Dune subreddit group bans AI-generated art for being ‘low effort’

In the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune, the “Butlerian Jihad” led to the destruction of “thinking machines” across the known universe, and the birth of a civilisation that focused on enhancing human intellect.

In the online community on the subreddit of r/Dune, the birth of AI art has led to a similar, albeit smaller, war on technology.

There, users who number almost a quarter of a million fans of the novel series, as well as its two film adaptations, moved to ban AI-generated art this week, after a wave of automatically generated content flooded the boards.

The ban “applies to images created using services such as DALL-E, Midjourney, StarryAI, WOMBO Dream, and others,” the moderators wrote in a post announcing the decision. “Our team has been removing said content for a number of months on a post-by-post basis, but given its continued popularity across Reddit we felt that a public announcement was justified.

“We acknowledge that many of these pieces are neat to look at, and the technology sure is fascinating, but it does technically qualify as low-effort content – especially when compared to original, ‘human-made’ art, which we would like to prioritize going forward.”

In the Dune series, the destruction of thinking machines led to the rise of the “navigators”, humans specifically bred and raised to perform the complex calculations required for interstellar travel. In the r/Dune community, the ban has led to similar proposals. “We just need to do some freaky genetics that create an animal whose sole purpose and feature is to make Dune fan art,” one user proposed.

The growth of AI-generated art has caused disruption other communities as well. In August, a painting created by the AI tool Midjourney, titled Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, took first prize in the digital art category at the Colorado State Fair. In a post announcing the victory, Midjourney user Jason Allen said: “I have created hundreds of images using it, and after many weeks of fine tuning and curating my [generations], I chose my top 3 and had them printed on canvas after upscaling with Gigapixel AI … I set out to make a statement using Midjourney in a competitive manner and wow!”

In a follow-up interview with Vice Magazine, Allen defended his decision to enter without explicitly labelling the artwork as AI generated. “What if we looked at it from the other extreme, what if an artist made a wildly difficult and complicated series of restraints in order to create a piece, say, they made their art while hanging upside-down and being whipped while painting,” he said. “Should this artist’s work be evaluated differently than another artist that created the same piece ‘normally’?

“I know what will become of this in the end, they are simply going to create an ‘artificial intelligence art’ category I imagine for things like this.”

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Alex Hern Technology editor