Some time ago there was a post that Github(owned by Microsoft) was training its data on public code repos. And there was predictable outrage about code being "stolen" by a greedy corporation.
The key thing is: Most of the programmers had willingly put their code on GitHub and with permissive licenses like MIT (or similar), which meant anyone could copy/reuse their code. But then they got angry when the evil M$oft took their code.
(To be fair, there were claims that MS might have copied copyrighted code, and a GitHub engineer gave his opinions here)
And then the same big corporations went after artists and started stealing (sorry, "borrowing") their work to train their AIs. You think our programmers would have sympathy with the artists work being stolen by big corporations, just as theirs was?
The New AI "Artists"
There was a very moving comic by the creator of Cat and Girl about how she found out she was one of the artists whose work had been stolen by AI.
I recommend you read the whole comic: https://catandgirl.com/4000-of-my-closest-friends/
The artist says (in the comic): She can't get her cartoons to most people without doing free work for huge corporations(I'm guessing she means Facebook/X etc, which act as middlemen now and take away most of the ad money). But then the AI companies even took away that option and just took her work.
And this time, the comments by the Techbros were completely different:
- Muhhh, we can't stop progress
- Copyright rules are stupid anyway
- What can we do? Artists are going the way of the dodo
- "Art" is subjective anyway
One comment says artists take inspiration from others anyway, and AI is just taking "inspiration" from them. And instead of using a pen or tablet, we can now use AI. (I won't link to the comment, it is too idiotic).
Then they came for me
And that's the hypocrisy. Programmers are A-OK when other people's work and career is being destroyed, "It's science bro, can't stop it, man," but throw tantrums when their own work is stolen.
I don't have any solution
I don't know what the solution is. I know many artists are suing the AI companies, as is the New York Times. These court cases will take years, if not decades; and we have no idea what will happen in the meantime. AI technology is moving at the speed of light, but courts move at the speed of...courts? Because even snails are faster than the legal system.
So I don't what the future of the artists is.
But I did find how hypocritical the dude-bro programmers acted, the complete 180 degrees U-turn when it was someone else's work being stolen.
I must say, not all coders are jerks, I did find people asking other programmers to be empathetic to those scared of AI. I found this comment on HN is very heartful (just don't read the replies to it):
I've been finding that the strangest part of discussions around art AI among technical people is the complete lack of identification or empathy: it seems to me that most computer programmers should be just as afraid as artists, in the face of technology like this!!!
The lack of empathy is incredibly depressing...
A positive future?
That said, I am hopeful for the long term future, though I admit it will be bad for many artists short term:
- I am hopeful a positive legal solution will be found that supports artists while still allowing AI companies to progress
- In my own experience as a developer, I find AI tools 10x my productivity– removing all the boring "donkey" work I had to do previously. I am hopeful it will be similarly helpful to all artists.
Until then, to misquote Jesus: Truly I tell you, if you have compassion as small as a mustard seed, you will sound less like a douchebag and more like a human being.