You Can't Have Me, Skynet!
Or, Why I Will Never Use AI-Generated Content.
“Another human will never look at an image the exact same way the original artist did. They will never move their hands the way the original artist did. AI doesn’t do the same – it can only copy. When a human artist does “mimic" a style, or pass off [another's] piece of artwork as their own, it is incredibly frowned upon – and in some cases could be seen as copyright infringement. This is essentially what AI art is doing.” ~Anoosha Syed, award-winning illustrator
AI-generated content is everywhere all of a sudden. It's on our televisions, our social media feeds, and—disturbingly—the places where we buy our books. There's a great deal of controversy over whether or not AI image generators or programs like ChatGPT lead to "legitimate" creative content (they don't), and several major problems with the whole concept are already becoming clear:
AI Generators "learn" from data sets scraped from the internet, without the consent or compensation of the original creators whose materials are used.
Several cases of copyright infringement are already a concern, stemming from AI-generated images reproducing even the watermark or signature of an original artist.
AI-written books are flooding booksellers like Amazon, devaluing the talent and time-consuming work of human creators and negatively affecting royalty rates.
AI programs have already shown, with alarming rapidity, the capability to go rogue and produce results completely unintended by their programmers, like graphic racism, white supremacist rhetoric, and in the case of AI image generators, prompts by users to produce child pornography.
Even Google's Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai, has admitted that Google does not fully understand how its AI technology does some of the things it does.
Still, hordes of users defend the use of AI-generated art and writing, seeing it as no different from a human artist learning from and reproducing the art style of other artists who came before. They say things like, "AI is here now, so we might as well get used to it", and "You just don't understand how the AI actually works" to those of us who create art and literature for a living. When creative stock art producers close down their websites and indie authors watch their royalty rates get slashed because of the effects AI-generated content has on the Kindle marketplace, others tell us, "It's not the fault of the AI. Blame Amazon, or blame the people who won't purchase directly from your site, or blame yourself, for charging too much for what an AI generates for free."
"There's already a negative bias towards the creative industry. Something like [AI-generated art] reinforces an argument that what we do is easy and we shouldn’t be able to earn the money we command." ~ Award-winning artist Dapo Adeola (emphasis added).
Gaslighting. Nothing but a whole lot of gaslighting from people who don't understand AI any better than we do, but really like playing with it and don't want to have to think of the unpleasant effects it may have on others.
Now, obviously, I make no secret about how I feel when it comes to AI-generated images and text. Literally the first thing anyone ever said to me about them was, "This is great! I can use it to illustrate my book and cut out the cost of hiring an artist." I'm not a fan. And I've been struggling lately with a deep sense of depression and devaluation as I see so many people flocking to defend AI-generated content, even as it chews up the artwork and creativity of hard-working humans and spits out cheap, easy, empty reproductions.
Why should I bother finishing my series? Why should I bother making book covers or character illustrations or coloring pages? Why should I bother doing anything creative to share with anyone, when my work can just be swallowed up and reduced to so much mathematical code to be reconstituted into a product produced by something with literally zero creative talent or drive?
I have to believe it's worth it to keep creating, though. Because I love to do it. Because it gives me something to look forward to while I toil away on spreadsheets or read through tedious civil archives for my day job. Because it fills me with a grand excitement when I share it with others, and when other fabulous and talented creators share their beauties with me. I can't resign myself to a world where art and literature and film and song are reduced to a soulless algorithm.
So I pledge this to my readers, my fellow authors, and artists: I will never use AI content generators for my art or storytelling. Not even to create one piece of the whole. Not even to outline. I will never knowingly use stock images created with an AI content generator, and will do my due diligence to ensure each piece I do use is attributed to a real, human artist, with their consent.
I already make it a habit to purchase every creative tool I use in my compositions. If I utilize a certain brush set in Photoshop, I purchase a license for it and I credit the artist in the front matter of my book. I always use stock art from legitimate sites with the artist's consent. I paid for the license to and credited the author of the music I incorporated into the Beauty's Curse audiobook. I request permission from all the artists I quote in my epigrams.
I write my own books.
And that's how it will always be. I've added a new stamp to my cover art print wraps: No AI-Generated Art was Used in This Design. A similar disclaimer now appears in the front matter of my books. I believe in sacred nature of creativity, imagination, and drive—something AI chatbots and image generators don't have. So for my part, I will support original artists and creatives, with my voice and with my wallet. And I will not cheapen the art or stories I create for you, my readers, with an algorithmic shortcut.
Everything I offer will always be genuinely me.