There's a lot of discussion in the WA community on the use of AI Art and Writing in worldbuilding. For Summer Camp 2023 I sponsored a prompt and offered a Basic subscription to MidJourney as a prize, and got mostly polite feed back from some submitters that they believe that the use of AI art was unethical.
So I think I need to make a statement about my position on AI use in Arrhynsia. You won't see it linked anywhere except on the world mainpage for a while and in the WA content folder - it's just a community thing, but I thought it was important enough to make a statement about.
First. Sponsorship of Contents
I sponsor prompts and I enjoy doing it. I try to offer prizes that will help people create better versions of their worlds. Art is a big part of that. If you don't need or want that prize, or if you have any ethical problems with the prize I offer and you win, you can (of course) decline it, OR I am more than happy to swap your prize to something of equal value that you can use. Same thing goes if you already have something I offer as a prize. We can swap it out for something that works better for you.
Second. Writing and Chat GPT
All writing in Arrhynsia is done by me. I don't even use spellcheckers, though I will sometimes draft things on MS Word before I put it into WA because it has an undo button.
Third. Terry as Artist.
Third. Art is HUGE in creating a vivid living world, BUT I AM COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY INCAPABLE OF CREATING EVEN PASSABLE VISUAL ART OF ANY KIND. My skills are with words and stories, but drawing and anything that smacks of it is just not something I am going to be good at.
Fourth. And here is the soapbox...
I fervently believe that artists who create art should be compensated for their creative work. The Bible says "The workman is worthy of his hire" so it's a VERY old principle. I need art in my world and I stink at visual arts so I look for opportunties to get my art from places that pay artists for their art. Because artists have rent and kids and like to eat. Besides, as we're in a creative endeavor. If we ever try to sell our work, how can we justify that if we won't pay another creative content provider for theirs?
BUT, I also can't afford $50-300 USD for every image I use to worldbuild. This is, after all, a hobby for me, and while I have a well paying job irl, I still can't afford that kind of price tag - and frankly neither can virtually anyone else.
So what I do is go to royalty free sites that license art - primarily Shutterstock because they have a reasonable inventory of fantasy art and photos so it isn't a waste of my time to look there. It is affordable ($3-5 for an image), and I have license to use for any web work that isn't commercial content - which is exactly what WA is for me.
And I compromise. I use the images they have instead of something beautifuly, perfectly, exactly right for my article because I think it's more important for me to pay a creator for their work than have that perfection. I know I have a bit of an attitude here, but I think that people who read my work can bring a little bit of their own imagination and some forgiveness for the imperfection of my art so that a creator can get some money for their hard work. If that means I don't win any WA awards for my worldbuilding (not that I thought I was really much in the running), so be it.
But for the record, at the time of this writing, every single image used in Arrhynsia - EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM - whether I screwed up crediting or not (and I try not to screw it up, but I'm not perfect so I may have missed one or two) - ALL OF THEM have all been been PAID FOR. I don't use something off the internet and credit it and not pay for it. I pay for it and I credit it.
If I cannot find something that works - and that certainly does happen - I will use an art AI to create an image. Again, I pay for the AI art service. In spite of having worked with/on AI for more years than I care to tell you, I don't love it. It's tedious to get what I want, if I can even get what I want which is often NOT the case. The AI is a lot less bright than your average kindergartener, and a whole lot less cute. I know the technical reasons that's true and I don't think it's changing any time soon, but I could be wrong. We've made some advances over the last 10 years that are promising.
If You are an Artist
I STRONGLY recommend that you put your work on a site like shutterstock. Sell your work to many people and get paid for it. There's not nearly enough fantasy artwork available on these sites at an afforable pricepoint, and I think artists would do really well if they were willing to engage in this market. For some obscure reason, artists seem to resist doing this. They keep trying to sell custom pieces to individuals at prices that you have to know people can't afford. It's hard enough to afford using $3-5 pieces for every article - even one per article is a huge investment when you realize that a reasonably well developed world has hundreds of articles. But if they are $15-30 or even more there's just no way. But it only takes 10 people to buy your image off the service for you as an artist to get that price for the work you put in. And if you are providing quality images to an underpopulated market, you should be able to sell pretty well. And you might hit the jackpot and get a commercial licensee who pays roughly $100 for the same image. Just make sure you have really long lists of keywords when you submit material so people find your stuff when they're doing a search.
Does AI Make you Feel Threatened?
I empathize, I really do, but I'm going to remind you that people thought photography would replace art, and obviously that didn't happen. Not that it couldn't. I mean, technology disrupts marketplaces. I'm an engineer, and AI is after my job too. Threats to our ability to feed and care for ourselves and provide for those we love are part of life. People are actively going out of their way to make oil and coal workers, pipeline and shipping workers, refinery workers, truckers, gas station attendants, fossil fuel powerplant workers, automobile manufacturing workers, construction workers, home builders (the list is practically endless) all unemployed. So welcome to the club. But there's a long long long list of obsolete professions out there, and I don't think anyone reading this wants to go back to the days when gongfermours were a well paid profession.
But I want to say too, that I think you may find that this new technology might create an environment where the visual art market grows exponentially. It's actually been happening ever since photography was invented which everyone thought would make artists obsolete - but instead, has made it possible for more people to be artists, and for more people to have art. Not all change, even when it's scary, is bad.
Now, if you're feeling ripped off because your stuff is being used to train the AI, I think that's fair to take up with providers of AI services, and with our legislators who should be grappling with the problem. Because creating a fair set of laws for everyone (technology creators and human creators and content consumers) that should govern these new technologies is what we actually elect and pay them for.
For my part, I would welcome a website I could consult to locate AI art systems that are ethical about how they get images for training. Right now all I have to go on is the websites of the services themselves. And I'm not (nor is anyone else) going to spend tons of time that they don't have doing in depth research on it. That's simply not realistic. So maybe that's a business idea... I don't know.
And in Closing
I would, again, really, really encourgage artists to be more savvy about selling their images. Get them out there on these royalty free licensing sites and sell them to many people. Why not? They aren't making you any money sitting unused on your hard drive...