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  • Writer's pictureGeoff H.

Just say "NO" to A.I.

(Edit: This post was originally published in our February 2023 newsletter. We haven't made any changes even as artificial intelligence as advanced a lot in the past year.)

The world is changing, and for some people – artists and writers especially – this change is being met with a mix of interest and outrage. If you’ve played around with some of the newest AI programs like MidJourney or Dall-e for art, or ChatGPT for text, then you are familiar with the change that is sweeping the creative landscape.

If you are not familiar with these AI programs, they allow a user to input a series of keywords and prompts and the program will create either an image or text output. This can be a source of entertainment, or it could risk the livelihood of hardworking artists and writers.

Since these programs have been available, we have seen them be used to create everything from recreating masterpieces of art in different styles, to book covers, to entire books. (A children’s book was recently “created” using AI art. You can find it on Amazon if you choose.) The newest book from Christopher Paolini (of Eragon fame) “Fractal Noise” was discovered to have used AI art that had been uploaded to a stock art website. When this fact was pointed out on Twitter the publisher (Tor) responded by saying that “production constraints” prevented them from changing the cover. This created quite a backlash in the SF and artist communities on Twitter and elsewhere. (Here’s a good article about this particular event from Linda Codega at Gizmodo: Tor Tried to Hide AI Art on a Book Cover, and It Is a Mess.

A lot of the problem with AI created content, especially art, is how the AI programs are “trained” to be able to create the content. We’ve heard it described on the most recent Imaginary Worlds podcast “The Human Touch” as “vacuuming up the labor of all of humanity.” Programs like MidJourney and Dall-e are fed thousands of images for them to use as reference material for their algorithms. These images are just pulled from the internet, from anywhere and everywhere, including art sharing sites like DeviantArt. The problem with this is that the people who created this artwork are not paid, nor even credited. Essentially, these programs are stealing the work of others. In fact, it has gotten to the point where several artists have filed a lawsuit against MidJourney and Stability AI.

So, why are we bringing this up? Well, you can be assured that we have not used any AI programs to create our book covers, nor to write our stories. (Edit: And Geoff has the receipts as he writes the first drafts of our stories longhand on college-ruled paper.) And we want to assure you that we do not have plans to use AI generated content in the future. We have loved the work that we get from real, living, breathing artists like Mike Wagner and Ian Bristow who have done most of our covers. We could not imagine that any computer program could create something as amazing as what they have done for us. At the same time we want to ask you, our loyal readers and friends, that we hope you will be aware of this issue. We are not asking you to stop playing with these programs, they can be pretty entertaining. We just ask that you be aware of where the art you see and purchase comes from. Creative people, whether artists or writers, often struggle to make a living at what they love to do. We shouldn’t be cutting into their livelihood by taking a shortcut. And maybe, here in the new future there could be a way to actually use the artists to help create better AI programs. A company that actually pays the artists for their content, or hires in house artists to generate content with a living wage, would at least be more ethical than what is currently out there.

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