• Ian Derrington

My Ethics of AI-Art

Updated: Sep 29

When it comes to morality, sometimes it is difficult to evaluate what is 'right.' When it comes to the use of AI to generate artwork, such morals remain a quandary. Recently, AI-artwork has exploded, with news reaching front headlines in mainstream media and even the John Oliver show. Enabled by tools coming from applications or code such as OpenAI's DALL*E, stability.ai's stable diffusion model, mid-journey, and a number more. With these tools, textual prompts combined with artist-configurable parameters can generate completely unseen works in the styles of living, dead artists, or neither, in the most novel situations. To do so, AI models rely on training on millions--and even billions-- of pieces of art that may or may not have text associated with those images.

Even with the increased adoption of AI-generated artwork, there is no simple answer to whether AI art generation from textual prompts is moral. Here are some typical arguments for both sides.

Those who welcome AI art generally make the following points:

1. AI art is a form of creativity that should be celebrated and encouraged.

2. AI art can help us to understand the creative process better.

3. AI art can help us to create new and interesting artworks and is the next step in the evolution of Art.

Those who argue against AI art generally make the following points:

1. Because AI art is trained using the creations of other artists, such art is a form of plagiarism.

2. AI art diminishes the value of human artists because it takes minimal training to create AI art.

3. AI art is not really art at all.

While there are merits to those who support and those who oppose AI art, I approach the generation of my AI artwork to minimize the oppositional elements that oppose the morality of AI art.

  • While many artists do, I do not use the use of living (or dead, really) artists in the formation of my prompts. I see that such stylistic adoption via AI is visually close to theft, even if in combination with multiple artists. It is not more moral, to my eyes, to either use a single artist's name or even a set of them as input prompting to the generation of my images.

  • I also believe that it is important for AI artists to have some level of creativity and training. I do not believe that AI art should be completely automated. I believe there should be some human involvement in the process.

  • I strive to use mostly abstract prompts. While not always possible, and I will not always share my prompts, these abstractions provide a glimpse into the AI understanding that enables artwork generation.

  • I directly label my AI art galleries as generated by AI. Such helps to reduce confusion and allow individuals to make a more informed choice as to whether they consider the work as 'art.'

  • I take it that art is in the eye of the beholder. Even if something is a new form of art that many might debate, if someone considers the new form as art, it is. Art is a competitive process, and every new medium or tool should be given a chance to be used and evaluated in the free market context. Not all AI art is good and must be filtered. I aim to remove all of the failures, large and small, that might reasonably negatively impact my (and others') aesthetic pallet (such as artifacts, etc.).

While it is even arguable that photoshop-enabled artwork with filters and presets could be seen as AI-created, I believe that the above guidelines help to set my artwork apart from such and increase the morality of my AI art.

AI art may be considered similar to the development of the calculator. Before its development, the computation was done by hand 'calculators' and was very time-consuming. The invention of the mechanical and electronic calculator allowed for quicker and easier computation, but it was still necessary for humans to understand the underlying mathematics. Though I will agree that there has been a decrease in some people's ability to add 23 and 10 in their heads, the calculator and other tools like Mathematica have enabled swifter progress in other areas integral to our understanding of our survival by relieving the cognitive burdens of more tedious computations.

In the same way, I believe that AI art is a tool that can help us to create new and interesting artworks, but it is still necessary for humans to understand the underlying creative process and to create more, both better and faster.

While I was only informally trained by my mother, who is a physical, graphical, and photographic artist, my style of art is always evolving. It is with AI that I find the ability to reveal powerful emotions more closely.

While many will still disagree, it is my perception of the AI-art community at large that the art is here to stay. While there will certainly remain a competitive niche for non-AI-enabled artwork, it may be likely that failure to consider adopting AI in one's art may limit the financial success of artists.

For me, I will continue generating AI that seems appealing. Both for me and the world, I see the aesthetics created as something that brings value to the world regardless of how it was generated.

Just as humans have done for all our existence, art will evolve.

I am looking forward to evolving with it.

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