The AI Portrait Generator Lensa Makes Our Dystopian Nightmares a Reality

Posted inDesign News

No one likes a viral trend party pooper, but I’m sorry, someone needs to wake me up from this AI portrait nightmare immediately. 

If you’ve opened up Instagram even once over the last week or so, you’ve undoubtedly found your feed inundated with AI-generated images of everyone you follow. These eerie depictions of your freshman year college roommate and that guy who ghosted you a few months ago (unfollow him already!) come in a range of styles, from anime cartoon renderings to renaissance-era painterly portraits to pixie fairy warriors. It turns out we have an app called Lensa to thank for this new flavor of egomania. 

Lensa is a photo editing app that just launched a “Magic Avatars” tool that they claim turns your uploaded selfies into works of art. “Did someone say Picasso? Unleash your inner artists with the freshest art styles and filters in the world,” reads their blurb on the Apple App Store. “Turn any photo into a masterpiece in seconds and show the world your true colors.” Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. 

First off, Lensa has been debunked as a platform that steals actual artwork from real artists in order to generate these AI portraits. Lensa is able to do this through a legal loophole that the slimy AI image generator called Stable Diffusion first deployed. Not to mention Lensa is charging its users (monthly subscriptions are $29.99 and the avatar tool costs an additional $3.99 for 50 images) to then own their uploaded images. Digging into the fine print of the Lensa User Agreement reveals that users are granting them “a perpetual, revocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works from and transfer your User Content, without any additional compensation to you…”

Controversy around the ethics of AI-generated artwork has been ramping up with the rise of platforms like Lensa, with many arguing that these technologies are blatantly anti-art, robbing real artists of their livelihoods and ripping off human digital creators. 

But how can the rampant success of Lensa come as a surprise? It gives us everything we crave as humans, tapping into our narcissism and providing escapist versions of ourselves within fantasy dream worlds. It’s official, folks: the dystopian future is now.

Header image via Oronbb.