Many people make money on royalties on photographs they take. This is a popular way to make some extra money on one's work. Companies often pay for specific photos they use in marketing materials.
Of course, online this is a different world. Many royalty free sites popped up enabling people to put photos on their websites free of charge. There often is a watermark containing the site that the photo is from unless one is willing to pay for it.
This is all about to be disrupted by AI.
One individual set up a site that contains nothing but photos of faces that are royalty free. The catch is they are not photos of real people but, rather, generated by an AI system.
The project was put together by Konstantin Zhabinskiy who is the lead product designer. The team took 10,000 photos of 69 models to train the AI system. This is a great deal more labor intensive as compared to just feeding it photos from the Internet but will provide a better learning algorithm.
Zhabinskiy is keen to emphasize that the AI used to generate these images was trained using data shot in-house, rather than using stock media or scraping photographs from the internet. “Such an approach requires thousands of hours of labor, but in the end, it will certainly be worth it!” exclaims an Icons8 blog post. Ivan Braun, the founder of Icons8, says that in total the team took 29,000 pictures of 69 models over the course of three years which it used to train its algorithm.
This is just an example of how quickly things can change. While the photos from this site are a "work in progress" there is no doubt that, over time, the system will produce better content. After this, who knows what could be added to the library. One can imagine the AI being able to create landscape and other commonly used photos after being fed thousands of pictures.
A key part of all this is how the photos are completely free. This is eliminating a potential expense that many companies have when putting together marketing materials. Of course, like most things affected by AI, it could also mean a loss of revenue for many photographers who produce the pictures that are sold.
While we are at it, what about the world of modeling. In this instance, the company used models to train the AI system. However, if they chose the route of feeding it millions of photos from online, this could eliminate this expense (if there was one).
We can already see the idea of using this type of technology for movies. Who is going to be the first AI generated movie star? Does that sound too outlandish? Scooby Doo was not real yet is known by kids all over the world. The same is true for Homer Simpson.
If AI can write the scripts, develop the characters, and film the movie, what is the cost of that? Also, how many more films a year would come out due to this technology. Some might say the loss of connection with the human actors would be a set back but I don't think too many would care. Sure there are ardent fans but most people aren't over the top about a particular actor or actress.
Thus far, the main barrier to this transformation is the quality of what is produced. AI generated music, at this point, still lags that created by humans. We can also see that most of these photos are not quite up to par with what humans are developing.
This, however, is just a timing thing. Give it another year or two and I would expect the AI system to be greatly improved. When that happens, how will it change a variety of industries.
The next decade is going to force us to question a lot of long held beliefs. Does a movie need actual people in it to be highly successful? Will people really care if music is created by a computer instead of humans? Does it matter if the products we consume were fully developed by AI?
These are questions that have more than just technological implications. There is also a financial side to all this which is profound. Who is going to benefit from the AI and the increase in profit margins? How are we going to deal with the fallout of industries getting obliterated, at least from an employment perspective?
All this ties into the idea of "abundance". When something is abundance, the monetary value tends to seep out of it. That is why we have an economy that strives to create scarcity. In this instance, tens of millions of royalty free photos would alter a number of different industries. When that happens, the consumer benefits greatly but the producer tends to suffer.
We already saw this process with information, music, video, and long distance communication. Over the next decade, we are going to see dozen of other situations arise that follow the same path.
It is a rapidly changing world that few are aware of. Sadly, many are going to get their wake up call with the metaphorical slap to the face.
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