Partnership on AI just released a preliminary framework around responsible practices for synthetic media, and in Section 3 for Creators, they included something I thought was interesting. They filed it under transparency, being up front about…
How you think about the ethical use of technology and use restrictions (e.g., through a published, accessible policy, on your website, or in posts about your work) and consult these guidelines before creating synthetic media.
I personally don’t think having a rigid formal policy is going to be a perfect match for artistic creations (things evolve, norms change, etc.), but the idea of just having a conversation comes from a well-intentioned place, and simply makes for a more complete discussion of one’s work, whether you’re using AI or other technologies.
It also seems to potentially plug into this action point from MIT’s Co-Creation studio around deepfakes and satire. The idea of “reclaiming” labeling as a positive thing:
Think of labeling and disclosure of how media was made as an opportunity in contemporary media creation, not a stigmatizing indication of misinformation/disinformation.
I covered a lot of this ground recently in my interview with Joanna Penn, and This AI Life, so I thought it would make sense to encapsulate the highlights of my thinking as well in written form. Consider this me doing a trial run of PAI’s suggested framework from a creator’s perspective as a “user.”
Before going further though, I want to add a slight disclaimer: I am an artist not an ethicist. My work speaks about ethics and harms related to especially AI technologies, but it is meant to be provocative and in some cases (mildly) transgressive. It is supposed to be edgy, pulpy, trashy, and “punk” in its way.
That said, here are a couple of lists of things I try to actively do and not do, that to me relate to harms & mitigation, etc. There are probably others I am forgetting, but I will add to this as I think about it.
- Include information about the presence of AI-generated content
- Raise awareness about the reliability & safety issues around AI by doing interviews, writing articles, blog posts, etc.
- Contribute to the development of AI safety standards and best practices
- Encourage speculation, questioning, critical analysis, and debunking of my work
- Make use of satire and parody
- Create works which disparage specific people, or discriminate or encourage hate or violence against groups of people
- Use the names of artists in prompts, such that work is generated in their signature style
- Undertake projects with unacceptable levels of risk
There are a few sections of the PAI framework that seem a bit challenging as someone new to all of this discussion, applying the lens that I am.
Aim to disclose in a manner that mitigates speculation about content, strives toward resilience to manipulation or forgery, is accurately applied, and also, when necessary, communicates uncertainty without furthering speculation.
I think I covered this in a few places now, the Decoder piece maybe, the France 24 interview… In short: I want to encourage speculation, ambiguity, uncertainty; that’s hyperreality, that’s the uncanny valley. As an artist, that’s what’s exciting about these technologies, that they break or blend boundaries, or ignore them altogether. And like it or not, that’s the world we’re heading into as a massively splintered choose-your-own-reality hypersociety.
Yes, I think it’s necessary all these industry standardization initiatives are developed, but I guess I’m also interested in Plan B, C, D, or, in short: when the SHTF. I guess my vision is distorted because I’ve seen so much of the SHTF working in the field that I have. But someone has to handle when everything always goes wrong, after all, because that’s reality + humanity.
From PAI’s document, this one also I have a hard time still squaring with satire & parody:
Disclose when the media you have created or introduced includes synthetic elements especially when failure to know about synthesis changes the way the content is perceived.
If you’ve read the Onion’s Amicus Brief, it persuasively (in my mind, as a satirist, anyway) argues that satire should not be labeled, because its whole purpose is it inhabits a rhetorical form, which it then proceeds to explode – turning the assumptions that lead there inside out. Its revelatory in that sense. Or at least it can be.
So in my case, I walk the line on the above recommendation. I include statements in my books explaining that there are aspects which may have been artificially generated. I don’t say which ones, or – so far – label the text inline for AI attribution (though if the tools existed to reliably do so, I might). I want there to be easter eggs, rabbit holes, and blind alleys. Because I want to encourage people to explore and speculate, to open up, not shut down. I want readers and viewers to engage with their own impressions, understanding, and agency, and examine their assumptions about the hyperreal line between reality and fiction, AI and human. And I want them to talk about it, and engage others on these same problems, to find meaning together – even if its different from the one I might have intended.
It’s a delicate balance, I know; a dance. I don’t pretend to be a master at it, just a would-be practitioner, a dancer. I’m going to get it wrong; I’m going to make missteps. I didn’t come to this planet to be some perfect paragon of something or other; I just came here to be human like all the rest of us. As an artist, that’s all I aim to be, and over time the expression of that will change. This is my expression of it through my art, in this moment.