The Paradox of Generative AI: Is AI-Generated Content an Artistic Revolution or a Form of Cheating?

Category Artificial Intelligence

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The heyday of generative AI has been ushering in a debate over what constitutes art, with AI-generated images and text winning awards and prizes. This raises serious questions about privacy, creativity, and the validity of AI-generated content as an art form. As technology advances, chances of AI-generated content becoming an impediment to creativity or a tool unwittingly used for nefarious purposes continue to increase.

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The heyday of generative AI is upon us, with millions of images and billions of words per day being produced by models like DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, and GPT-3. By 2025, experts predict up to 90 percent of new online content could be AI-generated. But what does this mean for human creativity? How will our view of art and originality change if the most common way to create something starts with prompting an algorithm? .

ChatGPT, an AI program which creates written text, has been used to do everything from write student essays to commit phishing or disinformation

A German artist felt these questions deserved more attention than they’re getting, so he brought them to light—in quite a memorable way. Boris Eldagsen submitted an entry to the Sony world photography competition, and when he won he revealed that his "photo" wasn’t really a photo, but rather an image generated by an AI. Eldagsen turned down the prize money, suggesting it be donated to a photo festival in Ukraine.

The winner of the Creative Open category of the Sony World Photography Contest produced an AI-generated image and chose to donate the prize money instead of taking it for himself

His image, titled "Pseudomnesia: The Electrician," depicts two women, one hanging on to the other from behind. It won the contest's creative open category.

"We, the photo world, need an open discussion\about what we want to consider photography and what not," he said. "Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter—or would this be a mistake? With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate." .

AI technology has been used to generate art for years, and the debate around AI becoming a creative agent has intensified over time

Eldagsen’s statement is both timely and prescient. Though the debate around AI’s role in art has been going on for years, as the technology advances—and more importantly, becomes accessible to multitudes of people—it’s a conversation that will only get more relevant.

On the cynical side of the spectrum, some would argue that generative AI could dampen, ruin, or overtake human creativity; on the other side of the coin, AI could help creativity flourish, letting anyone who wants to become a creative generalist.

AI is helping democratize creative work, making it possible for anyone to become a generalist and make realistic-looking images and text with minimal effort

Though Eldagsen misled the photo contest organizers to some degree by submitting an AI-generated photo in the first place, he did confirm that his entry was "co-created" with AI before it was selected as the winner.

"AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this," he said. "They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award." .

The Colorado State Fair's Digital Art category was won by an image created with the AI program Midjourney last year, raising ethical questions and mixed reactions

This isn’t the first time an AI art piece has won an award and caused controversy. Last year an image created with Midjourney—an AI program that converts lines of text into realistic graphics—took first place in the digital category at the Colorado State Fair. Though the artist was fully transparent about how his piece had been created, his win provoked criticism from fellow artists who accused him of cheating.

AI-generated content could be up to 90 percent of new online content by 2025 according to experts

Unfortunately, the number of people who submit AI-generated content to competitions or exhibits and don’t disclose that they had help could far outnumber those who fess up—and herein lies one of the biggest problems we’re grappling with as the technology continues to advance. Being truly creative is hard, and AI is making it easy, and that’s not necessarily a great thing across the board.

ChatGPT, for example, has been used by students to write college essays or do homework, by fraudsters for phishing purposes, and by bad actors to spread disinformation and commit cybercrime. Even if AI-generated content isn’t used for nefarious purposes, maybe it gives creators a bit too easy of a way out, allowing them to get credit for something that’s not completely their own work.

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