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The Hypocrisy Behind PG-13 AI Imagery: Taking Aim at the Double Standard of Artificial Intelligence

Updated: Apr 6

"If a work of art is rich, vital, and complete, those who have artistic instincts will see its beauty, and those to whom ethics appeal more strongly than aesthetics will see its moral lesson. It will fill the cowardly with terror, and the unclean will see in it their own shame."

--Oscar Wilde

Portrait of the artist

Few technological developments stand out as boldly or controversially as integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into art and culture. This fusion promises to reshape the artistic landscape and reimagine the nature of masterpieces. However, there lies a delicate balance where AI transitions from assisting in creation to abetting a cynical power grab by the powers of patriarchal capitalist marketing and crass commercial interests.

In his influential work "Ways of Seeing," John Berger delved into the power dynamics ingrained in visual culture—a discourse that gains renewed significance with the emergence of AI. Berger shed light on how historical male dominance has shaped the portrayal of female figures as objects of desire in art and media. Unfortunately, AI appears to perpetuate these outdated dynamics rather than challenge them.

Recent research and publications have unveiled gender biases embedded in AI algorithms. Organizations like UN Women advocate for a reexamination of how these technologies can combat, rather than reinforce, patriarchal stereotypes. Furthermore, ethical AI initiatives, highlighted by The Global Observatory, emphasize the importance of eliminating gender bias in AI design and operation.

two men

Reflecting on the current state of AI in art, we observe a trend where AI's creative output leans towards the familiar, marketable, and convenient rather than embracing the diversity of human experiences and the limitless realm of human creativity it aims to enhance. The proliferation of AI-generated content tends towards predictability, catering to mainstream tastes while neglecting the nuanced intricacies of human emotion and experience.

Moreover, AI's involvement in art raises ethical concerns. Platforms that censor nudity, even within artistic contexts, paradoxically propagate images that conform to conventional standards of beauty, shaped by biased datasets that prioritize youth and physical attractiveness, especially in white female forms. This poses critical questions: when does the algorithmic pursuit of beauty transition from aesthetic preference to reinforcing societal biases and stereotypes? Do such algorithms perpetuate harmful norms that revolve around gender and beauty ideals?

As AI becomes increasingly intertwined with our daily existence, its influence on our perceptions and behaviors becomes undeniable. The normalization of objectification and narrow beauty standards through PG-13 AI imagery poses a significant risk, particularly to marginalized groups who already bear the brunt of societal beauty norms.

draped woman

The dichotomy of artificial perception comes to light as AI, mirroring human culture, inadvertently distorts the very essence it seeks to represent. By banning diverse 'nude' or 'naked' human forms while promoting a limited, sexualized beauty ideal, AI systems underscore their inherent contradictions and biases. Artificial Intelligence developers seem to promote "Disney princess" stereotypes where eroticism is masked as innocence. This tendency oversimplifies human sexuality and overlooks the innate beauty of the human form in all its flaws without a sexual lens. AI must recognize and celebrate all bodies, not just those white, young, and conventionally attractive.

The need to address the underlying datasets driving AI's learning process becomes evident when searches for terms like 'female' consistently yield images of young, white, and conventionally attractive individuals, perpetuating stereotypes and sidelining the richness of human diversity. Developers must teach their incredible machines to celebrate all forms of human beauty and diversity, transcending the narrow confines of societal norms and media stereotypes. By doing so, we can shape AI to embody our values, fostering a more inclusive and equitable technological landscape.

nude male

Crafting an Authentic Prelude

Despite the challenges, a glimmer of hope shines through the digital haze. An artificial intelligence that embraces and supports the full spectrum of human expression instead of simplifying it offers a glimpse of a more promising future. Such an AI wouldn't just reflect but constantly evolve as a diverse tapestry of viewpoints and encounters. Achieving this requires more than a technological transformation but a deliberate push to embed diversity deep into the core of AI development.

This diversity encompasses more than just the surface-level aspects of gender and race. It delves into the essence of untold stories and hidden beauty. In our rapidly changing technological environment, ensuring that progress uplifts all segments of society is essential. We must question AI's existing power dynamics and strive for an inclusive and fair future. By fostering diversity and inclusivity within AI, we can shape an unbiased, ethical, technological realm that benefits everyone.

man embracing decayed body

Let's continue this conversation, educate ourselves on these matters, and collaborate toward an AI-driven world that caters to all. However, an AI company's cautionary statement regarding nude content moderation, "This is not a democracy," hints at authoritarian echoes reminiscent of patriarchal figures dictating social norms. The voices of marginalized individuals, expressed through "nothing about me without me," should guide AI development. While AI significantly influences our society, "the people" are excluded from its evolution. We are fed a biased diet of outdated ideologies and suppressed expressions of sexuality.

The call for authenticity demands a dynamic approach to integrating and utilizing AI in art. Stringent processes, including evaluating the algorithms themselves and involving a diverse team in the development process, must be established to ensure that AI becomes a supporter of creativity rather than a rigid gatekeeper. This isn't solely a matter of technological capability; it's a question of determination and purpose.

nude boxer

Inspiring a Rebirth of Creative Expression

Amid these challenges, AI enterprises and developers bear the responsibility of cultivating an inclusive and varied technological environment. This entails actively seeking diverse viewpoints in data collection and consistently scrutinizing algorithms for any biases.

A recent piece in the Washington Post shed light on this issue, demonstrating how AI-generated images can perpetuate prejudices related to race, gender, and stereotypes. Despite the unfortunate existence of these biases, it acts as a compelling call to action for developers, policymakers, and users to pursue algorithms that embrace the richness and diversity of humanity in its entirety.

How can we nurture an atmosphere that honors genuine artistic expression in the digital age? The solution lies in a collective reimagining of AI's role and duty in the arts. We must liberate digital creativity from the constraints of convenience and profit, enabling artists to create beyond the safe confines of PG-13 aesthetics. In this new era, we need to augment a community of critics and consumers with advocates who amplify the voices of authentic creators.

two draped figures

An AI that excels in serving the public, particularly in art, will learn and generate beyond established biases and limited aesthetics. It will explore all directions—not only the safe and familiar path of "acceptable content" but also the uncharted terrain of ideas that challenge the norm. As Carl Jung wrote, "Intense conflicts and their conflagration ... are needed in order to produce valuable and lasting results." Some may take offense at specific images, yet it is an individual's right to process or reject imagery.

Unveiling New Frontiers in Art and AI

We stand at the threshold of an unwritten chapter in human creativity. The narrative is not predetermined, and the evolution of creative liberty, bold innovation, and unfettered investigation depends on our choices today. The advancement of AI in art is not merely a technological pursuit; it embodies a philosophical endeavor that reflects our core beliefs about creation, beauty, and liberty.

nude man with deer skulls

The potential of AI to craft images that resonate with humanity and nature remains largely unexplored. By reshaping how AI perceives and replicates the human form, we can view technology as an ally in challenging harmful conventions rather than an enabler. Here, feminist advocacy, technological innovation, and media critique can converge – advocating for AI systems rooted in ethical design principles that celebrate bodies of all types without defaulting to objectification.

As we critique, we must collaborate with AI developers to infuse these systems with the intricacy and diversity of human beauty. The vision of unbiased technology is not a utopian ideal but an achievable objective that demands continual scrutiny, education, and refinement of AI's learning mechanisms.

Realizing AI's full potential in art—a potential that champions diversity and genuineness—demands an unscripted narrative and a society unrestrained by the limited expectations of a puritanical, profit-seeking mainstream. It is time to recognize an AI yet to come—one that unfolds a future as vibrant and expansive as the dreams we dare to envision.

The Call to Action

two male bathers

In the tapestry of the digital future, there is a warp and weft that is ours to co-create. It is not enough to be mere audiences to this revolutionary drama; we must take part in shaping our destiny. Support for genuine creators, discussions on ethical AI, and a push for transparency are the opening acts of this saga of art and AI.

It is a call for artists to learn how to wield this new instrument, AI developers to infuse their creations with the respect and love of the craft, and audiences to demand more than mere repeats of existing norms. It calls for all—makers and consumers alike—to celebrate the human spark deep within every AI creation.

The future of art and AI cannot be left to chance. It is too vital, too visceral. It is a pursuit fraught with peril but irrefutably alive with the promise of what could be. The dividing line we tread is less a chasm and more a precipice from which we can either fall into the familiar or soar into the unknown.

spartan women

The images in this blog are AI-generated interpretations of a small sampling of the artist's drawings and paintings. Using minimal prompting, the results show how the AI "understood" the source art to make its imagery. These images brought a "moderation warning" by the AI generating website. In particular, the AI created more female than male nudity in these interpretations, and I've presented some of the most interesting here.

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