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  • Writer's pictureChris Beatrice

Power to the People—The Great Misappropriation

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

The huge leap forward in the democratization of creativity has finally arrived. Problem is the people applauding this don’t appear to be able to see two steps ahead.

Giddy A.I. art evangelists envision themselves wielding 2025 creative tech in a 2021 media landscape, bypassing the obstacles previously imposed by cost, and finally being able to compete on a level playing field with the big guys. Things will be just like they are now, except we won’t need to pay those pesky artists. A coming golden age for the solo creator.

Except… if A.I. systems continue the way they are going (which they will), these dreamers are going to find themselves democratized into a level of irrelevance even deeper than the one they’re already in.

I'm kind of stunned that A.I. lovers think the tech is going to stop just right exactly at THEIR door. That it's going to replace the talented people they don’t want to have to pay, but it's not going to replace THEM. I think that's delusional, honestly—as if the buying public will need prompters to do something that is literally designed so that anyone (including A.I. itself) can do it. Nope, consumers will just ask the super-A.I. for “A graphic novel like Game of Thrones, in post apocalyptic Kansas, with horse people” (see, I’m creative!), or they’ll peruse the bottomless pit of A.I. creations for something to look at.

The real and only success to be had with A.I. tech is on the part of those who control it, especially by delivering A.I. tech that consumers can use directly. And that’s exactly what’s happening. The irony is, prompters are helping them do this, while championing that very same tech as their savior. They actually think it’s being made for THEM, and routinely BOAST ABOUT HOW GOOD IT IS GETTING. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens when they are overtaken by the A.I. they themselves trained. We artists have been the targets of outright theft; prompters have been the targets of a con which, like many cons, takes advantage of a sense of entitlement, resentment, and greed.

And it’s the theft of our art that is the real key to what’s going on here. Let’s try a thought experiment: imagine there was no A.I., and instead, all intellectual property rights were annulled, meaning anyone could freely use patented inventions, trademarked images, characters, music, books, celebrity likenesses—all of it. The effect would be much the same as what we are seeing now, and some would be saying the same things they are saying now: finally the obstacles preventing sole practitioners from participating in the marketplace have been removed. Finally everyone can make big things without having to pay for the talent behind it, or having to invest years and years of work.

The point is it's not the A.I. tech itself that is ushering in this transfer of power—it's the wholesale theft of intellectual property. Our art has more value than the tech. Can we have art without A.I.? Obviously. Can we have A.I. art without human art? No.

In the commercial art world we generally don’t sell physical objects—we sell THE RIGHT TO USE OUR ART. When we put our work on social media, that’s us using our property for our own self-promotion. You’re allowed to LOOK at it, but you’re not allowed to incorporate it in your dang software!

So we’ll wait and see how the law views this brazen, shameless, plain sight attempt to steal and then fence, through shell companies, the products of our hard work, expertise, and passion. And even if our intellectual property rights get steamrolled by rampant capitalism and clueless legislators, we will still be here, doing our work, tracing our tradition of risk-taking, self-expression, dedication, sharing and authenticity in an unbroken line back to the likes of Cassat, Monet, VanGogh, Delacroix, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, DaVinci, and countless others. A curious club of elites, spanning the full spectrum of economic success or lack thereof.

Because artists are compelled to create pictures, sculpt, write, act, make music on an instrument or with their voice, cook, and so on because, I feel, these are fundamental and direct forms of human self-expression that benefit both the giver and the receiver. I'm here to encourage artists to keep doing these things no matter what the tech-owned capitalist marketplace is telling you. Your own art can be a boundless source of satisfaction and connection. It’s a precious jewel that cannot be tarnished.

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