Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 02, 2024
AI Luddites

I was reading a review of a game on Board Game Quest, when I stumbled upon the following passage: "Beyond current commitments, Board Game Quest is not planning on covering games in the future that use AI art". This was because the game reviewed did contain AI art, and the editor was uncomfortable with the "ethical issues" of that. I think this approach is backwards and far too general.

AI generated images, in my mind, can have two big ethical issues. One is if you ask the AI software to generate an image "in the style of" some known artist. That will produce an image which is obviously mostly based on the works of this one artist, and will be similar to his existing artwork as to be able to compete with it. For example Phil Foglio and his wife produced a lot of very distinctive artwork for Magic the Gathering; it would be unethical for WotC/Hasbro to make new Magic cards using artwork "in the style of Phil Foglio" created by AI, and not pay Phil for it.

The other ethical problem of AI images is deepfakes, like the Taylor Swift deepfake pornography from earlier this year. Besides the aspect that the creator of such an image is trying to deceive others into believing something, which in reality never happened, there is also the aspect of the deepfake using images of a specific person; that person has certain rights regarding his images, which the AI image violates.

But if you ask an AI for a generic image with a generic description, e.g. "draw me a goblin pirate", I don't see the ethical problem. The resulting image is a composite of many different works from many different artists; it isn't fundamentally different from an art student painting an image, inspired by whatever artwork he studied during his courses. If we talk about an art movement like impressionism, that is because the artists in that movement were inspired by each others works. There are obvious similarities between the various paintings of the same art movement. Nobody ever questioned whether that was ethical, or demanded copyright compensation for the artist who inspired his fellows.

Indie game developers, whether for board games or computer games, most of the time aren't great artists themselves. Their interest is in game design. Why would we want to force the game developer to draw that goblin pirate himself, badly, or to pay an artist to draw a goblin pirate, increasing the cost of the game, when instead he can get a perfectly viable goblin pirate for free from an AI? As long as the image isn't copying anyone in particular, but is just generic, I don't see any ethical issues here. I don't think that artists have a right to be employed any more than somebody from all the previous professions that have been made more or less obsolete by new technology. I might as well complain that the board game uses printed components instead of hiring a monk to draw every card by hand.

I believe that AI software should block requests to draw images "in the style of" any specific artist, and not accept names or photos of a specific person to base its AI images on. But companies that want to go for a distinctive art look for their game will always hire human artists. AI is a perfectly viable solution for creating generic images for games.

I'm going to demand all my games are hand-drawn by monks from now on. That sounds awesome!
"In style of" should not be totally prohibited. Is there any harm in AI painting in style of Raphael or Breughel?
"companies that want to go for a distinctive art look for their game will always hire human artists."

"Always" is quite a stretch. Perhaps during the current generation of AI where originality is unlikely. But as super-human AI capabilities arrive, I fully expect AI to be quite capable of creating very distinctive art. I could argue it's already happening, but judging art as always is in the eyes of the beholder.
The only potential harm I see is that if we make it too hard to make a living as an artist, the amount of new art being produced by humans will decrease. AI can really on recombine art it has already seen in various ways, it can't innovate on a coherent thoughtful way. The end result could be a slowdown of innovation in art overall, and fewer unexpected and delightful new things.

However, I certainly don't feel that a game designer has a moral obligation to hire an artist when they only need art that is serviceable or have to choose between creating a product with AI art vs not creating a product at all.
Maybe we can get ChatGPT to give us an "April Fool's Day post in the style of Tobold" since we did not get one this year. :-(
I think the ethos here is more about putting artists out of business by substituting for them. I don't honestly know how I feel about it. Maybe it will actually work out for the best if it can be used but gets frowned upon by reviewers, as here.
The issue here is that to train these AI they've used people's art without permission. The artists didn't get a choice as to whether their artwork would be used for this.

You can't really put the genie back into the bottle but I feel companies developing AI and LLM tech need to be regulated. In order to train AI they need to license work from the people that created it just like I'd have to license it if I wanted to then profit off that work. This would allow creators the right of refusal.

I also don't think you can compare AI creating something and an artisan spending the time to learn their craft. Especially not when the AI "learned" by essentially copying work without permission.
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