We look back on the trending AI controversies that have sparked thought-provoking conversations in Thailand this year. | Artwork by Anuphab Buddhaphan
With AI taking center stage in the tech world in 2023, there’s no denying that it’s here to stay, and it is starting to make big waves among local businesses and communities. In the meantime, we consumers and end users find ourselves thrown into a whirlwind of sensations and social theatrics. Thailand’s distinctly sardonic online culture is well suited for the zeitgeist, so naturally, AI wouldn’t be excluded from mockery, especially among the tech and art communities.
As the year comes to a close, join us as we look back on the trending AI controversies of 2023 that have made millions of Thai netizens stop scrolling and engage with brands and artists. We will also explore how marketers and brands can take advantage of this ever-evolving landscape while respecting customers’ diverse views on AI.
By the numbers
Thailand is arguably among the most enthusiastic adopters of AI, with various initiatives in both public and private sectors aiming to integrate AI into their systems to improve both productivity and creativity by automating menial tasks. According to areport by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), over 50% of Thai companies have plans for AI implementation. Among those that have already integrated AI, their objectives include improving production or organizational service efficiency (50%), facilitating internal management (43%), and increasing revenue (36%).
In a recent survey by Publicis Sapient gauging perceptions of Gen AI across seven countries, Thailand stood out prominently. Of the 2,061 Thai respondents, over a third (35%) had personally or professionally used Generative AI tools, placing Thailand near the top for AI usage, just behind Australia (38%). Additionally, 55% of Thai consumers said they expect that Generative AI will enhance their interactions with brands.
AI has landed in Thailand, but not safely
ChatGPT launched in November 2022 and gained significant traction in Thailand in early 2023. Early users were fascinated by its versatility in tasks like answering questions, crafting content, and sparking creative ideas—a boon for students, marketers, and brands alike.
As the AI phenomenon gripped the online world, it also prompted a shift in how corporate and creative professionals operate. Difficult questions arose: How do we keep up with AI? What sets our work apart from AI-generated content? How reliable are these AI-generated responses? How can we copyright AI-prompted work? With these queries in mind, let’s delve into how the Thai creative community is responding to the rise of AI.
Thailand’s art scene shaken
Vero’s examination of social media discussions about AI shows that Thai people are especially concerned about AI’s impact on the art world.
The Loopsie app has thrown Thailand’s art and literature community for a loop. Leveraging AI, Loopsie transforms existing photos into anime-inspired images, creating an overnight sensation. The controversy was heightened when Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Painting, Sculpture, and Graphic Arts shared a Loopsie-generated creation of their faculty common space on their Facebook page. An outcry ensued, with existing students and alumni condemning the faculty’s decision to use AI over genuine student art to promote their program, and concerns were raised about the ethical use of existing art references without clear consent. Given the context of an art department within Thailand’s foremost university dedicated to arts, the choice to employ AI-generated art is undeniably ironic — and apparently misguided. AI certainly has its place, but we shouldn’t underestimate the backlash that results when it usurps human creativity.
New job of 2023: AI Artist
Case in point: On October 19, 2023, The Ghost Radio, an online radio show in Thailand renowned for horror storytelling, took to their social media to announce a job opening for an “AI Artist” role. The objective was to assist the team in creating illustrations for the ghost stories featured in the program. However, the posting was promptly withdrawn in the wake of backlash, with critics questioning the ethics of AI, particularly its training from pre-existing works where the consent of the original artists remains uncertain.
The team quicklyissued an apology to their audience, affirming that internal discussions and viewer feedback were considered, and they ultimately decided to cancel the recruitment:
“The team acknowledges the public outcry and comments and has extensively deliberated on the matter internally. Consequently, we have reached a decision to cancel the recruitment for this particular position. The Ghost Radio sincerely apologizes for the events that transpired and is open to hearing every opinion of our viewer.”
– Statement from The Ghost Radio, posted on Facebook page, October 19, 2023
While some expressed disappointment with the show and even threatened to stop tuning in, most of the audience praised the team for their courage and for paying attention to public sentiment, particularly in supporting artists and genuine art.
In September 2023, another controversy surfaced when online novelists formed a coalition against the use of AI-generated cover art, which has been one of the primary avenues for new artists to have their work seen. This sparked aheated debate on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the impact of AI on artistic expression and job opportunities for emerging artists with the hashtag #นักเขียนไม่เอาปกAI (#WriterSaysNoToAIArt). On the other side, some have argued that novelists have the freedom to choose AI-generated art, provided they are upfront with their readers about it, and those readers can choose whether to support such choices.
Transparency is key
The overarching theme is clear: concerns about AI dominance have brought to the forefront a profound appreciation for artistic integrity. Artists and their audiences care about the essence of art, the effort invested in its creation, and fair compensation for creators. Transparency has emerged as a critical value in this evolving landscape.
Adobe, the vanguard behind the renowned Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, has taken a unique approach to AI in art. Adobe Firefly, a web app, explores generative AI’s potential in art creation, incorporating a compensation model for contributing artists. In publicizing the app, the company emphasizes responsible AI development:
“Adobe is committed to developing generative AI responsibly, with creators at the center. Our mission is to give creators every advantage — not just creatively, but practically. As Firefly evolves, we’ll continue to work closely with the creative community to build technology that supports and improves the creative process.”
While some software providers are making efforts to be transparent and ethical when deploying AI, the majority lack clear guidelines, which raises concerns about the potential for creators to face plagiarism in their work.
Although many businesses are now implementing AI into their products and services, the backlash from the public and artistic communities shows that there is strong resistance to AI art taking the place of art made by humans, which stems both from the typical fear of people losing jobs to AI but also broader societal concerns about the loss of original, disruptive ideas. While it’s true that humans draw inspiration from past artistic works and sometimes imitate or train from existing materials, human creative expression also draws from an individual’s unique life experiences, feelings, and perceptions and combines those in ways that can be powerful and revelatory. As such, AI can never meaningfully replace human artists.
For brands and marketers, one thing is clear: transparency and honesty with audiences are invaluable. This is always the case for earning brand trust, but it’s especially crucial when dealing with sensitive topics such as AI. For most brands, having the public perceive that they support artists is worth more than the time or money might save using AI.
Few things are certain about the future of AI, but it’s clear that this is not just a passing trend; it’s an inevitable transformative force that has become an integral part of our creative landscape. For brands, it will be essential to navigate this landscape responsibly and stay attuned to the evolving dynamic between AI and artistic expression.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chanon Raopanya consults on communications strategy for tech brands and corporate clients such as Intel, Sennheiser, and Mastercard. As a technology, film, and gaming enthusiast, he is always excited about technological advancements and innovation in products and services.
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