The Next Big, Dark Thing: AI

Much of the photography press is on fire this week about the various iterations of AI, Artificial Intelligence, and its effect on photography and culture in general.

Getty Images announced an AI image generator for stock photos, a company that was starting to manufacture a product called “AI Pin,” a tiny lapel camera, is already laying off staff members, and there is even talk of an AI version of Taylor Swift causing problems.

The biggest problem for me, though, came when a photographer friend on social media discovered that his images were being stolen by someone on the dark web somewhere, changed slightly using AI, then  put up for sale. That’s the worst of it, really: that our labor, be it writing, music, photography, painting, sculpture, design, and even just the hard work we all do, can be so easily stolen and sold back to us. It really points out the worst of human nature, that we will do anything for money. Anything.

So what can we do besides complain about it?

Firstly, we can get our work into print, and, by extension, read what’s in print, like real newspapers, magazines, and books, and make an effort to enjoy real things in our lives, like watching our children grow up with our eyes (not on a screen), listening to live music, visiting art galleries and artist’s shows.

Secondly, be honest. This one is less easy to define, and harder to accomplish, since honesty itself is so elusive. And honesty starts and ends in the mirror, not in counting likes on a social media page.

Thirdly, we need to educate ourselves, not by cheering when we hear something online that tells us what we want to hear, but by asking intelligent, sometimes difficult questions.

Physicist Richard Feynman once said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”

It will be interesting to see how the AI revolution will develop. In the mean time, and until I am gone, I promise I will be as honest as I can, and keep looking in the mirror.

My photographer friend Robert made this image of me January 1. I hope it makes me look honest.
My photographer friend Robert made this image of me January 1. I hope it makes me look honest.