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.