AI Art: A Discussion About Potential Ethical Approaches

AI art is controversial. I asked my friends about the most ethical approach to it.

I care about artists. My friends are artists. Not only that, but one day, I’ll like to make an anime studio of some sort. So I’m personally invested in getting this right.

I was so excited to make AI anime art, because it was something that I could never do before. It was something I will likely continue exploring, too.

But it is extremely controversial amongst the artist community.

I want to do the right thing for artists, yet also take advantage of playing with this incredible technology. The future of my entire YouTube channel would change depending on how I approached this, too.

I therefore discussed the ethics of AI art with two artist friends who I admire and create incredible anime art. Here are the topics we touched on, because I wanted to figure out: why is AI art bad, and what can be done to make it not a bad thing?

I have tried my best to simply ask questions to my artists friends to understand. It’s a raw discussion, but it was very insightful. There is likely to be significantly more nuance for any one bullet point, but this was what I understood.

Why is AI art bad for artists?

  • There is a strong sense of unfairness in having AI art be mistaken for real art.
  • People who make AI art sometimes try to pass off AI-generated art as their own. This devalues the work of artists who have genuinely worked years to get to a certain point.
  • There is no financial compensation for the art that was used to train the AI.
  • There is a sense that the AI art copies, rather than creates. There is no organic sense of art creation.
  • This is all flavoured by the context of fairness. AI art can do instantly what would have taken 10 years to learn properly, devaluing all the work that artists put in.
  • In conventions, AI art is being banned.

How would you avoid harming artists, whilst using AI art?

  • Put a big disclaimer at the start and end to signify it is AI-generated art.
  • This brings awareness to the conversation.
  • Ideally, pay artists.
  • If there was some way for artists to be compensated or opt-in, that would be superb.
  • If you’re a corporation, it’s a big difference than if you were an individual indie developer.

Can artists tell if art is AI generated?

  • Yes.
  • There’s often giveaways, but sometimes one has to look really closely.
  • Often closed source models “own” any art generated, in their clauses.

If art isn’t the primary expression (e.g. a video game that focuses on storytelling with AI-generated art for the characters), is it wrong?

  • Does still take the job of an artist away.
  • Video game assets are an interesting thing that doesn’t strike as much of a nerve if AI generated. It is because it doesn’t fundamentally impinge on human expression, and instead is a means of production.

Isn’t AI art just a tool available to everyone?

  • More than a tool, it allows one to thieve other artists’ expressions.

What if art was partially human made, and partially AI generated? (Semi-Art)

  • Seems to be more acceptable
  • For example, in-betweening keyframes is akin to 3D modelling rigging, and still allows for pure artistic expression in a sense.
  • Would reduce overwork.
  • If you did the sketch and then used art to fill things in, this is acceptable.

Would donating some of the profits to artists make it more morally acceptable?

  • It wouldn’t go back to the original artist,
  • but it would be very sweet.

Don’t all artists use other people’s art to train? What’s the difference between this and an AI?

  • An artist does indeed learn art from others.
  • But AI takes exact replicas and copies, whereas humans have to learn and combine it with all the things that make up them.

My conclusions based on the above

  • An artist is an identity. The expression lies at the humanity of it all.
  • The harms of AI art stem from the mixing of them in a real art ecosystem. Inauthenticity is a big issue.
  • Rather than AI art, which strikes a nerve, AI generated images is more acceptable. This is because it places it in a separate category.
  • The support of real artists will always remain at the centre of any debate about why AI art is good or bad. People who come from non-art backgrounds lack that sense of identity.