September 03, 2022

AI, ethics and the definition of art

Is it moral or legal to use someone else's proprietary images (or any artefacts, including text or sound) to train an AI/ML engine, which then would produce derivative artefacts?

This analysis started from the position of Mihai Dan Iordache on FB, in a comment on a post by Tavi Paunescu, that we fight plagiarism in school, but we support systemic plagiarism by AI, e.g. automatic image generators.

And the discussion can wonder into interesting, meta directions.

Are these original AI creations?

Do these creations have intent?

Are they art?

Let's take them one at a time.

1. The issue of plagiarism does not apply to works in the public domain.

But for copyrighted works, the issue is extremely interesting.

2. Can you consider that the AI ​​does not plagiarize, but generates new original work by learning from previous ones?

That's what every artist and generally every human does. We take several millennia of knowledge, we interpret and analyze them, and then produce original, somewhat derivative material. That is the recipe for knowledge.

3. Yeah... Um. Feeding a machine with knowledge is not exactly equivalent to feeding a child/human. Because the AI machine is a tool. The tool makes transformations, perhaps complex, but which have no will of their own, or consciousness.

Therefore, feeding an ML machine with data can be, in part, like feeding your corn to my mill, saying that the flour is mine.

4. Overall, the field of ethics in technology is very young. We don't really know how to deal with it.

But it raises interesting questions.

Some of them are not even related to machines, but to the definition and philosophy of arts.

E.g: is the use of a tool in itself sufficient reason to claim that an artwork is not original, or lacks will or intention?

Do poets picking random words from a dictionary really create original intentional art?

Do painter building robotic paint-slinging arms really creating original intentional art?

If you make a child or a monkey draw or rattle: is it art?

Does art need to be intentional?

Same with ML. Is art less valuable if it is created by tools?

Why would the computer be a tool that does not create art, whereas a brush is a tool that creates valuable art?

5. AI ethics is an interesting field. Some of it has only theoretical applicability, because we still don't have AI, we only have ML. So we can't talk about AI consciousness or responsibility.

Especially since what we now call AI is not necessarily non-deterministic. (Well, it's not even intelligence, that's why I always underline it's ML).

But we can talk about 4 other ethical levels lower than awareness, such as embedded ethics - namely decisions and ethical principles that AI builders take, and are already embedded in AI. For example decisions about racial interpretations made by automated machines (there are strange and real precedents).

6. Yes, legislation is behind practice, but that's always the case with disruptive technology.

For example, when the first automobiles appeared, they were considered dangerous, so they were forced to follow a pedestrian companion, who would ring a bell to make pedestrians move out of the way.

7. There's already legislation discussed for 2-3 years. There are guidelines for ethical AI, and draft legislation issued by the European Commission. Already sent to the European Parliament. There was a public consultation 2 years ago.

I personally wonder if the Commission isn't moving here too fast; as it did with the GDPR legislation - which was rolled out too fast, too complicated, and overall useless and counterproductive.

But yes, it is important to look into AI ethics. Not necessarily at the level of conscious AI, but at least at the level where we are aware of the ethical implications of technology.

8. In the absence of awareness and intention, I consider ML as any tool, legally and ethically.

Like a tractor. A very smart tractor, but still a tractor.

It does what you tell it to do.

So the responsibility over ethical decisions, property rights, etc. lies with the owner and indirectly the manufacturer.

Machines have no intentionality. No awareness. No responsibility and no ownership.

9. And the decision on what is art - I prefer to leave it to each participant in this phenomenon. Art is what anyone considers art.

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