There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is AI. Illustrators around the world are taking to the streets to try to get rid of him. This sheriff wasn’t elected – he just showed up one day, brandished his guns, pinned a shiny star-shaped badge on his coat, and got on his horse to ride into town and claim it.
For those who have been living under a rock in recent months, let me explain what’s going on. OpenAI, a company founded by a couple of guys (including Elon Musk) has developed a number of tools based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. One of these tools is DALL-E, a tool that can create any kind of image by simply telling it what to make. Not only that, it can generate images in virtually any style – photorealistic, painterly, collage, you name it. You can ask DALL-E to create an image of a shark biting a loaf of bread in the desert, as if it were painted by Pablo Picasso, and within seconds you’ll be presented with a few images that meet all specifications.This seems like a dream come true for art directors. Goodbye, illustrator – thanks for your service!
One of my favourite sayings is, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” and that seems to be the case with DALL-E at the moment, as the images the tool produces are far from perfect. However, they can be improved by providing more specific instructions.
Since DALL-E is a language-driven tool, its performance is dependent on the quality of the linguistic input. The better the instructions, the better the end product.
Keep in mind though that AI is developing quickly, and DALL-E’s output will only get better and better. The obvious quirks in the execution-phase of today will be gone next year.
Another reason for illustrators to resent AI is that the technology relies on the work of illustrators to learn and improve. AI is scouring the internet for images to consume, like Dracula searching for blood to stay alive. There are obvious copyright concerns about this method. Illustrators have no say in the matter, and as far as I know there are no ways to protect published work on the internet from being harvested by AI.So not only could AI become serious competition for illustrators, it’s also using their work to fuel its own growth.
If this were a movie, it would be rated R.
Whenever I see a large group of people expressing anger, I tend to take a step back and try to understand all sides of the issue and form a more balanced opinion. I don’t believe my observations on this matter are definitive, because AI is evolving rapidly. Maybe in a few years (or sooner) my observations shall be outdated.
Here are a few of my observations regarding AI that I’d like to share with you. Please let me know in the comments what you think of them.
- AI doesn’t have a voice.
One of the most valuable assets of any creative is their voice. Clients hire you because they feel that your voice is the solution to their problem.
AI is dependent on the input of a human being. It’s not (yet) able to come up with its own ideas.
So, while a tool like DALL-E might benefit some people who need images and take away some assignments from illustrators, one has to ask themselves if it’s worth working for clients who choose AI over an illustrator.
- AI is dependent on external textual input.
As mentioned before, AI needs a text description in order to work. The way this description is formulated is crucial to the final result. Additionally, many clients who hire illustrators do not know exactly what they need, so they may not be able to instruct a tool like DALL-E effectively.
- AI always obeys.
AI will always do as it is instructed and will never speak up or question its instructions (assuming it follows Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”). This means that it will never warn a client if they are about to make a mistake. This is where an illustrator can add value to a client by providing creative solutions in a collaborative environment.
A good illustration is the product of the interaction between the artist and the client (in most cases an art-director) and an AI will never be able to interact on a human level with another human.
- AI cannot generate concepts.
Coming up with an idea or concept requires the ability to make emotional connections and interpret observations. AI cannot do this on its own, and the person typing the instructions may also not be able to do so. Illustrators excel at this task.
So is it all worries and woes? I don’t think so. AI is a tool that is available to everyone, including illustrators. I think that illustrators have to study it’s possibilities and make their own conclusions in how AI can be of service to them.
I’m also confident that a solution will be found to protect the works of illustrators on the internet against AI crawlers. As of this day my work was not fed to the hungry AI, but some of my friends have their work eaten by AI and they are rightfully pissed of by this. You can check this yourself at https://haveibeentrained.com/
We have to face the facts: the sheriff is not going to leave town. We have to get used by his presence, and maybe some time in the future we can all have a beer in the saloon.
(For this blogpost I used the ChatGPT AI model to check for spelling errors and improvement of grammar)