Friday, January 20, 2023

AI bots are artistic theft, and you shouldn't be supporting them

The computers are taking over.

Yes, you read that right.

What was, for the longest time, a paranoid SciFi premise has become a reality for tens (maybe hundreds) of millions of American students, teachers, hiring managers and - most importantly with regard to this blog - artists.

If you've been living in a hole for the past few months, let me break this down for you: with AI bots, what once took visual artists and writers hours, weeks, months, years to create becomes "yours" within minutes.

All you have to do is put in a few prompts (ie. "chatbot write me a cover letter for a secretarial job that emphasizes my interpersonal skills") and, in less than the time it takes to pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios, AI scours the internet, culling from professional cover letters and websites that teach cover letter skills, and delivers you a gramatically correct cover letter. Without crediting or compensating the sources from which it came.

That may be good for you. Inarguably, it's a time saver, and it'll make you appear ("on paper" anyway) intelligent and capable. But it's very bad for the people who worked hard on crafting their own, unique cover letters that the AI bot just stole from. It's bad for the companies that teach the writing skills that the AI bot just, again, stole from.

And the issues go way beyond cover letters.

As you read this, kids across the country (and the world, if we're being honest) are using AI to "write" their scholastic papers - meaning, they aren't "writing" (or critically thinking about the material) at all. Instead, they are using technological plagiarism to steal from the students and scholars before them, who crafted and expressed their own ideas.

And, again, these original students and scholars are in no way being acknowledged or compensated for their work.

The negative implications are endless: hiring managers no longer have a good idea of who they're inviting in for interviews, teachers no longer have an idea if students are truly grasping the material, "authors" can claim credit for "books" that were actually culled from other writers' work, "artists" can "create" paintings by appropriating the work of Masters...

This is devastating for the artists, writers, and professionals turning out original, blood-sweat-and-tears content, only to have it purloined by an individual or company that's looking for "cheap and quick."

In short, intellectual property is experiencing a technological smash-and-grab that won't be letting up anytime soon.

Scarily, these bots will save companies time and money. Which means the aforementioned techno smash-and-grab? Is a "smart business model" mainstay that's probably going to take many artists', writers', and experts' jobs.

Sit with that for a minute.

Tens of thousands (maybe millions) of the world's creatives will not only be out of a job - they'll be unemployed while individuals and companies use bots to steal their intellectual property.

"We love your work. We think it's worth using. But we're definitely not going to pay you for it."

That's a problem.

It's a problem in that theft is always a problem.

It's pretty much universally scorned, and yet, folks everywhere are contributing to artistic theft, because it will save them time or money or will make them appear how they'd like to appear, instead of as they are.

And the issues go beyond just the morality of theft and the implications of mass job loss.

If we lose our artists, humanity loses its soul.

Think about it: unlike unfair comparisons to automation in other areas, art is an expression of the artist's mind, soul, and perspective on the world. It is unique to the individual. Masters like Van Gogh showed the world what sunflowers looked like through his personal perspective. Masterpieces like the Mona Lisa, the Pieta, "Hamlet," "The Iliad" - these pieces changed and shaped the Western World, the art world, the written world.

That AI can write you a play in minutes, by unabashedly taking from the likes of Shakespeare, and that you can then slap your name on it and claim it as your own is...morally bankrupt.

You've saved time and money, but your endeavor is morally bankrupt.


Sadly, AI's intellectual property theft is probably here to stay. For some of you, that's reason enough to keep supporting it. After all, what effect can a one-person boycott have? Especially if your boss introduces AI to the workplace model.

"If you want to succeed and thrive, you have to change with the times" right?

That's already the position of the companies profiting off of these new AI offerings.

And, at this point, no amount of boycotting will stop the rise of the machines.

But you, as an individual, can still choose whose side you're on.

When Judgement Day comes, will you be team John Connor? Or are you buying up all the shares of Cyberdyne Systems?


Quippy "Terminator" questions aside - in all seriousness - pay artists. Acknowledge their contributions with attributions and financial compensation.

They/we deserve it.

And in a very real way, we're irreplaceable.

You'll miss us when we're gone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

On Nepo Babies and the Expectation of Yes

Ah yes. "Nepo Baby" - the viral phrase of 2023.

It goes without saying that, no matter what many Nepo Babies seem to believe or espouse, being born with one "foot in the door" very much makes a difference in the opportunities one is afforded.

While it's conceded that, once there, even Nepo Babies must deliver or, presumably, face some consequences, I've spent a bit of time in the film/tv/and journalism industries, and I can tell you - Nepo Babies get more chances with regard to fucking up. More allowances are made for lateness, unpreparedness, bad behavior if those sins are committed by someone with a famous last name.

That shouldn't be news to you.

That shouldn't surprise you.

Indeed, that should be common sense.

What I haven't seen addressed in the Nepo Baby conversation, however, is the more "sneaky" benefit that comes along with the nepotism silver spoon - and that benefit is "the expectation of yes."TM

Simply put, the Expectation of Yes is the idea that, from birth, Nepo Babies are told "yes" to their wants/desires/dreams much more often than are the rest of us plebs.

Whereas Us Poors have to temper our expectations from jump, Nepo Babies are indulged, and, as such, are trained from infancy to expect an answer of "yes". Always.

Want a pony? YES! Want to spend Senior Skip Day taking our private jet to Milan? YES! Want to break into the film industry where daddy is already a lauded director and mommy is a household name actress? YES, YES, YES!

Based on these examples, one could easily mistake the Expectation of Yes to be merely a socioeconomic feedback loop. Studies have shown that those who have connections are more financially successful than those without.

But the Expectation of Yes is not limited to those persons born into financial largesse.

Rather, it seems that so often it's the unwavering expectation that leads to the end result. The expectation of success often breeds the very thing it expects.

Succintly: success comes to those who have been taught from birth to expect it.

Whereas most of us have been taught from an early age to tempter our expectations and that Life is Hard and that we should expect "nos" and adversity, Nepo Babies and other "fortune favored" (fortune in this instance meaning "fate" and not "money," though money most assuredly helps), individuals are told "Yes, I will drive you across many states, multiple times a week/month/year to pursue your 8-yr-old dreams." "Yes, I will uproot our family to move to wherever you need to go to foster your love of X,Y,Z." "Yes, I will spend all of our family's money on getting you lessons in A,B,C because your dream is more important than our trivial, how-will-we-pay-for-our-twilight-years concerns."

You've heard that "Fortune favors the bold"?

Well nothing helps one be bolder than having the Expectation of Yes.

I've seen this play out, even among pleb families, countless times.

The Golden Child (the parental favorite) will be heralded for their accomplishments - their good grades, their athleticism, their beautiful appearance - and will be consistently rewarded with yeses. Seemingly independent of their families' initial financial status, Golden Children will, by odds, be the most financially and otherwise successful children, in large part because they were taught to expect every answer to be a 'yes.'

Is this because the world values brains, athleticism, and beauty? Or is it because brains, athleticism, beauty are rewarded at home, from an early age?


And now that I've given y'all something to think about, I want to hard-pivot to another issue that's been on my mind lately. That issue? Is the widespread artistic theft that's been happening with regard to AI.

If you're unaware, AI software has been essentially stealing both visual art and written art from artists and writers. It culls art from across the internet to "create" images and articles for commercial use, all without crediting or otherwise reimbursing the initial content creaters.

Make no bones about it, it's theft on a massive scale.

It makes my blood boil to know that my husband's graphic design work can be stolen from the internet and used without his knowledge and without due compensation. That my words, my ideas, my "voice" can and likely already has, by one metric or another, been taken without my consent and been plagiarized into some college kid's essay or some influencer's blog makes me positively homicidal.

What can be done?

There's - ironically - AI being developed to recognize the influence of AI - but in the mean, companies et all are dumping artists who have the audacity to require financial compensation for their work in favor of AI programs that can just steal from across the internet for a small monthly subscription fee.

What does AI theft have to do with Nepo Babies and the Expectation of Yes? In this instance, just that I, and independent content creator, have put my musings on the subject here, where it can be stolen by AI, by any user searching for a few key words.

Gross, yes?

I love learning.
In the wake of earning my Master's Degree and then the collapse of my health, YouTube has been an invaluable tool in my continuing arts education.
Most days I complete Dualingo lessons.
I am currently on a medication that has been linked to cognitive decline. Knowing this, I'd prefer not to take it... but it relieves symptoms that otherwise make daily life unbearable.
So I take it.
But it remains my goal to regain enough health to use my passion for the arts and my education to educate others in an academic setting.
May it be.