Laura Wurth — a Response to Generative AI

Hi again!


Today we introduce a new format in this newsletter, collaborations!


In irregular intervals, I will ask friends or colleagues to react to my newsletter and to add their opinion to mine. With this, we will create a platform for discussion, on which you, dear reader, are of course also invited to participate. This week, writer and thinker Laura Wurth responds to my newsletter about generative AI.


So, I wanted to discuss the implication of generative AI on creative freelancers and artists. There is widespread debate about the copyright issues with generative AI, currently focusing on the topics of the right to opt-in or opt-out.

To understand the underlying issue: currently, the systems are fed with huge amounts of data acquired from the internet which are also often tagged and categorized by famous artists’ styles. This results in the ability of the trained AI to mimic a certain style of an artist easily and to generate new images within seconds.

Now, a lot of artists rightfully say, that they would like to have a say in having their images used and tagged for training such tools (opt-in argumentation) while the AI startups argue that this would be hard to handle, hence artists should have an opt-out option for removing their associated names and data sets from their systems.


While listening to many various discussions (if you are interested in the topic: the podcast HARD FORK is a great source for ongoing analysis and discussion) I started wondering though, if the implications of this new technology are maybe a little underestimated.

There are already huge waves of cheap labor showing up on the creatives market – you can acquire custom, hand-made graphic designs, and logos, but also artworks and imitations.

Generative AI will put this market even more under pressure by fully replacing graphic designers and a lot of illustration artists. So, are we repeating the unimaginable step of replacing our white-collar “cool” jobs with the next wave of automation?


Even if the artists and creative community have a voice strong enough to protect their material, will it be again applied only to the privileged (the ones whose style is recognizable and to be easily removed from a large dataset) while a huge mass of small artists and designers will be swept away from generative AI to even more precarious living situations? Are the creative industries going to be following the path of the textile industry?

Here is Laura Wurths’ reaction:


What you don't know always seems scary at first.

The new, and especially the technical, has often been demonized. With progress, things would lose value, no one would talk to each other anymore because everyone would stare at their cell phones, art and literature would lose their value because they would no longer have to be produced by humans.


But perhaps it is precisely in Generative AI that a huge opportunity lies.

Namely, an aspect that has somehow been missed in digitization so far. If it were politically regulated that there would be a UBI, then it wouldn't be so bad if the person who now sits at the checkout in the supermarket were replaced by a computer. She could do nicer things with her life. Taking care of her children, silk painting, sports, golf. If we paid jobs fairly and valued machines and what they can do more on how they could make our lives better, then no one would look at Chat GPT with a queasy feeling, but rather with a kind of technophoria.


Digitization and everything related to it could become the greatest project for improving everyone's lives.

The eight-hour day that we still live today and according to which our present is structured, could be overcome with the help of technology.

But not to slide down into the next more precarious work situation, but to let technology do the work for us.


The machines would then do what we don't want to do. The annoying stuff, the little things, the sitting at the cash register, the butchering, the little ups of graphics. But you wouldn't have to be in existential fear about that, you'd be covered by the UBI.
People could then turn to the things that are important to them. And if you ask, for most people those are things like: spending more time with the people they love. Their friends, their children, their families.


If generative AI were politically regulated in that way, then there would be nothing to worry about. So, as with most things that are supposed to create progress, it's about making sure that their profits don't end up in the hands of capitalistically motivated corporations, but in the hands of the general public, where they can generate a better life for everyone.

So, the question is not how to protect ourselves and our intellectual property from generative AI, but how to free the capabilities of AI from the hands of capitalism and put them into the hands of those whose lives they could improve.