Been reading about DALL-E 2 recently. For the uninitiated, it’s an AI tool that generates images based on text prompts. So for example, someone can type in, “Woman buys blue toilet paper in Walmart seen from behind” and the AI will generate an image that matches that description. The technology is still in its early stages, and many of the results look funny during experimentation that some news outlets have tried to sell it as a fun tool to create memes. But some results look quite good and it’s scary how accurate the AI can recreate text prompts into images.
The AI tool is being sold as a possible tool to help people quickly visualize images. This can be anything from helping people with physical disadvantages express themselves to production companies quickly storyboard ideas. That second scenario sounds like it’s bound to make some artists redundant.
What surprised me about the tool is how good some of the pieces it generates can be. They look like someone actually labored and made art. AI can already generate written words to simulate real people. They do this well enough with millions of bots posting messages on Twitter and writing spam e-mail that they convince thousands of people with their authenticity. But now this DALL-E 2 could be doing the same thing, only with digital art and photography. It can make images that can move the hearts and minds of some people.
There’s already a debate whether some conceptual artists are actual artists (*cough* Damien Hirst *cough*), but with AI, anyone can type out any of their wild ideas and it’s up to the AI to make art out of it. Forget talent, skill, or training… all you need is a good idea and a bit of wit. How long before we see a group of artists calling themselves AI artists who never lifted a brush or a pencil all of their life?
I believe it was Picasso who said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.” TS Elliott similarly said, “the immature poet imitates; the mature poet plagiarizes.” The DALL-E 2 and what it will eventually become is the ultimate thief. It will copy style and technique and appropriate it to whatever the user whims it to. I know someone who currently creates abstract digital paintings. He sells prints of his works. Now how similar would the works be if I used DALL-E 2 and entered “Swishy digital painting with soft pastel tones”? How safe are my works? “Busy ink drawing filling the page with an octopus hidden somewhere”?
Now, the makers of the program claim that there are safeguards which prevent people from making counterfeit images, using political figures, generating pornography, etc. But really, at some point this is all going to get duplicated or someone is going to find some sort of workaround. Next thing you know, we’ll have a convincing picture of “President Biden at a nude resort” floating around the Internet.
It’s simply too rife for potential abuse.