After causing a furor, a story broke out last week by PetaPixel about an artist declining a prize for his Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated photo that won in an esteemed contest. Following the reports, numerous major publications sparked the controversy further and picked up the story.
Boris Elgadsem’s recently-awarded AI portrait of two non-existent women, commended by the Sony World Photography Awards (SWPA) Creative category, was reported on by a vast number of renowned news outlets, such as CNN, BBC, ABC, Fox News, USA Today,
We have been astonished at the speed of AI technology’s progress, recently manifested in Midjourney v5, and have reported on its advances here at PetaPixel for months. This marks a major milestone in synthetic imagery.
The warning signs that an AI image would eventually win a major photo award were present after the success of a synthetic image in a small Australian photo contest. Inevitable, this outcome was.
Despite AI’s ability to recreate photos with great accuracy and keen followers of technology being aware of this, people who aren’t as exposed to these advancements and the participants of a competition such as the SWPA are unable to differentiate between a synthetic image, like Eldagsen’s, and an authentic one.
Adrian Chiles expressed his lament in The Guardian this morning: With AI photography’s rising prevalence, people’s trust in photos has been eroded. He argues that due to the SWPA incident, many will become even more distrustful of digital images.
“What I do know is that before long, we won’t know anything for sure,”
“As it stands, however good a fake might be, you can still just about tell it’s a fake. But only just. Sooner rather than later, the joins will disappear. We might even have already passed that point without knowing it. If the judges of the Sony World Photography Awards couldn’t spot the fake, what chance have the rest of us got?”
The SWPA should have been aware that AI images were becoming increasingly common, yet they failed to take action, allowing this image to be disseminated. Did no one within the organization take heed of the warning signs and advise against falling for such a trap? Not.
This scandal has significantly damaged the reputation of SWPA, diminishing societal confidence in photographs. It makes one skeptical if all publicity is positive after all.
Introducing AI into the public sphere will lead to people questioning the authenticity of photos presented to them in a similar way that the concern that an image might have been altered using Photoshop has become common.
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Despite these uncertainties, one thing is certain: the use of AI in art is here to stay, and it will continue to challenge our assumptions and expand our understanding of what is possible. As with any new technology, it is important to approach it with caution and critical thinking while embracing its potential to push the boundaries of human expression. The AI-generated image that won the major photo award has opened the world’s eyes to the possibilities of a new era of art, and we are only at the beginning of this exciting journey.