Now more than ever, being you is what makes art. AI-prompted images and text are here, and while much of it is still apparent, it’s not going to be long before it gets really good.
I see people saying AI will never create something on the same level as humans, but it’s already eclipsing the work of some. (Good work at that!) And it won’t be long before the best out there see the work they do competing against a thing that doesn’t exist in a physical sense.
Even if you believe AI-prompted images and stories will never be as good as a human, one must admit that there are already many enamored with what AI creates. Granted, what it creates is based on the existing works of others, without them opting in — but that’s a subject for another entry entirely.
Over the weekend, I saw someone on Twitter boasting they are now “a published author,” because they had AI create a kid’s book now being sold on Amazon. In the Twitter thread, there were already others popping in to say, “Hey, I’ve done that, too!”
I’ve seen graphic novels and other works “created” in a weekend.
If you’re an artist or writer, it might seem scary. At the very least, insulting.
I’m fortunate to be friends with artists, writers, musicians, game designers, and other cool and creative people. Some (game designers, mostly) have already found ways to incorporate AI into the work they do. As a technical writer, I know it’s only a matter of time before it can either make my job easier, or take it away.
Many of my friends, though, see lifetimes of effort being used to feed machines they cannot control. Many visual artists already fight people using their images without permission on t-shirts, prints, and other things sold against their will. I can’t imagine being known for a style, having what I do fed to a generator, and seeing others prompting work that looks and feels like mine being sold. (At that point, with no legal recourse…because I technically didn’t make it — even though my work was used as the basis for the images.)
Showing Your Work
Humans will always have one advantage: creative people can show their work. We have personalities some followers like just as much (and maybe even more) as what we create.
I was apprehensive to start a Patreon for Not About Lumberjacks, but some people wanted a way to support me because they appreciate my efforts…and others wanted a peek behind how I write, record, and release stories.
AI can’t do that.
It’s possible, even likely, that someone creating an AI-prompted book will sell more copies of a work than me, but there doesn’t seem to be much staying power beyond the initial gimmick of, “Hey, I told a machine to make a book for me and it did…”
What is my motivation to follow that person prompting future works? (I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a connection to the people behind the art I enjoy.)
Humans Like Things Made by Humans
Even the most dicky among dude-bros have favorite bands. They have movie directors and actors they will pay based on name alone. I know people will buy comic books by certain artists no matter what they do.
AI-prompted work doesn’t evoke that same kind of loyalty…at least for the average user. (Admittedly, some people are already conceptualizing ideas and prompting images to tell a story in the same way a photographer might create a series of images.)
Still…even among people who claim to not be partial to certain creators, humans gravitate toward supporting people they like. (And in the example I just mentioned, it’s still the people conceptualizing visual stories that are the attraction.)
Is My Writing Threatened by AI?
I am more likely to see my work as a technical writer threatened by AI before AI creates fiction with the same feeling as a human. (Again, I know that day is coming.)
My work as a technical writer could be in jeopardy because why pay 50 tech writers when you can pay 5 editors to double-check AI-prompted documentation? Companies often look for ways to cut people and salaries, and if someone can point to how they saved the company 100s of millions of dollars by using AI, they will.
But when it comes to fiction, I’m not threatened.
AI and Me
Most people who set out to write fiction full time will never do so…simply based on numbers. Publishing seeks certain things, and if you fall outside what is sought, it’s a closed world. (And even many who are let in never see their books paying the bills.)
Self-publishing is always an option, but…most self-published writers don’t pay the bills with their stories either.
AI-prompted stories (when they get good) will take nothing from me that’s already behind closed doors.
AI-prompted fiction won’t prevent me from still writing, recording, and releasing stories for people who like what I do. I don’t worry about people turning away from what I do for AI-generated stories any more than I worry about them stepping away from my work for the works of others.
Obviously, I say all this as someone who supplements income with fiction — not someone who makes a living from it. And I believe it’s harder for AI-generated work to take from writers of fiction than it is from the works of visual artists.
Tor Books has already used an AI-generated-and-then-enhanced image for a book cover that should have gone to an actual artist. (I mean, it’s a cover for an author who’s sold almost 45 million friggin’ books!) Were I an artist with a particular style…I’d be concerned about people prompting images that look like mine and selling them. (If it didn’t cut into earnings, it would at least be insulting.)
One of my biggest issues with AI-prompted work right now? Some artists simply discussing their concerns and trying to educate others about how AI-prompted art is made have been harassed online. Their years of study and craft are negated by not just online trolls, but people who don’t care to listen to — and understand — their concerns.
Sadly, it didn’t take an artificial intelligence to remind us how inhuman we can be to each other…
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