The Ethics of AI Grow Ever Murkier for Creatives

Posted on by Larry

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is back in the news again with Adobe launching a host of new products that feature AI.

I am not a fan of AI. While there are AI features that I appreciate and use, I think tech developers are locked into a race of “we do because we can.”

This is great if you are corporation looking to cut costs because, now, untrained users can do things with a single mouse click that used to take the skills of a trained artist. But, if you are the artist, suddenly seeing income dry up because you’ve been replaced by software makes your creative life more challenging.

This situation is made worse when AI takes your work, clones it in seconds then allows someone who only entered a text string into an AI program to distribute work “similar to…” and claim ownership of it.

The ethics of AI become very personal very quickly.


A very insightful article appeared this week in Business Insider. Here’s a summary.

Greg Rutkowski is an artist who creates fantasy images. Recently, “people are creating thousands of artworks that look like his using programs called AI-image generators, which use artificial intelligence to create original artwork in minutes or even seconds after a user types in a few words as directions.

“Rutkowski’s name has been used to generate around 93,000 AI images on one image generator, Stable Diffusion — making him a far more popular search term than Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Vincent van Gogh in the program.”

Copyright law is vague about whether these artificially generated images can be copyrighted.

Currently Rutkowski reports that as images “in his style” become more popular, the need for clients to pay for his work decreases.

GIF courtesy of Adobe Systems Inc.


At Adobe MAX this week, Adobe unveiled “powerful new AI capabilities that maximize creativity and precision across Creative Cloud apps and Adobe Express. Additionally, Adobe announced its commitment to support creatives by leveraging Adobe’s Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) to ensure transparency in the use of Generative AI.

“Millions of Creative Cloud users are already using AI-powered features powered by Adobe’s AI engine, Adobe Sensei, to automate complex and repetitive tasks. Adobe’s latest innovations will significantly increase the use of AI across popular Creative Cloud apps.” (Adobe MAX press release)

At the end of their press release Adobe added:

“All of the new AI innovations unveiled today have been developed in accordance with Adobe’s AI ethics principles of accountability, responsibility and transparency. These innovations demonstrate how AI ethics and inclusivity are at the heart of new Adobe features from day one and continue through each stage of development and testing.

“Building on Adobe’s commitment to increase trust and transparency online, the company today unveiled its approach to developing creator-centric Generative AI offerings by incorporating CAI technology into our tools to support creatives’ ability to prove attribution and investing in research to support creatives’ control over their style and work.

“The CAI is an Adobe-led initiative with more than 800 partners working to increase trust online. The CAI solution focuses on the use of provenance technology to enable attribution for creators and provide transparency about the origin and edit history of digital content.” (Adobe MAX press release)

Adobe gets credit for at least trying to get their arms around the issues of AI. But it isn’t enough.

NOTE: Here is Adobe’s statement on Ethics in AI.

Image courtesy of Tara Winstead (


The problem is that ethics is entirely voluntary – and some of the biggest challenges come from companies that make no mention of ethics. Instead, they do because they can.

Wikipedia provides an overview of the ethics of artificial intelligence here. Here’s an overview of this post:

Isaac Asimov considered the issue (of ethics in AI) in the 1950s in his I, Robot. At the insistence of his editor John W. Campbell Jr., he proposed the Three Laws of Robotics to govern artificially intelligent systems…. A panel convened by the United Kingdom in 2010 revised Asimov’s laws to clarify that AI is the responsibility either of its manufacturers, or of its owner/operator.

In 2009, during an experiment at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland, robots that were programmed to cooperate with each other (in searching out a beneficial resource and avoiding a poisonous one) eventually learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the beneficial resource.

According to a 2019 report from the Center for the Governance of AI at the University of Oxford, 82% of Americans believe that robots and AI should be carefully managed. Concerns cited ranged from how AI is used in surveillance and in spreading fake content online (known as deep fakes when they include doctored video images and audio generated with help from AI) to cyberattacks, infringements on data privacy, hiring bias, autonomous vehicles, and drones that do not require a human controller.

Bill Hibbard argues that because AI will have such a profound effect on humanity, AI developers are representatives of future humanity and thus have an ethical obligation to be transparent in their efforts. Luciano Floridi and Josh Cowls created an ethical framework of AI principles set by four principles of bioethics (beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice) and an additional AI enabling principle – explicability.

NOTE: RedShark News posted an excellent article on the negative impact of AI on creators: We Are Approaching the Creative Singularity with AI.

Image courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk (


It is way beyond my expertise to propose a solution. But I can suggest that, as creative artists, the situation will get worse. And get worse quickly.

We can hide our heads in the sand, which won’t really help. Or we can think about the value we offer to our clients. What makes us unique?

This give us, as visual story-tellers an opportunity and a challenge. We need to bolster our personal networks. Help our clients communicate better to solve problems. The more we focus on our tool skills the more likely we are to find ourselves replaced by unskilled workers using AI tools.

If you create art for a living, immediately start learning more about CAI from Adobe, contact your representatives in government to strengthen copyright protections to exclude AI-generated art from copyright, make sure that your images are not being used to train AI software and start paying attention to how the proliferation of AI will impact your livelihood going forward.


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2 Responses to The Ethics of AI Grow Ever Murkier for Creatives

  1. Clayton Moore says:

    You can see how once again technology outpaces all the levels of ownership, liability, accountability and more.

  2. Clayton Moore says:

    Where AI is concerned, I think there’s a fine line between the ability to significantly enhance, your creativity and productivity in a really unprecedentedly powerful way, and having it put you completely out of business. And to some extent who gets hurt by it, may depend on the level of sophistication and skill and frankly…… talent, of the people who utilize it.

    And as RED SHARK points out that’s why having this conversation right now is really important.

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