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Artists Need Us to Use AI Responsibly — Here’s How To Do It

Creator:
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 2, 2023
Find out more about the AI art controversy and what we can do to use this technology responsibly.|Find out more about the AI art controversy and what we can do to use this technology responsibly.

I can’t lie: AI is pretty cool.

As much as I want to hate it, on principle, I have to admit that it’s pretty impressive. I’ve seen the pieces of AI-designed art my friends post on social media. As a writer and a social media manager, I’ve seen hundreds of ways using AI can make my day easier. As a photographer, I’ve seen how AI can make edits that once seemed impossible or would have taken me all day, and complete them in less than a minute. 

Artificial intelligence is undeniably a part of our lives and of the future. Even if we wanted to, we can’t escape or avoid it. But that doesn’t make us actors free from agency, either — we have choices every day in what we learn and how we engage with new forms of technology. AI is no different.

Using AI responsibly, and moving through a world that relies on AI, requires us to take steps to educate ourselves on the pitfalls of AI, deliberately choose more ethical ways to use it, and be intentional about prioritizing human connection and valuing human contributions. This is especially true in the artistic realm. 

Know the reality

In order to use any new technology or platform ethically, it’s important to fully understand the risks and benefits it brings, and look out for ways we might be unintentionally supporting practices we’re against.

AI comes with a lot of red flags — red flags that we should understand if we want to be informed citizens. Whether it’s the implicit bias that comes with technology built by people, the ethical dilemmas that come with giving computers agency to make choices on the road, or concerns with privacy and security, the use of technology in creative spaces requires us to confront a lot of moral questions we might rather avoid.

When we start to use AI for artistic purposes, we run into an additional concern: the artist. When AI tools generate pieces of art, they aren’t using their own creative gifts to create a piece of beauty. Instead, these engines are trained by scanning preexisting works of art, without any compensation given to the original artist. This recently led to a lawsuit filed by a group of authors who are concerned with the way platforms like ChatGPT use their intellectual property. 

What does this mean for us? When we as consumers use platforms like ChatGPT or art filters on social media, we’re essentially relying on the expertise, training, and creativity of individuals whose livelihood comes from this type of work, but who are receiving no recognition or compensation for that work. This should give us pause as creative individuals who value the ethical creation and consumption of art.

Given the complicated relationships AI has with creators, a key first step in using these platforms is coming to truly understand the design, workings, and behavior of the technology itself. This essential first step allows us to make informed decisions about how we can use it, and what kinds of practices we’re willing to engage with. 

Be discerning

Once we come to understand how AI works, this knowledge can really color the way we decide to bring it into our work and our lives. The most important thing we can do when considering the use of AI and other new technologies is to make informed, prudent decisions. 

In the case of art and writing, we might ask ourselves how, exactly, our use of this technology impacts us and other people. Are we using an art generator because it’s cheaper than working with an artist? How do I feel about presenting something an AI helped me write as my own work? 

There will always be opportunities where it’s easy to use AI, and the impact on creativity is minimal. These are the circumstances where I myself have chosen to use AI; situations where I can automate a response, or create variations on a form letter. These use cases still come with their own pitfalls, and I need to consider the human impact of non-human communication, but it is less likely that I am taking work away from a creative individual without their consent. 

Everyone’s threshold for the use of new technology is different. Some people may not want to use it at all, while others may feel it’s okay to use in almost any circumstance. But knowing what matters to you, and using informed judgment to make discerning decisions about its use, will help maintain artistic and personal integrity.

Compensate artists 

Whether it’s a social media filter using art without consent, or the 148-day-long Writers Guild of America strike over the use of AI in film and television, among other concerns, the use of AI is costing creative individuals every day. It’s impacting their freedom and their finances. It’s also creating and continuing biases against BIPOC individuals

While we can’t single-handedly fix the crises that technology threatens to unleash on artistic fields, we do have the power — and the responsibility — to take action in our own lives to support the people we want to see thrive. Art is inherently human; what makes it impactful, powerful, beautiful, is the way it connects the viewer and the artist. That is something AI can never truly replace — and so as we engage with AI, we should consider ways of collaborating with and compensating artists.

For some, that may mean directly supporting an artist in the community every time you use AI for creative purposes. For others, it’s considering whether AI is the best way to get to an end product, and if we can create something ourselves or hire an artist or creative. Sometimes, it’s as simple as going to a brick-and-mortar bookstore or art fair and recognizing the humanity in creativity. 

No matter how we choose to do it, keeping the humanity in art means recognizing the pitfalls of AI, thinking clearly and critically about how we use it in creative settings, and compensating artists for their work. Because AI may be cool, but it’ll never compare to the pure, raw emotion we gain from connecting with one another over art.

Creators:
Molly Cruitt
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 2, 2023
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