“Overlords at the Easel”

The brilliant, prolific, and combative political cartoonist Ted Rall has been spreading warnings about the ways AI can and will rob artists of rights to – and earnings from – their work. This week:

As a cartoonist of the early 21st century I am the last of the Mohicans, a direct heir of the first known artists: the Neolithic people whose cave paintings of hunters were discovered by a French boy who tumbled through a hole in the ground in Nazi-occupied France. Drawing for a living under late capitalism is a challenge. Selling political drawings in an era when humor and satire has all but vanished from popular culture is even harder. (Charles Schulz, Rudy Ray Moore, Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, “Weird Al” Yankovic: None would find work if they were starting out today.) When I began drawing editorial cartoons for syndication three decades ago, there were hundreds of us. Today there are an even dozen. I am 59 years old and I am one of the younger ones.

The cruel gods of artificial intelligence have targeted me and my kind for termination. AI-based text-to-image generators are the latest technological leap that exploitative entrepreneurs are using to make a mockery of copyright and trademark, the fundamental legal protections of intellectual property in the United States. From a user standpoint, the interface is simple. You go to a website and enter some terms, say: “Abraham Lincoln painted by Picasso.” A few seconds later, if the data set is big enough and the algorithms smart enough, out pops a picture representing your request. It’s not exactly cool. But it’s interesting. …

Unless Congress acts quickly and decisively, creative people in every field you can think of will be unable to distinguish their work from computer-generated knockoffs, radically curtailing their ability to command payment for their labor — and to lift the human spirit.

Here via Twitter thread is his 2022 year-ending “complete statement about AI text-to-image generators”:

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