The phenomenon of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to present numerous possibilities for business owners and marketers. The creative capabilities that have been unraveled with the advent of generative AI tools and automation know practically no bounds. AI’s influence in sectors ranging from healthcare to cybersecurity is growing with each passing day.

It was previously unimaginable to think that a set of algorithms and language learning models could convincingly generate authoritative and engaging text, or, as has been evidenced recently, synthetic and dynamic images. You needn’t look any further than DALL-E 2 or Midjourney to see just how authentic AI images can look.

As far as technology and security companies are concerned, the potential applications of generative AI tools, software and programs fill many with unbridled joy and ambition. However, a pertinent debate that exists among marketers and business owners is the threat that many feel AI poses to creative thinking.

Is Creativity Being Damaged by AI?

Business processes – like marketing and design – thrive on a team’s individual perspectives and creativity, and strategic concepts like brand identities, positioning and points of difference can only truly be devised by a team of skilled individuals that can offer different viewpoints. It doesn’t change the fact that generative AI algorithms are growing more sophisticated and capable of generating on-point and specific content, but the salient point is that human creativity is being siphoned out of the process.

More specifically, AI image-generation tools raise prevalent concerns for professional photographers, videographers and digital marketers. While skilled filmmakers will be able to offer real-world insights and advice to other blossoming freelancers, how soon will their prospective clients turn them away in favor of using a tool that can generate images in seconds?

The Influence of AI is Not All Negative.

While it’s evident that generative AI tools present plenty of short- and long-term business benefits, many are wondering whether entrusting too many aspects of a business to AI is going to damage our creativity. The rise of AI-generated content and media shows signs that this trend isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, which means company owners need to consider their reliance on AI and its influence in their organizations.

Tools continue to permeate the market, providing users with practically limitless options for generating customizable photos on request, without the need for much – if any – human oversight or input. While one business owner may look at this potential with rose-tinted glasses and see the potential cost savings associated with using such tools, others may balk at such a practice. Many feel that these generative AI tools threaten to devalue the work of skilled, creative photographers and designers. There have been accusations that AI-generated art is merely ‘creative theft’, and the danger that excessive use of these tools could ultimately diminish our perception of what constitutes an authentic and captivating image.

Why Should Business Owners Exercise Caution With Image AI Tools?

AI Distorts Our Perception of Reality

AI-generated imagery is getting more difficult to distinguish from authentic, original photos taken and edited by photographers and digital designers. While an AI image will look sophisticated, intricately crafted and authentic, it’s unsurprising that a large percentage of people will not be able to identify whether an AI tool has generated it, or whether it’s come from hours of hard, creative work by a human.

Over time, as more of these AI images get used in content that we regularly consume, it will undoubtedly start to challenge our notion of what is considered genuine imagery.

AI image-generation tools could be leveraged in the same way that content-generation tools are used to spread fake news or misinformation, as content is distributed en masse to perpetuate false narratives and, at times, dangerous or aggressive discourse. To the untrained eye, more people could digest said narratives or opinions as gospel, further damaging the validity of credible opinions.

Therefore, companies need to consider how to maintain transparency and accountability if they are to be using AI image generation to avoid reputational damage.

Copyright and Legal Liability

AI-based image generation also poses a complex issue around image copyright, trademarks and legal liability in the event of misuse. If an AI tool generates an image that infringes on someone else’s or a company’s intellectual property or likeness, then it begs the question of who is responsible.

Some may suggest that ‌AI tool developers would be responsible for any damages and remuneration. Others may suggest that the client that requested the image would be responsible. However, the truth remains unclear and resolving legal issues of AI image generation will largely go back and forth until concrete new policies and legislation determine clear accountable parties, should such circumstances arise.

The main takeaway here is that companies, if they are planning to use these tools en masse, should always seek legal advice to understand the full extent of the liability risks that could arise.

Diminishing Human Creativity

It’s widely accepted that generative AI tools can augment creativity and make many people’s jobs easier. However, until sufficient regulation is embraced, companies are at liberty to integrate AI into their business models as they see fit, which means that safeguarding livelihoods and jobs remains, at present, a gray area until regulation is implemented. If used improperly and at scale right now, AI tools could systematically replace teams of workers.

That said, when examining generative AI tools more closely, it’s clear that the programs are still severely limited to mimicking styles and subjects it has been trained to understand. In other words, it can only generate basic, placeholder text or images as close to a user’s request as possible. No AI tool can replicate the emotional intelligence, personal experiences, and complex and artistic viewpoints that human creators possess.

Therefore, in light of this, companies should cast watchful and responsible eyes on any output that has come via an AI tool. If marketers can maintain sufficient oversight, supervision and ethical judgment when it comes to AI content, they will be empowering human creativity rather than replacing it. When used correctly, AI can guide and support creative workers without devaluing or diminishing their skill sets. Companies should cautiously use generative AI tools at scale and determine how and when it’s appropriate to utilize synthetic AI images.

The state of AI image generation shows clear signs of promise, and it’s only a matter of time before tools and programs become more sophisticated and intuitive.

However, at present, companies should be mindful of the risks that they pose to creativity, ethics and intellectual property. The best advice for business owners is to understand the current challenges these tools pose before widely integrating them into their companies, and not view them as direct replacements for human creators.

With the right strategy implemented, AI and human creativity can intertwine and work in perfect harmony together.

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