RPG Evolution - The AI DM: The Trouble with Art

AI's recent surge in popularity generated art that sometimes looked like someone else's. How can gamers use it ethically?


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

The Problem​

Because what we term "AI" are Large Language Models (LLM), the "intelligence" part of "Artificial Intelligence" is actually us. LLMs use data sets to generate their content, much of it publicly sourced from what's freely accessible on the Internet. And that's where AI art gets into trouble.

Art that is AI generated uses its data set to blend it into something recognizably similar to user-entered parameters but (according to AI developers), uniquely different. The problem is that often the art is TOO similar; so similar that it looks just like an artist's work, down to faking signatures.

Which raises a legitimate concern: if AI art can effectively mimic an artist's style for free, will anyone still pay the artist?

How Did We Get Here?​

Part of the problem is that artists advertise their by sharing it for free on the Internet. In the physical world, an artist might hang art at a booth. Only the memory of that art is in the mind of potential customers. They don't walk away with a copy.

But on the Internet, everything is copied for future reference. Google's image searches can dig deep into sites to find pictures independent of their creators' sites. That said, Google doesn't store copies (a fact that was critical in a court decision). Pinterest, however, does.

Pinterest doesn't just store a thumbnail graphic, it stores a full-sized copy. By merely pinning any graphic, users are unwittingly giving Pinterest advertising revenue and potentially violating copyrights. Examples abound of this, but the most common is a "phantom pin" in which the pin no longer links to the site, essentially keeping a photo on the Internet long after the artist has revoked permission.

Unfortunately court cases have not swung in favor of artists, ruling that it's the people pinning the content, not the site, that is the problem. This is all coming to a head because some art LLMs use Pinterest as a dataset, thereby creating content inspired by artists who never consented to their art being used in the first place.

What to Do About It​

The biggest problem with AI art is the kind that's generated from scratch. This is the type that uses Pinterest to generate its images. Fantasy art in particular is dominated by Magic: The Gathering, and it's not uncommon to try to create a monster via AI only to be served up what looks like card art.

Similarly, it's nearly impossible to make a creature have spider-like characteristics without Spider-Man's red-and-black web pattern and large white eyes. Spider-Man's so popular as art that he effectively has replaced what real spiders look like on the Internet, warping AI's perception of what "spider-like" means.

The obvious answer for game developers is to not use AI-generated art. Paizo won't. Wizards of the Coast won't. Most other major RPG publishers won't. This is important, because these statements aren't just a commitment to artistic ethics: it means these companies will continue paying artists for their art.

But there are other ways that art can be ethically sourced. One way is to use AI to modify art so it looks like a different style. I'm particularly fond of taking art I've created (and own) and asking an AI to make it look more realistic. Conversely, you can apply these types of AI filters to documents that were intentionally released into the public domain with clear licenses. Using AI this way, it can turn clipart into three-dimensional monsters and characters, or turn a standard creature into something more exotic (a bull can become a metal gorgon, a bird can become a phoenix, a human bard can become an undead bard).

For game masters who are using art for their home games, AI art can act as a tool to illustrate what's happening in a game: character portraits, maps, landscapes, monsters, and magic items.

For artists, offering free content to potential customers now comes with significant risk. It's always been possible for users to just steal art, but thanks to AI it can now be stolen at scale without tracing it back to the original owners. AI isn't currently required to show its homework, and until it does, there's a legitimate argument that posting anything for free is no longer worth the risk. A login or paywall may be increasingly necessary for artists to balance advertising their services while protecting their work.

Unfortunately for many artists, it already may be too late. Even if you take your art down today, Pinterest is saving it without your consent, and LLMs are using that data to build its art without proving where it got it from. As publishers, declaring when and where AI art is used (or not used) is an important first step.

But the group most influential in the future of AI art is us. Perhaps the best we can do is ask for AI art to be labeled and then make our down decisions about whether or not to purchase it.
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

In what period of years did monks have a 'corner' on transcribing books? Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic? Which monastic orders?
I think you are missing the point.

EDIT: Okay, I'll elaborate; perhaps my one-sentence comment in the prior email is not enough to clarify the real point. So maybe a reframe: there was a point when (and I am sure you would agree) that most people suffered from predominant illiteracy and only certain groups, of which monks tended to be one such group, were taught to read and write and transcribe. In these periods, that skill was critical and necessary, and those who could provide for it -- including and often quite specifically monks and other clergy-- were in many ways the only means by which most books survived and were copied. But over time literacy improved, and chiefly because the ability to transcribe books eventually moved from the labor of a single individual to a block printing method, which subsequently opened up a world of print media and improved literacy over time. Those for whom this task was an individual's hard labor no longer served the same critical role as a result, as technology had outstripped the need to manually copy books. However, it did not eliminate the need for those specialists, but allowed them to be repurposed.

IANAH so please correct me if I am wrong. And I am sure I am, as I am only more generally familiar with monks in any historical sense and frankly don't want to suggest that I think all monks everywhere learned to read, write and make an effort at transcription. I am sure this is a broad generality. Maybe monks never did this and it was the pervue of other religious functionaries. I will defer to those more familiar with the groups you list. Indeed, you can likely educate me on this matter, if it sounds like my general understanding is off track.

Anyway, that is what I got out of the OP's original list. YMMV.
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Over 60 years ago Andy Warhol essentially put a filter on cans of Campbell's soup and it became some of his most iconic pieces which he profited off of.

We should hold AI to the same standards we have applied throughout history.
I'd even go so far as to say that Warhol's art was MUCH MORE derivative than what you'll get out of a decent AI
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Let’s be honest Pinterest has always been a massive copyright issue before this even came about. Just google ‘D&D map’ and you’ll see that Pinterest is the main vehicle for published maps to be shared illegally. I feel the same way about Pinterest not being responsible as I do about twitter saying they’re not responsible for the cyber bullying of its users. They may not be typing the words (selecting the images) but they’re making it possible/easy and should be making it impossible/difficult.

They're common carriers, in practice if not necessarily de jure, it's not their business what people post any more than it's the phone company's business what people say during a phone call or the postal service's business what you write in a letter.


CR 1/8
They're common carriers, in practice if not necessarily de jure, it's not their business what people post any more than it's the phone company's business what people say during a phone call or the postal service's business what you write in a letter.
Post or telephone is one-to-one communication, whereas twitter is one-to-everyone. There's a significant difference in the "publicness" of those communications, insofar as social media allows for "dogpiling" in the way that one-to-one lines of communication don't.


They're common carriers, in practice if not necessarily de jure, it's not their business what people post any more than it's the phone company's business what people say during a phone call or the postal service's business what you write in a letter.
T-Mobile don’t make advertising revenues from the other person listening to me chat on the phone. They are financially incentivized to promote clicks… outrage… fear.

aramis erak

Monks?The Church hasn't laid any off.
Because the Church itself (as in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church) cannot. The monastic vow is a two way street - a promise of fidelity, chastity, celibacy, and obedience in exchange for room, board, education, and purpose. It's a feudal relationship. Every member of a Catholic Monastery is a feudal vassal of the Papacy. (Technically, every 3rd degree member of the KofC is equally in fealty - as the lowest order of Papal Knights.)
Likewise, the Eastern Orthodox Communions (Byzantium and Moscow) and the Oriental Orthodox Communion (Including Copts, Syriac, and both Tehwado) and Assyrian Churches all have the same lifetime feudal vow.

But at the same time, new monasteries and friaries are in fact fewer in recent decades than in past, and many monasteries and friaries have in fact shut down since the 1950's.

Many monasteries/nunneries and friaries have closed, too, in the last 70 years. Including the one where my mother discerned and exited from. The sisters of that community got merged into another, slightly better off, one. (She reached out and found two of her fellow postulants in other communities.

Monastic life is considerably smaller a community (pun intended) than it was even 50 years ago, both in percentages and absolute numbers. Then, as now, most did NOT make their daily bread doing copying of texts - tho' at least one Orthodox monastery does have a set of scribes who make hand transcribed books.
Most have other activities to make the money needed to survive; if they cannot, they are merged into other monastic or friary communities.
The scribes were an important role of the monastic system, but not the primary role.
Farriers? Clearly, you have not had a horse shod recently.
Absolute numbers? not down in the last 50 years - but definitely down since the late 19th C peak. Percentage of the population, steady decline since the 1880s and the first available automobiles within the US.

Hoof trimmers for cattle seem to be on the rise, tho'... and there are a dozen of them or more on YouTube.
Cobblers for the unwashed masses, certainly, that ship sailed generations ago.

Bookkeepers? Have you hired a CPA to do your taxes? It ain't cheap.

But yeah, artists are looking at a grim future. But in just the last couple decades we have seen the drastic curtailing of the music industry's profit structure.
Have we? BMG, Sony, Vevo, and other such groups are still posting profits. If they weren't, they'd pull out. And they haven't.

AI as it exists now stands ready to disrupt the markets in music, art, and literature. At the moment, it's not so good at non-fiction...

The best of the chatbots are right near the abilit to pass the Turing test. Too bad most of them are being trained for titillation.

The combined impacts are going to change a lot. There are still farriers - but only a few. There are still scribes - but mostly not in monasteries; the majority of Scribes are in SCA or similar groups. There are still cobblers - again, mostly hobbyists. I've made two pair of shoes... need to make a third.

Bookkeepers are flourishing, despite the tech... because the codes of tax law and regulation are insanely complex.

Artists stand to be, much like many watchmakers, whitesmiths and goldsmiths, turning into monetized hobbies, rather than continued employment.

Even, as of this week, Policing is getting new force multipliers.

AI and automation are changing society heavily. Even education. No, especially education.

The game industry is changing, too... and it will continue to change. As it has been since it truly became an industry. I don't think it a particularly good time to be an artist... but it's going to be as important as the Impressionists, or the Protestant Reformation, or the movable type press (Bi Sheng or Gutenburg, depending upon culture, and a few centuries...)

Hand of Evil

This is how Skynet begins! Do you want Skynet?
Maybe, maybe not but right now it is simply the question "is AI taking my job?" I know, it is more complex but that is the narrative that is being put forth, there are a lot of questions and debate that has yet to be brought to the general public (I am sure it is being discussed), stuff we have seen in sci-fi during our lives, "what happens when AI becomes self-aware?" Who will decide it has rights, free will, a soul? Will it be a servant, a slave, or the master race? So, we could be facing Skynet. :rolleyes: :) Or we could be looking at a time man-kind mergers with machine. :unsure: If you consider it, we have been moving to that for some time now or is it that we have being led to it. :):):)

Robot overlords!
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This is how Skynet begins! Do you want Skynet?

So you're saying AI is going to take dictators' jobs?

"what happens when AI becomes self-aware?"

Given that keeping that from happening might be economically relevant I predict that in the next couple of decades the hard problem of consciousness will finally and definitively be solved, now that there's money in solving it. And I further predict that it will both be found in some systems where it's not expected and absent in some systems where it is
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Given that keeping that from happening might be economically relevant I predict that in the next couple of decades the hard problem of consciousness will finally and definitively be solved, now that there's money in solving it. And I further predict that it will both be found in some systems where it's not expected and absent in some systems where it is

Worrying about AI self-awareness is unfortunately not an issue society seems to care much about. People treat animals that we know have a level of self-awareness as, well animals, and no lawsuit has progressed enough to see chimps as being elevated in any way (Do Chimps Have Human Rights? This Lawsuit Says Yes | TIME.com)

The real, immediate threat is that AI is completely destroying the Internet's tenuous connection to reality. AI can fake it all, including fake being us. It can fake it so well that it can out fake the fakers. The Internet is already overcome with bots, and much of social media resources are dedicated to trying to determine if anyone is "real" -- but it's fast becoming irrelevant (30% of web traffic is bots Human and bot web traffic share 2022 | Statista). It doesn't matter if you're real anymore, because that has little meaning for most Internet interactions anyway.

We're fast approaching a world where the only thing you can trust is what you actually, physically experience in person, and you will have to assume that everything on the Internet is a fabrication. It's great for role-playing games, where we'll have fully-realized AI actors we can instruct to respond to us in real time. It's terrible for people making a living at doing just that: As Actors Strike for AI Protections, Netflix Lists $900,000 AI Job

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