Wednesday, 06 Dec 2023

ChatGPT said I did not exist: how artists and writers are fighting back against AI

ChatGPT said I did not exist: how artists and writers are fighting back against AI

ChatGPT said I did not exist: how artists and writers are fighting back against AI

No need for more scare stories about the looming automation of the future. Artists, designers, photographers, authors, actors and musicians see little humour left in jokes about AI programs that will one day do their job for less money. That dark dawn is here, they say.

Vast amounts of imaginative output, work made by people in the kind of jobs once assumed to be protected from the threat of technology, have already been captured from the web, to be adapted, merged and anonymised by algorithms for commercial use. But just as GPT-4, the enhanced version of the AI generative text engine, was proudly unveiled last week, artists, writers and regulators have started to fight back in earnest.

"Picture libraries are being scraped for content and huge datasets being amassed right now," says Isabelle Doran, head of the Association of Photographers. "So if we want to ensure the appreciation of human creativity, we need new ways of tracing content and the protection of smarter laws."

Collective campaigns, lawsuits, international rules and IT hacks are all being deployed at speed on behalf of the creative industries in an effort, if not to win the battle, at least to "rage, rage against the dying of the light", in the words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

Poetry may still be a hard nut for AI to crack convincingly, but among the first to face a genuine threat to their livelihoods are photographers and designers. Generative software can produce images at the touch of the button, while sites like the popular NightCafe make "original", data-derived artwork in response to a few simple verbal prompts. The first line of defence is a growing movement of visual artists and image agencies who are now "opting out" of allowing their work to be farmed by AI software, a process called "data training". Thousands have posted "Do Not AI" signs on their social media accounts and web galleries as a result.

A software-generated approximation of Nick Cave's lyrics notably drew the performer's wrath earlier this year. He called it "a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human". Not a great review. Meanwhile, AI innovations such as Jukebox are also threatening musicians and composers.

And digital voice-cloning technology is putting real narrators and actors out of regular work. In February, a Texas veteran audiobook narrator called Gary Furlong noticed Apple had been given the right to "use audiobook files for machine learning training and models" in one of his contracts. But the union SAG-AFTRA took up his case. The agency involved, Findaway Voices, now owned by Spotify, has since agreed to call a temporary halt and points to a "revoke" clause in its contracts. But this year Apple brought out its first books narrated by algorithms, a service Google has been offering for two years.

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