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Should we use AI to illustrate picture books?

I am a picture book author and a self-proclaimed Tech nerd (been in IT for almost 18 years), so when I heard about AI art, I got very excited. The thought of being able to illustrate my own book was very thrilling. However, somewhere deep inside, I didn't feel right doing it. How can illustrating something beautiful be as easy as giving a bot a few instructions? Well, I was in for a surprise. Currently, I spend hours coming up with a concept, hand-sketching it and then explaining it to my illustrator. The illustrator then spends months turning my imagination into reality. Well! with AI, all I had to do was use the skill that I have mastered in 22 years as a wife (to a man) and for 6 years as a mom (to a boy), i.e., GIVING SIMPLE AND CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS and voila! You get somewhat realistic art in less than an hour.


For those of you who are new to AI art, here is the simplest definition that I could find on the internet [Courtesy: AI Art and How Machines Have Expanded Human Creativity (artland.com)]

"AI art refers to art generated with the assistance of artificial intelligence. AI is a field of computer science that focuses on building machines that mimic human intelligence or even simulate the human brain through a set of algorithms."


I love the advances technology is making, but I cannot use AI art and cheat my illustrator friends… could I? I was in an ethical dilemma. So, what do you do when you need a bit of soul-searching? Well! you obviously turn to social media (I hope you got the sarcasm!) Well, jokes aside, I reached out to my author and illustrator counterparts in the virtual world. There were a lot of strong emotions that came out in various chat threads, and rightfully so. AI art, in its current state, is highly unregulated, unethically sourced and comes with lots of copyright issues. My artist friends are worried that AI is coming for their jobs. It seems like, in wanting to build better, more efficient, and cost-effective technologies, we, the tech nerds, have overlooked the human impacts from every angle.


Real artists/illustrators spend years learning and honing their skills. How can we replace that? How can we train the bots using real art without getting approval from the original artists? How can tech companies profit from these arts without compensating the real artists?

In all the IT projects I have worked on, the key focus has always been on the customer. But with the technological advances we are making, is that enough? I feel the time has come for us to think beyond just customers. What are other people the new technology will impact? What are the skillsets it will replace? What are the ethical challenges? Is it ok to make these technologies widely accessible without resolving these ethical challenges from all angles?


I know AI, machine learning and all these new technologies are here to stay. Being an IT nerd that really excites me. But as a creative person, I am scared too. Will there be any place for real creativity in the future? Can technology and ‘real’ creativity coexist? Can an IT nerd and an artist collaborate instead of competing?


Now comes another interesting and potentially more important question for someone like me (Not the IT nerd, the writer). Is AI coming for my job too? Can a bot write with the same love and passion as I do? Well, that is a topic for another day!




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