One day, Ammaar Reshi was playing around with a chatbot called ChatGPT. A chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate human thinking and writing. Reshi wondered if he could use the program to produce a children’s book.
The idea for the book’s story came from a conversation Reshi had with the chatbot, about a girl named Alice. He created illustrations using another AI program, Midjourney, which translates words into images.
A couple of days later, Reshi had completed a 12-page book, Alice and Sparkle. “Anyone can use these [AI] tools,” he told TIME. “[They’re] readily accessible, and not hard to use.”
Not everyone was pleased. When Reshi posted about the book on Twitter, a debate started. Some people praised him for his ingenuity . But artists were critical. The problem, they said, was not just the poor quality of the artwork (for instance, in one drawing, hands look like claws). It was the way the art was made.
Midjourney searches through millions of images across the Internet. It uses algorithms to find patterns in those images and create new ones. Think of the artists who upload their work online. Midjourney could be using their work without their permission.
“The main problem to me about AI is that it was trained off of artists’ work,” illustrator Adriane Tsai says. “It’s our creations, our distinct styles . . . that we did not consent to being used.”
For Art’s Sake
Many artists and writers are nervous about their future. Will people pay them for their work if it can be done cheaper using AI?
Some companies are already choosing AI over human talent. The San Francisco Ballet used images generated by Midjourney to promote its production of The Nutcracker. At a comedy club, an AI- powered robot delivered jokes.
“As somebody who makes my money and finds my joy in writing, it’s deeply troubling to see people seeking cheap alternatives to actual human writing,” journalist Abraham Josephine Riesman says.
Reshi says there should be protections for artists and authors whose work might be used in AI algorithms. “There’s real concern,” he says. “It’s really important that the tech industry that’s working on these tools involves [artists] in the process of creation.”