Artificial Intelligence, Pornography and a Brave New World!


Artificial Intelligence, Pornography and a Brave New World!

Artificial intelligence has been on the rise for years. Within the last few months alone, some of the developments within this area of technology have become difficult to ignore. With the advent of AI image creation services like Dall-E 2, Midjourney and Lensa, this burgeoning new field has grown into something new entirely.

Shortly after the release of these image creation tools, ChatGPT came onto the scene as well. As more and more people began to learn about it, everyone from writers and teachers to students and historians began speculating about the ways these services could change everything going forward.

With how quickly things in the world of technology move, it’s hard to imagine that these programs won’t improve over time. And when they do, it’s difficult to deny the threat it will pose to creators of all sorts.

As internet pornography has pervaded more of our culture, artificial intelligence has begun sinking its teeth into that market as well. With the world of AI image creation rapidly achieving new heights, it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s found more nefarious applications.

The issue became a talking point following a high-profile instance in which popular Twitch streamer Brandon Ewing, also known as “Atrioc,” accidentally showed his followers a tab he’d left open in which he was viewing AI-generated pornography of other popular streamers.

In the same way that standard AI image generators draw from a vast surplus of online pictures in their attempts to generate new imagery based off of them, these porn-generators perform a similar function. By combing through vast quantities of online pornography, these programs identify patterns and try their best to recreate them. Based on the thousands of porn videos that these programs have been trained on, they can approximate the appearance of our genitalia.

Essentially, people are gaining access to tools that design pornography catered to their specific interests and fetishes. And of this pornography being produced, almost none of it is being done consensually. The moral dilemmas raised here are difficult to ignore. According to Law professor and online abuse expert Danielle Citron, “Machine learning models can also spit out images depicting child abuse or rape and, because no one was harmed in the making, such content wouldn’t violate any laws….”

In response to learning of the Deepfake porn that Atrioc had generated which depicted her naked, Twitch streamer QTCinderella took to social media to say that, “It’s not as simple as ‘just’ being violated. It’s so much more than that.” In an interview, she went on to talk about the body dysmorphia that she’s experienced as a result of this debacle.

In some instances, people have even lost their jobs and reputations because of deep-faked AI pornography depicting them. It’s clear that this type of content not only poses a threat to anyone who posts pictures of themselves on the internet, but for those who work in the sex industry, as well. In recent days and weeks, many sex workers have spoken out against these developments. However, it’s not all of them who feel threatened by this strange new modality.

Popular OnlyFans model Laura Lux argues that, “Anyone who thinks AI generated images of hot naked women is going to ruin the OnlyFans economy for real life women has a fundamental misunderstanding of what OnlyFans is.”

Lux goes on to explain that, “they subscribe to my OnlyFans because they want to see ME naked based on a parasocial connection formed by following me on other social media platforms.” What’s nearly impossible to deny is that this leap forward in computing technology will have widespread ripple affects throughout the world.

Deep fakes have already begun to alter our politics. That gaps will widen, conflicts will arise and elections will be decided at the hands of these emerging technologies seems all but inevitable. It’s been nearly half a decade now since a deep faked Barack Obama video began turning heads for its uncanny resemblance to the 44th president and his speaking patterns.

It was clear to many then what this technology would likely evolve into. And as it’s been quietly morphing behind the scenes in the years since, it’s poised itself for this viral takeover we’re now in the midst of: image generation softwares, chat bots and AI porn.

As our lives grow increasingly centered around these strange new technologies, it seems as though we find ourselves in more and more of these situations that we lack the ability to contextualize.

On one hand, maybe it should go without saying that producing pornography from the people we know in life is unethical. But on the other hand, these new technologies have granted us powers that are well beyond our collective ability to use appropriately.

A popular sentiment toward the people using these new AI porn generator programs is one of outrage and disgust. “How dare you use artificial intelligence to digitally sexualize the likeness of your romantic interests!?” many are asking.

But… we’re a species that spent thousands of years inhabiting caves. To even learn that fire could be used and controlled was once an earth-shattering revelation. The discovery of electricity and advent of the internet were developments so colossal that we’ve still never fully steadied ourselves.

But now that we’re here — using detached robots and algorithms to produce sexualized copies of the people we’re romantically interested in — there are no analogies to be drawn. The situation defies comparison. To look objectively at what a strange development this is in the course of human history, I can’t help but sympathize with everyone.

It makes me wonder about what standards people might be held to in the future as society continues to shift in this direction. How many years away are we from, “How dare you use the Neuralink chip in your head to replay the memories of the woman with whom you’re no longer consensually involved!” Is it only a matter of time before we begin demonizing each other for the thoughts in our heads?

It’s important not to judge historic figures by the standards of our time. Our founding fathers had slaves, after all. Things that are normal and accepted one year, may not be the next. But as we continue up this exponential slope of technological development, we live in a time of ever-shifting standards. The world is changing faster than we can keep up with.

To try to apply the hard-wrought rules of consent that it took so long for us to establish — and that, across cultures, few of us still agree upon — to the world that’s just discovered an innovation like AI pornography… well, it’s a lofty vision at best. We’ve drifted impossibly far from what’s normal and natural. Technologies can’t be unreleased. And now that they’re out of the bag, we could never hope to tame these beasts of our modern world.

The internet, social media… algorithms and artificial intelligence? These tools have diverged so wildly from our bygone hopes for the future that it’s a wonder we can be so apathetic toward ourselves. We act surprised by their misuse, as though walking around with phones that have access to the entirety of known information wasn’t already the greatest gamble our species has made yet. Of course these technologies snowballed into something greater and of course we don’t know how to respond to them.

The age of the internet is defined largely by a perpetual onslaught of problems that we’re utterly unequipped to solve. The sudden emergence of AI porn is the third Pandora’s box I’ve seen opened this year and it’s only February.

What will ultimately come of the world of AI is still hard to predict. What’s growing clearer and clearer, though, is that it’s a rapidly evolving field with the potential to reshape the entire world around us. It certainly won’t take years to notice its effects.

It’s important, however, that we try to remain understanding of each other as we each experiment for the first time with technologies that are lightyears beyond the grasp of all those who came before us. It’s important not to forget that we’re each pioneers of this brave new world.

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