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The Harm that AI Has Already Caused

As the development of artificial intelligence systems continues to introduce AI into various industries and hubs of communication at a rapid pace, top AI researchers and notable tech figures, such as Elon Musk, have asked AI developers to pause their advancement of AI. The request was made owing to the fear that AI will pose itself as a “risk to society and humanity”. However, AI has already caused measurable damage. 


Although AI is advancing at a staggering rate, its full potential is yet to be seen. The rapid development of large-scale artificial intelligence systems has tech leaders worried about their developers' ability to understand the harm that AI could potentially cause. Yet, even in its fledgling commercial uses, AI has already demonstrated itself as a threat.


Last year, artists were outraged when an AI program won an art prize at the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition. The entrant responsible for submitting the work, Jason M. Allen,  created the piece simply by typing words into a text box, which instructed the AI program, named Midjourney, to generate an intricate and highly detailed piece of digital art. After generating this piece, Allen printed it on canvas and submitted the art under the category of “digital art/digitally manipulated photography”. Local judges awarded the generated artwork a blue ribbon and a prize of $300. 


When the news of Allen’s victory made its way to Twitter, it caused a scathing reaction from Twitter users. Allen defended his victory, stating that he had made it absolutely clear that his art was created by AI. Artists saw the event as a travesty, a sign that AI is pushing human artists out. 


While artists in the past have criticized the expansion of technology in art before, AI is different. As the New York Times reports, “Apps like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney are built by scraping millions of images from the open web, then teaching algorithms to recognize patterns and relationships in those images and generate new ones in the same style. This means that artists who upload their work in the internet may be unwittingly helping to train their algorithmic competitors.” Thus, when programs like Midjourney create art, it generates images based on information learned about art made by other creators and produces award-winning pieces in a significantly shorter amount of time. It becomes understandable why artists feel threatened and robbed when AI art is praised.


Finally, in an ominous statement made by Allen to the Times, he said, “This isn’t going to stop...Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”


However, in the case of popular Twitch streamer Blaire, AKA QTCinderella, the products of AI directly affected her. Blaire was brought to tears when she discovered that her likeness was being misused through deepfake pornography without her consent. Deepfake is a technology which uses AI to manipulate or change aspects of a video or image, or even create videos or images from scratch. In the case of Blaire, her face was deepfaked onto a pornographic actress's body. She became aware of the content after fellow streamer Brandon “Atrioc” Ewing’s was exposed having a website on his screen that contained non-consensual deepfake pornography. Ewing had also reportedly purchased deepfake pornography of other female streamers including Pokimane and Maya Higa.


According to research, deepfake pornography is one of the most common uses of the technology. Many are pornographic. “The AI firm Deeptrace found 15,000 deepfake videos online in September 2019, a near doubling over nine months. A staggering 96% were pornographic and 99% of those mapped faces from female celebrities onto porn stars,”as reported by the Guardian. In that same article, Boston University law professor Danielle Citron stated, “Deepfake technology is being weaponized against women,” a sentiment Blaire shared when she expressed her exhaustion with exploitation and objectification on the internet in light of the incident.


Deepfake’s other infamous use is its ability to sow disinformation in political or world news. Certain deepfake misinformation videos include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announcing a Ukrainian surrender and photos of former president Donald Trump being arrested in the midst of his indictment scandal. It’s expected that the deceptive and misleading uses of AI could be fully demonstrated in the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election, and deepfakes are only one method that will be used to lead voters astray.


“The implications for the 2024 campaigns and elections are as large as they are troubling: Generative AI can not only rapidly produce targeted campaign emails, texts or videos. It can also could be used to mislead voters, impersonate candidates and undermine elections on a scale and at a speed not yet seen…AI experts can quickly rattle off a number of alarming scenarios in which generative AI is used to create synthetic media for the purposes of confusing voters, slandering a candidate or even inciting violence,” PBS states.


There are concerns that if AI is maliciously used to sow disinformation during the 2024 campaigns and elections, it could threaten U.S. democracy. Petko Stoyanov, global chief technology officer at a cybersecurity company based in Texas, shared his prediction with PBS. Petko stated that foreign groups will utilize AI to interfere with the U.S. elections. According to PBS, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) fears that AI will be used to sow discord and conflict between Americans; “AI being weaponized, in a political season, could be extremely disruptive.”


The methods for spreading misinformation and chaos, such as deepfake technology, can have foreseeable, disastrous consequences. In this age of fast paced infromation production and consumption, deepfake products can disseminate misinformation more rapidly than it can be debunked.


AI systems are still remarkably young, however, its recent uses have caused damage and stirred concern. Although top researchers in AI and tech have a firmer grasp on the threats AI poses against us, what AI has done already can lead the average everyday citizen to its dangers and risks to anyone.


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Tags: AI Elon Musk deepfake artificial intelligence AI art


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