AI, Creativity, and Mental Health

So I was at Motor City ComicCon today (which was incredible) and I saw at several of the artist booths signs thanking people for supporting traditional artists that did not use AI image generation to create their artwork.

I’ve poked around with that technology and yeah, it’s impressive. But I did not find it as fulfilling as photography (it’s tough to replicate that feeling when you press the shutter button and look at the image you made and you realize ‘that picture just works’). But feelings of personal accomplishment aside, I think I have to agree with these artists. It’s incredibly important to support local artists and I think AI images do detract from our ability to do that. As does social media.

In today’s social media culture we are conditioned to measure success by the number of clicks and likes. Not by our own personal satisfaction with what we create. I’ve struggled with this quite a bit myself over the last 4 years. You spend hours and hours working to create something, get 2 or 3 likes, and lose a lot of motivation to continue creating when you see images created by just typing a few words into an image generator blow past yours in online popularity.

I imagine it’s the same feeling for these artists at conventions – all that time and effort spent creating something you are proud of, something you hope you can make a living from, and your booth gets passed by as people move to AI generated images. It can be demoralizing.

You love what you do and you have an amazing product. It’s every artists dream, but it’s a dream that’s being threatened by a flood of cheap day images across an ever changing mess of platforms.

Rainn Wilson has a terrific podcast (Soul Bloom) that talks a lot about the negative impacts of social media and ways of dealing with that – it’s worth a listen. I’ve also found Felicia Day’s work (particularly her book “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)” incredibly inspirational – she talks about dealing with anxiety, depression, addiction, and how she overcame them to create her web series and eventually her own company.

We have all the tools at our disposal to live life to the fullest. But what does that mean? How do we apply them? – I spend 9 hours a day in a dark depressing cubicle. How can photography be used as a positive force for living a fulfilling life in the face of cheap computer generated images being mass consumed by a faceless audience?

So this leads me to ask the question: Is there still a place for photography as a tool for improving our lives? The lives of others? Our mental wellness? Our planet?

This is worth exploring…

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