Artificial intelligence (AI) has become intrinsically linked to the ways in which we now navigate the modern world. Whether it’s diagnosing medical conditions or stealing our jobs, technology has officially managed to seep its way into every facet of our lives. Most recently, AI was utilised by a group of software engineers to conduct a highly questionable, if not intriguing, social experiment.
According to news outlet Firstpost, two individuals decided to take it upon themselves to trick a cohort of unassuming Redditors into paying for nudes of a “beautiful woman.” The only catch? The photos they received were not from an actual woman, rather, they were from a computer-generated woman named Claudia.
Reddit happens to be a platform which can often attract some of the seediest netizens online, and so it’s no wonder that the engineers were able to find a number of people more than willing to splash the cash in hopes of receiving some nude pictures.
As reported by Firstpost, the two men behind the scheme were able to make up to $100 selling sensitive images of Claudia. One paying customer even tried to invite the AI-generated woman on a date, alleging that he earned six figures and could show her a good time…
The pair used a computer program called Stable Diffusion to create Claudia and instructed the software to construct a woman taking a selfie “without makeup, with black hair, shoulder length hair, plain background, straight hair and hair fringe.”
It should also be noted that while it’s unknown if the engineers specified an age, the AI did create a woman who looked remarkably young—something that makes the entire experiment feel that bit more unsavoury.
In many ways, this event accurately reflects the lengths in which some individuals will go to in order to try and obtain nude photos of women online. And while sex workers are of course fully entitled to sell images of themselves, this particular method was unregulated and therefore can lead to a number of ethical issues, regardless of whether or not the woman in question is real or computer-generated.
For one thing, Stable Diffusion is freely available to the public, and while the company states that users are forbidden to create “obscene, vulgar, lascivious, offensive and pornographic” pictures, it’s completely impossible to keep track of everyone who has access to the site. It’s an upsetting yet sure thing that predators have utilised the technology to create disturbing images, and most likely share them on with other criminals online.
There’s also an argument to be made that the use of AI-generated nudes, and indeed the future idea of completely AI-generated porn, takes direct business and profit away from sex workers.
However, we know that young women can be subject to extreme exploitation online, whether it be someone deepfaking your face onto a nude image, or being the victim of revenge porn. This begs the question, could fully AI-generated nudes lessen the need for individuals to take advantage of real human beings?
Now, this is an incredibly multi-layered story, and one that’s created a number of divisive debates online. Global video content publisher Brut recently shared a clip on its Instagram discussing the experiment, and users definitely had a lot to say in the comments section.
One netizen wrote: “I don’t see the problem with AI-generated nudes. It beats the continued exploitation and trafficking of women,” while another noted: “If you think this fake ass looking person is real you deserve to get scammed I’m so sorry.”
It’s a complicated topic with a number of matters to address. The development of technology has always gone hand in hand with global ethical dilemmas, and this is only one clear example of it playing out in real life. Whether or not you agree with the engineers’ experiment, it’s definitely spurred on a conversation that needs to be had.