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Pop Culture

Viral post breaks down how those popular Lensa AI profiles are not as harmless as they seem

'AI art isn't cute.'

lensa app, lensa backlash
Gen Ishihara/Facebook

"AI art isn't cute."

Odds are you’ve probably seen those Lensa AI avatars floating around social media. You know, the app that turns even the most basic of selfies into fantasy art masterpieces? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have your own series of images filling up your photo bank right now. Who wouldn’t want to see themselves looking like a badass video game character or magical fairy alien?

While getting these images might seem like a bit of innocent, inexpensive fun, many are unaware that it comes at a heavy price to real digital artists whose work has been copied to make it happen. A now-viral Facebook and Instagram post, made by a couple of digital illustrators, explains how.


In a very thorough series of slides, Gen Ishihara and her fiance Jon Lam reveal that Lensa is easily able to render those professional looking images by using a Stable Diffusion model, which is more or less an open source (meaning free) program where users can type in a series of words and artificial intelligence will conjure up images based on those typed words. Type out a group of seemingly unrelated words like “ethereal,” “cat,” “comic style” and “rainbow,” and out will pop at least one cohesive, intricate piece of art. All in less than a minute. This foundation is what most mainstream AI art software operates on, by the way—not just Lensa.

lensa steals from artists

"...there's more than meets the eye"

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The problem here is that Stable Diffusion has been trained on yet another open source collection of data from a nonprofit called LAION. LAION has more than 5 billion publicly accessible images. If you can find it online, LAION has a picture of it, categorized as “research.”

Not only does this include copyrighted work, but also personal medical records, as well as disturbing images of violence and sexual abuse. But for the sake of not delving too far into darkness, we’ll focus on the copyright issue.

ai art

LAION's database includes copyrighted work, personal medical records and disturbing images of violence and sexual abuse.

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While LAION might be a nonprofit, Stable Diffusion is valued at $1 billion. And Lensa (which uses Stable Diffusion) has so far earned $29 million in consumer spending. Meanwhile, artists whose work can be found in that database have made zero.

“The Lensa app is a great way to get the general public comfortable with using the software and turn a blind eye to how the data was collected. The technology is so new that laws have not caught up with AI tech yet. But that doesn't make it okay,” the post read.

lensa app

"The Lensa app is a great way to get the general public comfortable with using the software and turn a blind eye to how the data was collected."

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Ishihara and Lam listed real artists who have been affected by Lensa’s use of data laundering, including Greg Rutkowski, whose “name has been used as a prompt around 93,000 times.” He even had his name attached to a piece of AI art that he did not create. Again, simply type in “Greg Rutkowski” along with whatever thing you want illustrated, and the program will create something drawn in his style.

You can see why someone who dedicated a good portion of their life to developing a skill that now can be replicated at a fraction of the effort—and without earning compensation—might not be a huge fan of these trends.

lensa magic avatars

Maybe it's more than harmless fun.

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The post then followed up by debunking several pro-AI statements, first pointing out that AI programs are being updated and improved so fast that distinguishing it from the work of human art is becoming impossible—meaning that it does in fact threaten the livelihood of a real artist who simply cannot compete with a machine.

Also shown was a poster created in Midjourney to promote the San Francisco Ballet’s upcoming “Nutcracker” performance, showing that AI media has indeed already begun to replace human jobs.

One of the most common arguments in the AI debate is that all art is derivative, since artists similarly draw inspiration from other sources. While this is true, Ishihara and Lam would contend that the organic process of blending “reference material, personal taste and life experiences to inform artistic decisions” is vastly different than a computer program depending on data that is existing artistic property and then used for commercial purposes without consent.

Adding further credibility to this viewpoint, there’s another post floating around the internet showing Lensa portraits where a warped version of the artist’s signature is still visible (seen below).

Rather than doing away with AI art altogether, what Ishihara, Lam and others are pushing for are better regulations for companies that allow for this technology to coexist with human artists.

This might be easier said than done, but some progress has already been made in that arena. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for example, has begun demanding that corporations destroy any algorithm or AI models built using personal information or data collected “in bad faith or illegally.”

Second, they want people to educate themselves. Several other artists agreed that people who have used apps like Lensa aren’t wrong for doing so, but that moving forward there needs to be awareness of how it affects real people. Really, this is pretty much the case for all seemingly miraculous advancements in technology.

And for the creators feeling hopeless by all this, Ishihara and Lam say “whatever you do, don’t stop creating,” adding that it’s more important than ever to not “give up on what you love.”

The conversation around the ethical implications of AI is complex. While posts like these might come across as a form of fear-mongering or finger-wagging, it’s important to gather multiple points of view in order to engage in nuanced conversations and move forward in a way that includes everyone’s well-being.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

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Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Representative image from Canva

Because who can keep up with which laundry settings is for which item, anyway?

Once upon a time, our only option for getting clothes clean was to get out a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing. Nowadays, we use fancy machines that not only do the labor for us, but give us free reign to choose between endless water temperature, wash duration, and spin speed combinations.

Of course, here’s where the paradox of choice comes in. Suddenly you’re second guessing whether that lace item needs to use the “delicates” cycle, or the “hand wash” one, or what exactly merits a “permanent press” cycle. And now, you’re wishing for that bygone bucket just to take away the mental rigamarole.

Well, you’re in luck. Turns out there’s only one setting you actually need. At least according to one laundry expert.

While appearing on HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast, Patric Richardson, aka The Laundry Evangelist, said he swears by the “express” cycle, as “it’s long enough to get your clothes clean but it’s short enough not to cause any damage.”

Richardson’s reasoning is founded in research done while writing his book, “Laundry Love,” which showed that even the dirtiest items would be cleaned in the “express” cycle, aka the “quick wash” or “30 minute setting.”


Furthermore the laundry expert, who’s also the host of HGTV’s “Laundry Guy,” warned that longer wash settings only cause more wear and tear, plus use up more water and power, making express wash a much more sustainable choice.

Really, the multiple settings washing machines have more to do with people being creatures of habit, and less to do with efficiency, Richardson explained.

“All of those cycles [on the washing machine] exist because they used to exist,” he told co-hosts Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson. “We didn’t have the technology in the fabric, in the machine, in the detergent [that we do now], and we needed those cycles. In the ’70s, you needed the ‘bulky bedding’ cycle and the ‘sanitary’ cycle ... it was a legit thing. You don’t need them anymore, but too many people want to buy a machine and they’re like, ‘My mom’s machine has “whitest whites.”’ If I could build a washing machine, it would just have one button — you’d just push it, and it’d be warm water and ‘express’ cycle and that’s it.”
washing machine

When was the last time you washed you washing machine? "Never" is a valid answer.

Canva

According to Good Housekeeping, there are some things to keep in mind if you plan to go strictly express from now on.

For one thing, the outlet recommends only filling the machine halfway and using a half dose of liquid, not powder detergent, since express cycles use less water. Second, using the setting regularly can develop a “musty” smell, due to the constant low-temperature water causing a buildup of mold or bacteria. To prevent this, running an empty wash on a hot setting, sans the detergent, is recommended every few weeks, along with regularly scrubbing the detergent drawer and door seal.

Still, even with those additional caveats, it might be worth it just to knock out multiple washes in one day. Cause let’s be honest—a day of laundry and television binging sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

To catch even more of Richardson’s tips, find the full podcast episode here.


This article originally appeared on 2.4.24

Family

Supportive husband writes a fantastic 'love list' to his depressed wife

“He knows I struggle to see good in the world, and especially the good in myself. But here it is."

Image from Imgur.

Husband shares a list of love with his wife.

Imgur user "mollywho" felt her life was falling apart. Not only was she battling clinical depression, but she had her hands full.

"I've been juggling a LOT lately," she wrote on Imgur. "Trying to do well at work. Just got married. Couldn't afford a wedding. Family is sparse. Falling out with friends, yaddadyadda.”

She was also upset about how she treated her new husband.

"I've not been the easiest person to deal with. In fact, sometimes I've lost all hope and even taken my anger out on my husband."



When she returned home from a business trip in San Francisco, mentally exhausted, she collapsed on her bed and cried. Then she noticed some writing on the bedroom mirror. It was a list that read:

Reasons I love my wife

1. She is my best friend
2. She never quits on herself or me
3. She gives me time to work on my crazy projects
4. She makes me laugh, every day
5. She is gorgeous
6. She accepts the crazy person i am
7. She's the kindest person i know
8. She's got a beautiful singing voice

9. She's gone to a strip club with me
10. She has experienced severe tragedy yet is the most optimistic person about humanity i know
11. She has been fully supportive about my career choices and followed me each time
12. Without realizing it, she makes me want to do more for her than i have ever wanted to do for anyone
13. She's done an amazing job at advancing her career path
14. Small animals make her cry
15. She snorts when she laughs

love letters, support, marriage, mental illness

The list of love.

Image from Imgur.

This amazing show of support from her husband was exactly what she needed. "I think he wanted me to remember how much he loves me," she wrote. "Because he knows how quickly I forget. He knows I struggle to see good in the world, and especially the good in myself. But here it is. A testament and gesture of his love. Damn, I needed it today…"

She ended her post with some powerful words about mental illness.

"I'm not saying mental illness is cured by nice words on a mirror. In fact, it takes professional care, love, empathy, sometimes even medication just to cope. Many people struggle with it mental illness - more than we probably even realize. And instead of showing them hate or anger when they act out. Show them kindness and remind them things can and WILL get better. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. If that person can't be you - see if you have any resources for therapy."


This article originally appeared on 12.10.15

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

Doris Alikado talks about her personal experience of maternal health in Tanzania.

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Stella Artois


Bathrobe. Socks. Insurance card. Snacks.

Sound at all familiar? Maybe, maybe not.


These items would commonly be found on a checklist of things that expecting parents should bring to the hospital with them — in the U.S., anyway.

environment, health, health wellbeing

Doing the checklist.

Image created from Pixabay.

But what is that list like in other parts of the world?

For Doris, that list included water.

Doris, who lives Morogoro, Tanzania, had to bring her own water to the health center where she was giving birth in 2014. The water she brought was used to clean the nurse's hands, clean the delivery area, and wash the babies (she had twins!). Unfortunately, the water Doris brought ran out before she was able to wash herself or her clothes, so she had to wait 24 hours before cleaning herself.

parenting, parenting and children, Tanzania

Doris and family lives in Morogoro, Tanzania.

via GQ/YouTube

I'll let Doris tell the story herself:

Lack of access to clean water in Tanzania is a very big deal.

Everything turned out alright for Doris and her babies, but thousands of other women aren't as lucky. But there are ways to help: Organizations and individuals are pitching in to help build water taps, rainwater tanks, and latrines in Tanzanian hospitals, and they're making a huge difference.

"I want to express my gratitude to the health workers ... because they have a great sense of humor with the patients. But the problem is the availability of enough water." — Doris Alikado


This article originally appeared on 03.26.15

New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.


Of course, that's when Lisa ended up becoming pregnant with her daughter, Anora. Since it was such a miraculous pregnancy, Lisa wanted to do something special to commemorate her daughter's birth.

So she turned to her craft — photography — as a way to both commemorate the special day, and keep herself calm and focused throughout the birthing process.

Normally, Lisa takes portraits and does wedding photography, so she knew the logistics of being her own birth photographer would be a somewhat precarious new adventure — to say the least.

pregnancy, hospital, giving birth, POV

She initially suggested the idea to her husband Alec as a joke.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"After some thought," she says, "I figured I would try it out and that it could capture some amazing memories for us and our daughter."

In the end, she says, Alec was supportive and thought it would be great if she could pull it off. Her doctors and nurses were all for Lisa taking pictures, too, especially because it really seemed to help her manage the pain and stress.

In the hospital, she realized it was a lot harder to hold her camera steady than she initially thought it would be.

tocodynamometer, labor, selfies

She had labor shakes but would periodically take pictures between contractions.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Eventually when it was time to push and I was able to take the photos as I was pushing, I focused on my daughter and my husband and not so much the camera," she says.

"I didn't know if I was in focus or capturing everything but it was amazing to do.”

The shots she ended up getting speak for themselves:

nurse, strangers, medical care,

Warm and encouraging smiles from the nurse.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

experiment, images, capture, document, record

Newborn Anora's first experience with breastfeeding.

Photo by Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

"Everybody was supportive and kind of surprised that I was able to capture things throughout. I even remember laughing along with them at one point as I was pushing," Lisa recalled.

In the end, Lisa was so glad she went through with her experiment. She got incredible pictures — and it actually did make her labor easier.

Would she recommend every mom-to-be document their birth in this way? Absolutely not. What works for one person may not work at all for another.

However, if you do have a hobby that relaxes you, figuring out how to incorporate it into one of the most stressful moments in your life is a pretty good way to keep yourself calm and focused.

Expecting and love the idea of documenting your own birthing process?

Take some advice from Lisa: "Don't put pressure on yourself to get 'the shot'" she says, "and enjoy the moment as much as you can.”

Lisa's mom took this last one.

grandma, hobby, birthing process

Mom and daughter earned the rest.

Photo via Lisa Robinson/Lisa Robinson Photography.

This article originally appeared on 06.30.16