My drawings are a reflection of my soul. What happens when artificial intelligence — and anyone with access to it — can replicate them?
Webcomic artist Sarah Andersen has written a timely Opinion for the New York Times on how The Alt-Right Manipulated My Comic. Then A.I. Claimed It. She talks about being harassed by the Alt-Right who created a shadow version of her work full of violent, racist and nazi motifs. Now she could be haunted by an AI-generated shadow like the image above. Her essay nicely captures the feeling of helplessness that many artists who survive on their work must be feeling before the “research” trick of LAION, the nonprofit arm of Stability AI that scraped copyrighted material under the cover of academic research and then made available for commercialization as Stable Diffusion.
Andersen links to a useful article on AI Data Laundering which is a good term for what researchers seem to be doing intentionally or not. What is the solution? Datasets gathered with consent? Alas too many of us, including myself, have released images on Flickr and other sites. So, as the article author Andy Baio puts it, “Asking for permission slows technological progress, but it’s hard to take back something you’ve unconditionally released into the world.”
While artists like Andersen may have no legal recourse that doesn’t make it ethical. Perhaps the academics that are doing the laundering should be called out. Perhaps we should consider boycotting such tools and hiring live artists when we have graphic design work.