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The dream of AI is the dream of free labor

Replied to Siderea, Sibylla Bostoniensis ( (Universeodon Social Media)

The whole damn point of AI is the fantasy of slave sentiences. “What if we had things that could think but because they are things we can own them.”

Corporations are excited to stop paying writers and designers and artists and actors and models and musicians and videographers — even developers. They can’t wait to make movies and games and TV shows with as few employees as possible. They are salivating over their profit margins when they can eliminate their “overhead” of employees.

Individuals are excited to create ‘free’ ‘art’ without investing time or effort into developing a skill or style. Their ideas deserve to exist, and they’ll use whatever tools allow that.

Both corporations and generative AI enthusiasts feel entitled to use others’ work without permission or pay, for their own profit. They can’t afford or don’t want to pay for art or professional writing, but they’ve found a technical way to take it anyway.

This is rooted in devaluing creative labor and wanting to mechanize production: corporations perceive creativity as a quantifiable output that they can reproduce on demand with these new tools. They cannot fathom there’s something humans contribute that they can’t reproduce through technology. To them, creativity can be distilled to data. Hard, clear, ownable.

Creative endeavors are less formulaic than many other types of products — there’s no recipe guaranteed to make a blockbuster game or movie — so using AI makes it feel like corporate is in control of the process. It feels lower risk to lean on average outcomes from AI than hope for greatness from your creative team. Relying on AI cuts out human personality and opinions and relationships, which can slow down the process of production, never mind humans’ physical needs and limitations. With AI, there is no creative disagreement, just manufacturing the product. It does what you tell it to, nothing more or less.

Even without AI, that profit-optimized, risk-averse perspective on creative work has turned culture boring and flat. It turns out that you still need taste to decide what’s worth producing and marketing — a perspective? talent? skill? that will be in even higher demand when execs are wallowing in a quagmire of material and need to decide which ideas to invest their money in actually making. Creators know that ideas are the easy part: the execution is what matters. Can AI pull off that execution consistently and emotively to create cultural works that resonate and sell?

The dream is that they can use others’ stolen words and paintings and illustrations to create intellectual property they can make money off of without having to pay anyone else for it.

The dream is that corporations will take full control of cultural capital without cultural creations stagnating in the absence of future training data, or that they’ll be able to keep stealing others’ intellectual property as training data forever…and that the creative industry won’t collapse without clients and commissions so there will be future work available to steal.

The dream is that *they* can stop paying anyone to work for *them*, as will every other company that can get away with it, but that enough people will still have enough money to spend on their creations despite shutting down entire industries or eliminating skilled labor so workers can be paid much less and are easily replaced.

The dream is that they can flood the market with endless generated works and people won’t get fed up with drowning in oceans of mediocre, inaccurate content and switch to smaller, human-centered networks where they can get trusted information from other people.

The dream is that in the end, quantity matters more than quality.

The dream is that shortcuts work.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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