos were shot by a non-professional who we mistakenly assumed would do a great job. They were so unfortunately blurry and jumpy, that I’m being honest in saying that no one can watch them without getting sick. I wasn’t expecting AI to come along and be able to finally restore footage that I believed was destined for the recycle bin. Can you blame or criticize me for actually restoring those movies? Wouldn’t you do the same?
- Do you truly believe that everyone who uses AI lacks talent and fundamental skill-sets? What is driving that belief: fear, ignorance, judgment, or insecurities?
- Do you not see any similarities between accusing someone of using Photoshop with someone today using AI?
- Do you suppose someone that can use AI, also can improve upon existing talent and skill sets?
- Do you actually believe AI is going to be outlawed in its entirety (although to be fair, people still believe in Pizzagate so there’s that…)?
- Do you ever stop to think that the camera on your phone probably employs AI or at the very least, will in the near future?
- I had a roommate once who studied the old art of bookbinding. It was pretty cool, but I think there’s a reason (mostly economical) that we don’t do things the way we did before the advent of MovableType. Should we go back to those days and ban all modern machinery and presses? Better yet, let’s ban electricity altogether and go back to lighting our Christmas trees with candles.
- Have you ever used anything like an Instagram filter or a photo app the “automatically” improved lighting, saturation, contrast, and exposure settings?
- Do you not recognize that many word processing editors are starting to use to help correct improper grammar, or make things easier to read?
- Do you not think it will be handy to have a device in your hands that can automatically translate different languages in real time?
- When upscaling an image so that the image is crisper at the printer, do you realize that many of us employ AI upscalers to help enlarge our images? It doesn’t really mean we are changing an image per se, but filling in the blanks as the images increase in resolution.
If you said “no” to all of these (except perhaps the last one), you’re an idiot.
Let me take it one step further and let you know where I stand on the current issues and confusion surrounding AI:
- I think in the right hands, it’s a very useful tool. For example, today I tried to do some complex math and couldn’t. I was able to ask ChatGPT how to solve for the equation, and it provided me with an answer. Of course, AI can “hallucinate” so I always try to double-check the answer.
- I recognize that people use it to “cheat.” For example, lawyers presenting incorrect information by relying on it, students using it write their papers, deepfakes, etc. In other cases, people are scamming others. For example, I recently reported to Facebook that one of the ads and websites that was being promoted during the holidays was “selling” stained glass lamps that didn’t exist. Just like with many of you), I have a major issue with scammers. But please, don’t confuse someone cheating or scamming others by using AI with using it as a tool to help improve their grammar or images. AI is simply not a catchall phrase or a one-trick pony.
- I believe that a good artist will still be a good artist. Plenty of people “using AI” don’t know the first thing about Photoshop. So while they might be able to prompt something, they might not know the first thing about touching up or correcting those same items.
- Not everyone that knows how to write two words into a prompt can figure out how to set other programs such as PS, QuarkXpress (yeah, I know it’s old school), or InDesign. They don’t know the first thing about preflight checks, PDF settings, gutters, margins, bleeds, widows, special characters (macrons, umlauts etc.), resolution, DPI, PPI, SWOP coatings, CMYK, RGB, Lab, and so on and so forth. And if you think for a second that AI will magically and automatically do all those things for you, you’re either ignorant or your an idiot. Perhaps a little of both.
- I believe that copyrights regarding living authors and artist SHOULD be respected by companies producing the LLMs, checkpoints, LORAs, etc. They should not be using other people’s images to serve as a basis for recreating copyrighted works.
- I firmly believe that Deepfakes are problematic, and the implying of people performing inappropriate acts should be held accountable for their actions.
- I believe in Isaac Asimov’s “Law of Robotics” which states: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
- I don’t believe in labeling people who choose to use it without knowing the extent or purpose of why they used it.
- It’s helping to solve many issues such as detecting cancers, diagnosing rare diseases, discover new pharmaceutical compounds, modeling vaccines, etc.
- I think there’s a difference between AI-Generated and AI-Assisted and we need to recognize that there is a difference. Almost all of the digital illustration tools I use have some degree of AI in them. In some cases, it drastically speeds up my workflow.
- For better or worse, I think we can make the simple argument that if one person doesn’t do something, somebody else will.
- Am I afraid for my own line of work? Absolutely. But so are accountants, therapists, customer service staff, musicians, and other artists. But I also recognize that it can’t be stopped as much as part of me might like it to end. It’s an arms race and unfortunately I have to do what I need to in order to pay my bills. I don’t have an answer as to how this will work out, and I think that’s the thing that’s frightening many of us. It’s the great unknown.
But in order to have some glimmer of hope, we should look back towards human history for examples.
- I’m sure the first hunters and gatherers thought it was a hack when neighboring tribes came up with the first bow and arrow.
- I’m certain agriculture really peed people off that were previously using those lands for hunting and then someone else laid claim to those parcels.
- I’m pretty sure knights were terrified that their armor would no longer function when the first muskets came into play.
- You know, people used to think working by candlelight was serving the devil. But then again, they thought the world was flat and most people didn’t recognize that time zone differences existed.
- Don’t even get me started about electricity and the lightbulb.
- Oh yeah, horseless carriages and trains? You know, people used to actually think your skin would peel away from your face if you went to fast?
- Airplanes? People used to think, “if man was meant to fly, they’d be born with wings.” I’m pretty sure some people still think like that.
- OMG did I forget the Gutenberg Press? Sure, it made a whole heck of a lot of Bibles, but it’s led to other useful things.
- OMG. The Industrial Age? Assembly lines? Factories? Yes, there was some good along with the bad.
- Henry Ford? How many of you have given up your vehicles? Oh, I have a Prius. But I still recognize it uses oil since it’s a hybrid and the bearings require grease? And how did I know this? Oh, because I changes that shit myself in the Fall.
- Computers! Robots! It’s the end of the world. HAL! Would you like to play a game?
Point is, that’s the thing with technology. It evolves. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. But whenever we’ve hit an age in which there’s a fundamental shift, it’s always ignorant people that tend to have major control issues that freak out first.
So to I’m sure there’s more that I will add to this list. And yes, I use AI at times but I also have some real skills too. Not trying to brag, but some of your opinions are really annoying. It’s late and my memory is starting to fade. For now, I have to go spend some time with my kids. Good night.