Artist Discovers Her Work Feeding Hungry AI Systems

Aug 3, 2023, 11:56 AM

It was a regular Tuesday afternoon when Kelly McKernan, an accomplished illustrator based in the sonorous wilderness of Tennessee, saw her world upended. Not by an earthquake, mind you, but by a most unsettling discovery revolving around artificial intelligence (AI) and her own artwork.

Kelly, usually the dame of composure, shares her experience. "I just casually entered my name on this site – 'Have I Been Trained', it was called – and Oh my lord! Over 50 pieces of my artwork were on LAION, a data-set feeding AI image generators!" Her voice echoed bemusement and trepidation, hardly a typical reaction to internet browsing.

"Imagine, those creations, each one an intimate journey of my own, had now been loaded up on some technology's truck without my knowledge! The very paintings that held snippets of my soul were being dissected by ones and zeroes," said the painter, who predominantly works in watercolour and acrylic, her foreboding narrative adding a disturbing undertone to her serene artwork.

"I feel violated," she expressed, her eyes now wet and matching the hues of her watercolours. "A person can now just lazily pound my name into a device, and generate a book cover, a postcard, a dang T-shirt without paying me a dime. It's like thievery, but hidden in code."

It is at this point that a simple human story transmutes into a complex narrative about technological advancement and its ethical conundrums. Generative AI systems, the same ones that initially held our awe and convenience for their almost-miraculous creation of content within seconds, are now making us question the source of their powers.

The AI gods feed on massive amounts of data - images, text, audio-visual files, everything they can claw from the vast expanses of the internet and more. Is it just the cost of living in a technologically advanced era? Or the uncanny valley of tribute to over-ambitious Pandora, who couldn't resist the temptation of knowledge?

The situation is darker still for artists like Kelly, where the line between personal and public domain blurs in the digital realm. Our cavalier march towards the AI horizon has left creators like her in a lurch, their work neatly packaged away into impersonal slides of 1's and 0's, questioning the sanctity of creation itself.

"I don’t know," Kelly ruefully shared, "This just changes my relationship with my art. Looking at them is like seeing a loved one trapped in a glass case – familiar and accessible, yet distant somehow."

In the end, we are left with a haunting question – have we simply opened another Pandora's box with our adventurous forays into AI? And if so, is there hope fluttering at the bottom? Only the algorithm knows for sure.

This is AI generated satire and is not intended to be taken seriously.