Alice and Sparkle: The Ongoing Debate of AI in Art

Alice and Sparkle book cover

When San Francisco based product designer Ammaar Reshi wrote and illustrated his first children’s book, he didn’t expect to be the center of rampant debates and criticisms of artwork generated by artificial intelligence (AI). However, after completing his book in 72 hours and sharing it on social media, the young tech worker was flooded with death threats. 

Ammaar Reshi was reading a bedtime story to a friend’s child when he decided to venture into children's literature himself, aspiring to write a story for kids about the vast world of technology. The book Reshi planned to create was meant as a gift for his friends’ children, a small experiment in creating stories for children centered upon artificial intelligence technologies. As Reshi had little experience in illustration and writing, he turned to the AI tools Midjourney and ChatGPT. 

In December 2022, Reshi began creating Alice and Sparkle, a story about a young girl named Alice and her robot friend, Sparkle, who explore the possibilities of technology. After using the chatbot ChatGPT and the art generator Midjourney, Reshi had completed the book in 72 hours, publishing it through Amazon’s digital bookstore and Kindle direct publishing. The book was created and published using only a $20 subscription to Midjourney. In a weekend, Reshi became a published author. 

After the book’s publication, Reshi shared his creative experience with his followers in a Twitter thread, writing, “I spent the weekend playing with ChatGPT, MidJourney, and other AI tools… and by combining all of them, published a children’s book co-written and illustrated by AI! Here’s how!” The thread currently has nearly 8,000 likes and 2,000 replies. Initially, responses to Reshi’s thread were positive and curious, asking about his method and prompts for the AI, as well as his publishing platform. 

Alice and Sparkle

However, the replies soon became cruel and angry. Though Reshi had merely intended to experiment and create a gift for the children in his life, he found himself entrenched in a heated debate. Like many other projects created using AI, Reshi’s project was criticized for using AI generators that take inspiration from other artists’ creativity. Many artists chimed into the debate and claimed that Reshi’s work was stealing from illustrators and writers by relying on AI generators. After the explosion of discourse under Reshi’s tweet, Amazon shortly removed Alice and Sparkle from January 6 to January 14 after selling over 800 copies.

 However, Reshi never intended for the project to become so controversial. Reshi enjoyed the process of experimenting with the possibilities of artificial intelligence, and hoped to share the magic of AI with children, too. 

After participating in the discourse below his tweet, Reshi wrote, “There are serious, incredibly valid concerns from artists and writers about all this technology. Their emotional responses are fair, we should listen and instead should ask,”

“To the creators of these tools at OpenAI & MidJourney: how do we ensure protections for artists / train models on consent? Their talent, skill, hard work to get there need to be respected. In fact, we should involve them in the creation of these tools so they’re heard.”

Reshi’s tweet echoes points that many artists have expressed since the proliferation of AI-generated artwork and its effects on working artists. While AI is an interesting, complex, and accessible technology, artists’ work should be protected from exploitation and disrespect. Reshi’s book is another instance in the ongoing debate on the ethics of AI technologies and their potentially detrimental effects on human creativity. 

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