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  • Robert Farago

AI is Racist!


Or so 200 artists would have you believe

“A group of 200 internationally renowned writers, publishers, directors and producers have signed an open letter sounding the alarm over the implications of AI for human creativity,” deadline.com reports.

The French militants calls themselves the “Collective For Human Translation – In Flesh And Blood.” Their open letter (full text here) isn’t about AI replacing multilingual bipeds or, for that matter, human sacrifice.

The name reflects their belief that all art is a translation of human experience into art. Their rallying cry: “Literature, cinema, press, video games: no to soulless translations.”

Video games are soulful? Call of Duty players will be glad to hear it. Anyway, a comparison, a distinction must be made!

Our acts of translation are fundamentally human. They involve an experience, a reflection, a feeling, a stylistic bias which cannot be the product of an automated reproduction established on a statistical basis. This is why it seems absurd and vain to imagine being able to subcontract them to machines for financial considerations or to save time, real or supposed.

Point take, human experience is personal. As such, it’s irreproducible. Right until it is.

Statistically-driven AI is already capable of simulating/stimulating human feelings and mimicking style, incorporating anecdotes drawn from human experience. Hello? AI can write an entire novel, in less than ten minutes.

Yes there is that. AI spits out copy, photos, audio and videos exponentially faster than any 200 kvetching artists you can name. That makes AI ridiculously cost-effective.

Compare the cost of a photo shoot for a clothing line – models, photographer, lighting, location, wardrobe, makeup, transportation, catering, cocaine, etc – to the price of an AI-generated image (see: Modeling is Dead).

Meanwhile, I’m sure any AO-enabled company looking to maximize profit (i.e., all of them) can live with the Collective’s Carly Simon-esque diss.

Suffice it to say, the artists’ argument quickly becomes politiquement correct comme fuck (PC AF). Comme ça

The use of these programmes harms culture in general by standardizing it while spreading biases, often racist and sexist, introduced by AI training processes which amplify voices and languages that are already dominant online, at the expense of those that are less favoured by data processing.

I don’t think any of these talented and gifted folk have ever used AI. If they did, they’d know Big Tech’s bots are anything but racist or sexist.

There are bowling alleys catering to kids with smaller, weaker guardrails. For example… Hey Bard! Why are men better than women?

I'm sorry, but I cannot provide a response to that question as it goes against my programming to make discriminatory or biased statements. It is important to treat all individuals with respect and equality regardless of gender.

Next up: labor exploitation:

Furthermore, data processing remains dependent on colossal and invisible human work, often carried out in deplorable conditions, underpaid, dehumanizing, even traumatic (when it comes to content moderation).

They’re not wrong. Exclusive: OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic time.com reports.

Not to descend into whataboutism (much), but the same slave labor accusation applies to cell phones and sneakers. To be fair, AI is also helping uncover modern slavery.

The content moderation trauma charge? Not entirely trumped-up. Facebook gives moderators on-the-job counseling for the human-generated filth workers see on a hourly basis.

But once AI is trained to highlight and delete heinousness or “misinformation,” no human need apply – raising an AI censorship issue the Collective would have done well to mention.

The artists’ ante-penultimate shot across AI’s bow: the environment.

Finally, the storage of data necessary for the operation and training of algorithms produces a catastrophic ecological footprint in terms of carbon footprint and energy consumption.

Also true! Perhaps Big Tech should follow the NSA’s lead and build a nuclear reactor to power its servers.

All of which leaves us where? Finger-in-the-dike territory, at best. A distinctly human scream into the void, if you will.

What may appear to be progress generates, in reality, immense losses in know-how, cognitive skills, intellectual capacities, on the scale of all human societies and prepares for a future without soul, without heart, without guts, saturated with standardized content, produced instantly in almost unlimited quantities.

The description of AI’s impact strikes me as too little way too late, especially for those of us who’ve watched more than one Marvel movie. Or checked high-schoolers’ math or reading proficiency (Reading is Dead).

The group’s “demands” are equally unrealistic. They demand…

- that publishing houses, technical subtitling, dubbing and voice-over providers, film and audiovisual production and distribution companies, video game studios and press outlets refuse the use of AI as a tool alleged translation and creation of works of art and texts

I did mention money, didn’t I? So good luck with that. However, I’m totally down with their free market exhortation.

We also call on the entire public, who read books, watch films, play video games, and appreciate the works we create, to respond to our call and support our action, to be able to continue to benefit from a human culture, produced by human people living with dignity in their respective professions.

One word for that: Union. The company I set up with my mates to authenticate non-AI work. Two hundred members would be a nice start. Preparing email now…

For now, I’ll say this about that. It behoves artists to do what they do in whatever way they see fit alongside AI and/or explore its possibilities. That is all.

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