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Is AI Damaging The Creative Industries?

There is a lot of discussion at the moment around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), in particular the use of AI in the creative industries. Creatives on one side of the fence and space Karen fanboys on the other. I am going to say it straight away, NO, using AI to produce artwork does not make you creative, it makes you a thief. But is AI as bad as people are fearing for the creative industries? I'm not sure it is.

The main arguments I see people making against AI are that it is replacing people and artwork is being stolen to populate the databases AI images are created from. Now while I am sure there will be companies who would want to replace their staff with AI to increase their profits, there will be a greater number of companies who will want to work with humans. At the moment the technology isn't good enough to replace people, if anything it relies on people creating images for it to learn from. Artwork should not be taken without consent for use in AI art generators, however at the moment any image a creative puts online can be taken and used. This is absolutely not alright, but it is happening with or without AI. Probably 3 or 4 times a year for the last decade I have had to deal with people who have used my artwork without my permission. This is not a problem with AI, humans are just dicks. It wasn't AI that stole 8 framed drawings from me, that was the area manager of Urban Outfitters. AI hasn't stolen your work, a human being has stolen it to add to a database. Technology moves on, it is how it is used that is the concern.

There have always been debates around the use of technology in art and design. Many nineteenth century painters were horrified at the invention of the camera, yet photography is now it's own celebrated and loved art form. A scriptwriter in the seventeenth century was probably concerned about the invention of the metal nib but we don't use quills to write anymore. Artists and designers in the 1950's were worried about computers stealing their jobs, but we all use computers now to write, design and create. You have traditional artists who can't paint in Photoshop and you have digital artists who can't paint in oils on a canvas. Neither are right or wrong, they just use the medium that is right for them. People throughout history have had their opinions on new technology and at certain times have feared progress, but no matter what,progress will happen. Just because something new comes along it doesn't mean you have to embrace it, or even use it, but you can't fault others for using it.

Every art and design teacher I have had has taught me the importance of creating work that is unique to yourself whether that is through method, technique or subject matter. So much work nowadays, especially graphic design and illustration work is not unique. The nature of producing digital work means every accidental pen mark, every scuffed edge of paper, every brush stroke, every mistake is removed. This means 95% of digital work, mine included, is easily replicated by anyone who understands the programme it was created on. You are then reliant on the good will of other people to not copy your work. Design programmes have become a fantastic tool for people to use to create artwork, however they have made it undeniably harder for traditional artists, illustrators, signwriters and typographers to make a living. If a digital designer can offer a client work in a fraction of the time compared to a traditional artist, then more often than not they will choose the digital designer as it will be quicker and cheaper. If you create work using design programmes that end up making it harder for people working traditionally and you have a problem with AI, doesn't that make you a hypocrite? They are both just tools people are utilising, and they can both make it harder for others to make a living. I have seen countless designers online screaming about AI, yet the design programmes they use has seen signwriting go from something you would see on every street in the UK, to a heritage craft in less than 50 years. Stones and glass house spring to mind.

The problem isn't the technology, the problem is people. There has been a lot of discussion online about a festival's use of AI to create imagery and how it has taken the opportunity away from a human. I think that is a massive pile of nonsense. From what I have seen, the festival hired an agency and together they have decided to use AI as a tool to create the imagery for the festival. I don't see how you can be offended by that? A company hired another company to produce work. I wasn't in any of the discussions or meetings but I think it is safe to presume the direction of the project was decided together and the project was delivered. The quality of the work is very bad but that doesn't mean they were wrong to use AI as a tool, there are plenty of people at that agency who could create artwork from scratch so AI did not steal work from anyone. Now if the festival hadn't hired anyone to produce the imagery and had just used AI to avoid having to hire and pay anyone, then yes, that is scummy behaviour. But you can't be offended that someone else got the job instead of you and used a tool you don't like.

This is where one of my concerns with AI comes in. While the festival did hire someone and the use of AI will have been agreed upon, there are going to be countless companies who don't hire anyone and do use AI. This is concerning to me and to thousands of other people. People are really struggling financially in the UK and a lot of creative's business comes from small and medium sized businesses who themselves are struggling financially so are more likely to use AI to create imagery instead of a hiring a designer. I honestly don't see how you stop this. This goes back to creating easily replicated work where you are reliant on people to not copy it. And people are shit so good luck with that.

My main concern as someone who has to put the artwork I create online to attract new clients is people stealing that work. People have to populate databases with images and it is not right that anything online is fair game to use. I would not want my work used to teach AI how to immitate my work and I am sure 99% of creatives feel the same way. There needs to be stricter copyright laws. If there was a stock image site that artists, designers and photographers could upload their work to, and be paid for like Shutterstock, which sole purpose was to train AI's then I think most creatives would get behind that as another revenue stream.

While I don't see AI as something that is necessarily bad for the creative industries, I just see it as another tool, I do see some of the people who will utilise it as a problem for the creative industries. AI cannot replace skill, talent, experience and dedication but it might replace opportunites in certain circumstances. I definately see the people who own the AI companies as a danger to the creative industries, some have even gone on record as saying they have stolen artists work. The one thing they cannot take though is people's passion for creativity and their need to create. I have have been careful throughout this post to not call AI imagery art, that is because it has no soul. I view it the same way as a meat substitute shaped like bacon, call it whatever you want, it ain't bacon. Same as artwork produced by AI, it just ain't artwork, it's an image. Focus on what you want to create, using whatever tool you want to use and don't get angry if people want to use AI as a new tool, but do call people out who steal art and use AI to save money.

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