Policy on the Use of AI in Istralar

This is a meta article. It should not be taken in context with the rest of the world, and a character studying the world would never encounter this information.
  Some may have noticed that starting with WorldEmber 2021, Istralar began to use AI-generated imagery as a representation of my written word. With the spread of computer-generated images and writing systems like ChatGPT and the ethical & legal quandaries about both, I believe it's important for me to make my stance clear. This is a very sensitive subject to many, and understandably so.   Let's talk on it. This article covers my view of ethical VS unethical AI, the way I have been and shall continue using AI in Istralar, and the commitments I'm making to supporting artists. Please read on.  

Ethics of AI

I am a developer myself, and have worked with AI systems myself in the past (including IBM's Watson). I understand how these systems work to some extent, and have spent hours researching their behaviours and training mechanisms. I do not claim to be an expert, but I consider myself reasonably informed, and endeavour to keep my level of understanding as 'reasonably informed' or better as these technologies advance.   I will not use any "AI" generation that I consider to be grossly unethical. An 'unethical' system is one that over-trains on specific works to be able to reproduce the work of specific artists or writers, one that encourages the creation of NFTs, and/or one that makes no attempt to mitigate their impact on our environment.   The way most generative systems are trained on art is a quagmire of debate. It is my belief, after extensive study, that a well-trained system that specifically culls overtraining and prevents the recreation of art is one that handles data ethically. Stable Diffusion's 'default' model , as a free model, does NOT fall into my list of ethical programs. StableDiffusion's training data included private medical information and due to the poor handling of the model, none of this was excluded. It can also easily and even accidentally recreate the art it was trained on, which is horrendous for the artists that worked incredibly hard on the original pieces. There are also numerous Stable Diffusion models trained on the works of one specific artist without their consent, and I cannot put into words how despicable that behaviour is.   By contrast, what I use is Midjourney. Midjourney is constantly training its models to prevent reproduction of existing material, culling details that should be private, and adding in their own 'style' atop their generations to further distance themselves. They actively seem to take copyright or private information out of the Midjourney models, based on comments in their Discord. They are working with artists and seeking to put in systems that compensate the artists that were unwillingly used as training information, and they have gone on record about how their systems are attempting to be as green as they can be. Midjourney's owner is against the term 'AI art' and is seeming to take many steps to respect rights and respect artists. They are still not perfect, but they are doing well enough that I feel it safe to use their models.  

Ethical Use in Istralar

AI-generated imagery used across Istralar is used strictly to illustrate my writing. I do not generate writing with AI. I will occasionally debate ideas with ChatGPT using the free client, but these are jumping-off points and are never used wholesale - ChatGPT on its own tends to generate bland and unimaginative information. When I'm planning a D&D session and need puzzle ideas, it's great to bounce off. When I want consistent lore? Not good.  
My writing, and the majority of my ideas, remain entirely my own. I will never include AI-generated text in my articles unless absolutely necessary (for instance, to use in a comedic piece or as a reference point for the actual true AIs present in Istralar), and if I do, this use will be clearly delineated - just as my use of Midjourney has been.   My use of AI-generated imagery is to replace my use of free stock photos. It will never replace the work of real artists. I will continue to paint my own portraits, design my own UIs, and commission wonderful artists to create things for me at fair and respectable rates. I will not use AI to replace something I would otherwise have paid for.   AI-generated imagery in Istralar accompanies text as largely a design element - something to conjure up imagery for the reader and help paint scenes and set moods. It is not and will never be the bulk of my work, and I do also heavily edit many of the generated pieces myself (so please do not ever take images from my world!).   I have also made a personal commitment to supporting art.
Kitti-Fae, Base Form by Endrise
  Midjourney is not a free service. For every $1 that I spend in Midjourney, I will spend an equal amount on Patreon or through commissions in supporting real artists. I currently support Midjourney with a 30USD/month subscription, and support many diverse, wonderful creators on Patreon such as CzePeku, Tom Cartos, Sliph, Oixxo, Stained Karbon, and more for a far greater amount. Many of these wonderful creators have strong and understandable anti-AI-generated-imagery policies, so their work will not be found in Istralar to respect this. I have in the past gotten permission to use some pieces from these creators. Updating such a large body of work is a struggle, especially for a noncommercial project, and I will endeavour to replace these pieces as I find them going forward.   The art I have commissioned in the past is from artists like FeliceMelancholie, Helena Nikulina, and Hafrun (Pearl). Unfortunately, my past two commissions went awry in their duration and final result, and as such I have not commissioned any content recently; I'm hoping to change that this year if the current cost of living crisis dies down a bit (and, er, to note - none of those commission mishaps were with any artists mentioned here!).  

Past Commissions for Istralar

  I am also very lucky in that multiple of my amazing players draw - so I'll frequently get to use the beautiful art they create! I do also do my own every now and then. The art created specifically for me by my dearest friends is particularly special to me!  

Art from Friends

Burdyr's Marks by TheDumbOwl
Aniks with the Cloak of Woven Shadows by AlbieDraws
Sir Pennyswaggle cover
Sir Pennyswaggle by Qu33nAce

Final Thoughts

  Istralar has ever and always been a passion project for me. I use it to learn and to share my passions with my beloved players and the world in general. When I explore new horizons in Istralar, I do it with care and try my best to ensure my work remains ethical and fair to any represented in it and any others that could be impacted by it.   Please do not use my words here as justification for your own works. If you wish to also use AI-generated imagery, I implore you to please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. You owe it to the millions of people who have come before you whose hard work was used, often against their will and/or without their knowledge, to train this new technology, whether or not traces of it remain identifiable. You owe it to those who will inevitably suffer as society changes with the evolution of these new techs. And you owe it to yourself - because learning is never a bad thing, and you should understand what you use.   I'm always open to listening to other thoughts and perspectives on this. Over the past few months, the AI in Worldbuilding thread on the WorldAnvil discord has been invaluable for discussing the problems around using AI-generated content in our worldbuilding, particularly pertaining to the rights of artists. In my real-world job, we occasionally use ChatGPT to help with debugging, and Midjourney is increasingly being used to help quickly prepare game pitches to give early pitches a vibe whereas before, they would have moodboards put together from uncredited images around the web. I am not ignorant to the nascent changes to our society, and that is why I feel that it is incredibly important to support creative industries through this time to reinforce that they can never be replaced - but also that Pandora's box has been opened, and it is deeply important to learn what these new technologies are and how to use them without causing other people or our planet damage that cannot be undone.   To end off, I'd like to ask something of each and every person who reads this. Share an artist's work. It doesn't need to be here in the comments, or on Discord, or anywhere I can see it (though I'd love to be tagged or included so I can follow more artists!), but take this opportunity to find an artist you love, and share their work with the world.   For my part in that, if the artists shown above were not enough for you: deheerkonijn (warning: R18 content often posted) is both an amazing writer and an incredible artist who brings life to Gimli and Legolas especially well. S'midge is incredibly sweet and posts some very cool art in a few different fandoms. And Karrah E. is probably my absolute idol when it comes to art - I hope to one day commission her, because holy shit.   Love,   Han

Cover image: Istralar Generic Header by Hanhula (ft. photos from Phil Botha, Jonny McKenna, and Luca Bravo)


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8 Apr, 2023 21:28

Thank you for taking the time to consider all this, and to talk about it.

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
10 Apr, 2023 15:32


Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
10 Apr, 2023 19:33

Great hearing your thoughts on this and how you're approaching AI-generated art in your world. After a lot of early enthusiasm, I've definitely reined back my use of Midjourney. I appreciate the time and research you've but into this.

Summer Camp is here and I'm so excited! It's my favorite World Anvil event of the year! Keep up to date with my progress on my personal Summer Camp page!

11 Apr, 2023 08:59

Well said and I couldn't have said it better.

You want to hear the voice of fire? I got you covered with my actual entry to the bard challenge: Amara Silverharp. You wanna see what we did for Summer Camp? This way please: Eddie's Summercamp