Pornographers have always quickly adapted their methods to new digital technology. Digital pornography has closely followed the internet’s ability to store and send images. The convenience and relative anonymity have destroyed any chance of curbing the growth of internet porn. Until recently, images were created through hand-created illustration, photography, digital graphics, or a hybrid of those methods. Now that artificial intelligence image generators are available, anyone can create images.
AI image generators take a user’s input and construct one or more images based on that input. The input can be as simple as “a pig,” or it can be more complex: “a pig riding a velociraptor in sepia tones in the style of Monet.” In order to “train” the AI, millions of images are downloaded into its source material and identified: “this is a pig”; “this is a Monet”; “this image is in sepia tones,” and so forth. For the most part, the images used to train the AI are not original to the AI’s developer. They are often found on the internet, and many are personal photos, original works of art, or other images under copyright.
Spiritually and psychologically, there isn’t much difference between porn created by illustration, photography, digital graphics, or artificial intelligence. It’s the content that matters, not the method. Pornography enslaves the user (see Romans 6:19), destroys relationships and families, distorts the idea of love between others that God calls us to (Matthew 22:39), and promotes unhealthy relationship goals and even violence.
Porn created through AI image generators has the same effects as other, more “traditional” types of porn. One may assume that AI porn has one virtue over other types of porn: it creates images digitally and doesn’t involve the exploitation of real people. But that assumption would be false. AI doesn’t create anything. AI image generators need source material in order to “understand” what the input means and compile the resulting image. This fact is already leading to copyright lawsuits.
“Deepfake” generators take images, videos, and/or audio of a person and construct false images, videos, and speech of that person. Users can make deepfakes of any individual they want, including celebrities, children, or people they know. When those deepfakes are pornographic, it is a form of sexual abuse. As of this writing, an act is moving through the U.S. Congress that would make non-consensual AI-generated deepfake pornography illegal.
There is nothing edifying or mitigating about the use of AI image generators to create pornography. Given the sinful human condition, advances in technology often provide more sophisticated ways to sin. The misuse of AI image generators is further evidence that humanity’s ability to sin more creatively—and damage ourselves in the process—is never-ending. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”