An Angry Rant About Algorithmically Generated Images and Media

Every time I see someone posting photos of themselves that they’re run through the latest in algorithmic art theft and image editing, I find myself screaming in my head “did these people learn NOTHING from the stupid facebook quizzes of the 2010s???” History is cyclical and it is frustrating to watch so many people I know repeatedly make the same mistakes about their digital footprints. It is difficult to fault them, at times, since the entire internet aparatus these days is set up to scrape as much of your personal information as it can, but given that all they have to do is read a EULA or keep up with all the art theft, copyright infringement, and actual damage to the artistic professions that these media-generating algorithms are doing these days, I find myself losing respect rather than feeling a desire to educate.

I mean, as an artist of sorts (written word, specifically) who values their intellectual property rights and feels that people like myself are exteremely undervalued (I mean, it is almost impossible to make it as a writer these days thanks to the cheapening of views online, the surpression of book advance amounts by publishers, and the drastic cuts to pay for staff or freelance writers), I have a hard time respecting the opinion of anyone who so casually dismisses the livelihoods of artists. Especially when they are doing it carelessly and out of a desire to follow along with modern trends. All it takes is a couple of minutes of critical engagement with search terms like “AI Art” to realize that it isn’t artificial intelligence but a bunch of programmed algorithms that are stealing as much art as they can find while also mixing it up enough to pretend they didn’t.

That pretext falls apart the instant you realize that most pople using these algorithms are trying to reproduce specific artists and that companies are beginning to use this stuff in the place of paying actual artists because capitalism will always choose cheap over every other option. All of which is revealed by the first page of google results. It doesn’t take much effort. I shared articles with someone showing all the reasons their choice to follow the self-portrait generator trend was bad for them specifically and it took me more time to write out the text explaining the links than it took me to find sources I trusted that carefully evaluated the issues at hand.

I’m just sick of people getting on board with art theft, copyright violation, and the erosion of intellectual property rights simply because it showed up in a fancy new suit with a nametag that says “AI.” It isn’t intelligent. Every single on of these algorithms falls apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny (I’m looking at you especially, text-generating/chat algorithms). I mean, there are reports from huge tech companies that all of their attempts at producing aritificial intelligence have fallen apart over the years because the instant they’re put online or given access to the internet at large, they immediately start to replicate the worst of humanity. Why does anyone think the recent interations are any different?

For the image generators specifically, I find myself just boggled that people still think they’re fine. After all, what kind of system would it be if you had to go to city hall and opt-out of being targeted by thieves? What good, healthy, appropriate system requires you to opt-out instead of in? I’m sure there are a couple, but most of the time you can’t claim you’re protecting people you’re stealing from if you only stop stealing from them once they notice you’re doing it and ask you to stop. I can’t believe that I’m still explaining this to people. It’s not like it’s the kind of thing someone only gets if they’re terminally online. I’m not even terminally online. I only find out about the big stuff most of the time, and this algorithmic images thing has been written about by almost every major news organization at this point. I literally can’t think of one that doesn’t have articles about this whole industry of theft. I’ll admit a lot of them seem to present this as a kind of logic puzzle with no clear answer rather than a clear case of intellectual property rights abuse that has advanced beyond the current legal system’s ability to restrain, protect, or even account for. Too bad the US Government is so moribund and stuck in history that it can’t get embrace actual human rights let alone get with the times.

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