AI Bots: The costs of convenient and cute plagiarism in writing and art

By Jewyz Ann Bunyi

(Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb)

And with just a snap, it’s 2023 already. Gone are the days when keypad phones were the latest trends, thick phased-out laptops that could easily break our backs, and the classic Windows XP background as our default screen. As years went by, computer science progressed to ease our loads. Eventually, it gave birth to artificial intelligence (AI). From self-driving vehicles to lifelike humanoid robots, AI spans a broad spectrum. Nearly every field, even the creative one, is embracing it. Tools like Imagen, DALLE-2, CopyAI, and Wordtune are gaining traction due to their astounding features that allow us to write and create without lifting a finger.

While we indulge ourselves with the wonders of AI applications and their infinite functions, AI gradually turns us into lazy cows merely doing the bare minimum of our jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic has become an avenue for us to be reliant on this technological advancement, with AI bots doing all the donkey work.

Not to mention AI’s capability of producing art at an unparalleled rate that lowers the bar for creativity. It also takes advantage of artists by fusing their features, backgrounds, and elements, effortlessly creating a vision that fits together like a jigsaw. This algorithmic system excavates their original art with AI-generated creative artwork that does not give credit to the original artists. Struggling artists struggle even more as the rise of AI takes glory for their creativity.

Artificial intelligence, a churning machine of ideas

Photo from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

In a technology-dependent era, having AI bots is one of the technological advancements most of us are thankful for. Writing content that takes five hours to finish can be accomplished in just a few minutes through AI writing technology. It uses algorithms to analyze data from thesauruses, dictionaries, and other web pages, letting the software program do its job while simultaneously correcting grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, sentence constructions, and other language rules. Its capacity is improving that it might single-handedly overshadow a mere human’s capability.

Our craft may start off too loose when we start creating it, and virtual assistants are the one-click-away guide we need to yassify our work. However, we tend to forget that these AI bots are still progressing and flourishing; they assume our ideas based on the collated data they have. An instance occurred to me before when I used Grammarly to polish my work. Even though I set the writing suggestions to my liking, it altered my work into something I wasn’t tackling in the first place. Instead of getting my work refined by an AI assistant, it went the other way around.

Mind you that AI bots are not conscious machines and that they still need human effort to function. However, little by little, it faithfully follows its intended functions as if it has a mind of its own. In its pursuit for improvement, it overpowers the originality and creativity of struggling artists through effortless knock-offs. Even though we have AI bots that detect plagiarism, AI bots themselves can also be subjected to plagiarism due to their baffling algorithms and systems. The essence, credibility, and message of our works slowly weaken if we completely let AI take over them. After all, everything that’s convenient may come with a hefty price later on.

Engulfing one’s artistic prowess

Screengrab from Spongebob Squarepants (1999)

A series of writer’s blocks is one mountain that’s extremely hard to climb. Even though we squeeze our creative juices just to get a few drops of it, all we have is nada. Our vigor to at least write something stresses us, which may lead to procrastination for some. This reminds me of that certain Spongebob Squarepants episode, and since this isn’t Bikini Bottom, the rise of AI made it easier for us to ascend the heaps of writer’s block… or does it?

For us to get by, we have instilled the “work smarter, not harder” mentality, which, believe it or not, works but not for everyone. I’ve seen cases like copy-pasting works from the internet, then letting AI work its magic — from paraphrasing to setting the tone — as if it’s one’s own work. If this is the case for you, then you’re not fooling anyone but yourself. You may feel proud and confident when you see your work being praised, then suddenly, the realization flashes in front of you — that it’s a work that doesn’t have a heart or personal touch. Not even one bit. Some would even justify it using the “work smarter, not harder” card.

Over-dependency on AI becomes a part of the routine, creating a mindset that as long as it gets the job done, it’s not a problem anymore. Although people don’t necessarily see the process, it’s still an integral part of the outcome. While the convenience of AI attracts us like fire to take the easier route, the passion for our craft burns with us, quietly turning every bit of it into ashes that get carried away by the wind. Sadly, the easy way outs make the end results less significant.

From the way I see it, the work of AI in terms of writing and art is a camouflage, a band-aid solution that doesn’t necessarily help us in the long run since this over-dependency dulls our artistic prowess. Creative or writer’s block is inevitable and valid; conquering it is subjective for each individual. In the end, it is also about overcoming self-doubt, boosting self-esteem and confidence. And it’s up to you whether you let this hurdle fuel your fire or let your passion and skills be engulfed in flames.

Touch some grass

Photo from iStock

As AI progresses, it inevitably scares people with its capability of taking over humanity, including widespread unemployment. Regardless, AI doesn’t necessarily replace artists. Every art form needs both creativity and a profound understanding of the context that appeals to its audience to create a masterpiece. And only humans are capable of this. The possibility of AI-generated content being out of touch with reality is evident, given the fact that it’s not entirely written by a real human. Hence, those who use AI are more likely to replace struggling artists who don’t utilize it, not AI itself.

The over-dependency on technological advancements like AI is overrated, and it directs us into picturing a utopian world where there are more practical ways to make a livelihood, and that life is not designed to be lived in a difficult manner. Passive income through the use of AI in writing and art has become pervasive these days. It’s a strategy to make a living, indeed.

But what about those who hone their craft and deserve that recognition and platform more than anyone? We may all have different privileges and strategies to make a living; however, we should also consider those who have the heart and talent that are derived from their creative minds, not from AI-generated ideas. After all, art is not just a mere hobby where you can milk income, it is also a calling, a vocation for some. Even though AI can write, paint, draw, etc., most of us will still prefer what was entirely created by a real person. Again, AI bots are valuable helping tools, not a leverage for easy money.

AI has made our lives easier. The immense capacity of technology made us cope very well during the first days of the pandemic, and up until now that we’re slowly getting out of our cocoons. Too much reliance on technology, however, can cause more harm than good, which might be ignited through simple tasks, writing and art included. If we lean too heavily on technology, it becomes a cane we can’t walk without.

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The Premier Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas