AI-Generated Art Has Illustrated Another Problem with Technology

The origins of this story began when the headline over an entry in Charlie Warzel's Galaxy Brain newsletter in the Atlantic: "Where Does Alex Jones Go from Here?" caught everyone's attention.

Alex Jones is a name most people probably know. He is a web troll who has parlayed a radio talk show and a website into a comfortable multimillion-dollar enterprise that peddles nonsense, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and bizarre merchandise to a massive tribe of adherents.

Till Aug 4, he got away with it. Things changed on this day as he misplaced an epic defamation case introduced in opposition to him by the dad and mom of kids who died during the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Jones had constantly ridiculed that tragedy as a staged hoax. On Aug 4, a Texas jury determined that Jones must pay about US$ 50m in damages for publishing the sadistic nonsense. Read more here.

Recently, Warzel released a newsletter with details from someone who worked for Jones's media empire during the glorious days and was fascinating. But what caught most people's attention was an illustration heading the piece.

It showed a cartoonish picture of a disheveled Jones in a cavern. He was surrounded by papers, banknotes, prescriptions, and other paperwork. This illustration was captioned "AI art by Midjourney." For those unaware, Midjourney is an analysis lab with a program that creates photographs from textual descriptions utilizing a machine-learning system. It resembles OpenAI's Dall-E system and has generated many photographs, including those for Economist.

Dall-E was derived from OpenAI's pioneering GPT language models that can generate vaguely believable English textual content. It swaps pixels for textual content and was educated on 400m pairs of photographs with textual content captions which were "scraped" from the web. When GPT-3 came into existence, it sparked a new installment of the "augmentation v replacement" debate.

It can be used to write boring and helpful content, but sometimes, it can create toxic and apparently credible disinformation, which might slip via the moderation techniques adopted by social media platforms. It can also be used to increase the capacities of overworked journalists or might even dispense with them.

Dall-E can be useful for individuals who can write textual content but cannot draw to save their lives. So, it can be a good augmentation of human functionality.

There might also be a replacement query in the future. It is possible that Warzel used Midjourney's bot to create an illustration instead of getting one from a copyrighted picture or even commissioning an artist to create one. It was a mistake as an artist noticed the caption and expressed shock over Twitter that such a nationwide journal could utilize such software instead of paying an artist to try their work.

Other publications noticed that, and Warzel was made the villain in a viral tweetstorm. It was painful for him, but it can also serve as a salutary warning for publishers who prefer machines over creative artists who deserve what they get.

You can check the newsletter here.



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