Ammaar Reshi considered it just a fun and creative idea: using artificial intelligence tools to write and illustrate a children’s book that he had always wanted to do for a friend’s daughter. He only gave himself a weekend to do it.

But after finishing his project, the 28-year-old design manager of a California fintech company found itself caught in the crossfire of a growing public debate: Are artificial intelligence tools a grim reaper to the arts?

Using ChatGPT and Midjourney, Reshi generated draft text and illustrations that would tie together a story that would show the magic of AI to children, as he put it. Both programs, free for at least a trial period, require the user to type prompts which they then refine by regenerating images or text.

The end result is impressive to anyone unfamiliar with AI, but it’s often far from perfect: images tend to come up with weird anomalies; in Reshi’s case, crooked eyes and 12 fingers — and the text created by ChatGPT may have quirks and bugs that remind us that the AI ​​is not pretty human. Reshi spent hours refining the prompts and editing the generated text for the book, and he dismisses criticism that all he had to do was “press a button.”

She has sold more than 900 copies since she published her book, “Alice and Sparkle,” on Amazon in early December. But a look at the reviews (60 percent 5 stars and 40 percent 1 star) as well as their mentions on Twitter suggest a growing divide over these tools as the public considers whether they will starve the starving artist or are ethical in all

“The man who made [this] He is not an ‘author,’ nor is he an ‘illustrator,’ but in his above bio he states that he ‘writes,’” wrote an Amazon reviewer. “Our world is becoming a joke.”

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Reshi doesn’t hate technology, but he understands why some would be concerned.

“With any kind of new technology that’s incredibly powerful, it’s kind of threatening to people,” he said, adding: “You see people wondering, ‘Is this going to replace my job?’ … That concern, we must not pretend that it is not serious”.

One of the main complaints about AI art, for example, is that some tools seem to have learned from art datasets created by real people, with real copyright protections, to provide the fodder for their computer-generated creations. .

Reshi doesn’t have an answer for that: “People say, ‘Well, if this model is trained on my artwork and my artwork is copyrighted, is this exactly fair or legal?’ But then I think you’re going to get into this philosophical debate, which is, how is this different from human learning? [about] your favorite artist or someone drawing Batman fan art? You could argue that the computer is doing the same thing here.” And he adds: “I still don’t have a very concrete position here.”

AI has already made its way into the creative world. Last summer, a Colorado man won the state fair art competition with an image generated in Midjourney. In November, the Lensa app debuted a new feature that sent AI selfies to social media. A comedy bot created by an Oregon State University professor has begun learning how to gauge the crowd in the way it times and tells its pre-written jokes. Shudu, the “world’s first digital supermodel”, was created using artificial intelligence and has been used in a Louis Vuitton ad.

Some high-profile creators have made their disdain for this technology clear. Australian singer Nick Cave recently called ChatGPT an exercise in “replication as parody,” and a song he wrote in his style is “a grotesque mockery of what it’s like to be human.” During a presentation on artificial intelligence, famed animator and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki referred to the technology as “an insult to life itself.”

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Online, artists have also come together to organize a digital protest of AI-generated art. Last month, many criticized the ArtStation platform after AI-generated images appeared on its site. One protest image implored AI users to “grab a crayon like the rest of us did.”

Earlier this week, a US law firm announced a class action lawsuit against Midjourney, Stability AI and DeviantArt, alleging that “billions of copyrighted images” were used in a dataset “without compensation or consent of the artists”.

“AI image products are not just an infringement of artists’ rights; Whether targeted or not, these products will eliminate ‘artist’ as a viable career path,” said a statement from law firm Joseph Saveri. He added: “If music streaming can be achieved within the law, so can AI products.” The law firm did not respond to interview requests from The Post.

Nik Thompson, an expert in human-computer interaction at Curtin University in Australia, He said he has heard of cases where a real artist’s signature has appeared on AI-generated images, and that the creators “are pretty upset about this.”

“The thing is, the cat is out of the bag and there is no going back, so I don’t think litigation will stop these platforms from continually developing and collecting as much data as possible,” he said. “It’s going to keep happening.”

Thompson believes many are overestimating the current level of sophistication in AI programs like ChatGPT or Midjourney, both of which launched last year. Artificial intelligence is really just “a simulation of intelligence,” he said: it can’t think like a real human.

“Over time, we will realize that it is not as fantastic as it might seem,” he said. “…I would like to believe that the discerning consumer who appreciates art and creation will still be able to tell the difference and gravitate towards the work of creators.”

After an explosive reaction on Twitter, Reshi “prepared” before sharing his latest personal project with the public: a fictional, animated video of Batman that he put together using an edited version of a script he generated on ChatGPT. He generated images in Midjourney, upscaled them to higher resolutions using AI features in Pixelmator, and then recorded himself doing a voiceover that he edited using an AI tool from Adobe. He edited the video on the Motionleap phone app.

“I saw claims that this is going to replace storyboard artists,” he said. “Actually, I don’t agree with that opinion.”

While acknowledging that it may be overly optimistic, he said he hopes professional creators can find a use for these tools as well. Storyboard artists or illustrators could test their ideas by generating them with AI and then use their hard-earned skills to create a more refined product, she said. Hobbyist creators could also use these artificial intelligence tools to help bring their visions to life, as she did with her Batman video, she said.

As it stands, some hobbyist game developers have started looking to Midjourney to generate game assets and graphics, while others have used the program to generate visual ideas for a standalone board game.

“A lot of people see this as empowering a new set of creators: kids who couldn’t illustrate or write as good a story, now they can have a head start or a jump on this,” he said. “I see this as an equalizer in many ways.”