Whether online, in school or in the workplace, it seems the discussion of the “artificial intelligence revolution” is unavoidable. Once a futuristic pipe dream, sentiments surrounding AI are now tiring and seem to have anti-working-class subtexts. Just this week, a poster for Marvel’s next season of “Loki” was released amid tense post-writers-strike conditions — quickly, users online started to theorize that the poster was created by AI. If this is the case, it’s a striking example of a large company not wanting to pay actual human artists, instead defaulting to machine generation. Disney isn’t new to this concept, either: Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” opening credits are made by AI.
The idea of shifting from man-made work to AI is ever-present — the most recent example being the recent writer’s strike where studios wanted AI to write scripts instead of paying their human employees a fair wage. Ironically, AI wouldn’t be able to write any scripts without referring to the bountiful, incredible work of the writers that came before it. However, entertainment might not be the only industry to have this debate. Recently, the AI controversy has reached an industry that you may not have expected: YouTube gaming channels.
Jordi Maxim van den Bussche, best known as Kwebbelkop, has amassed over 15 million subscribers on YouTube through gaming content. He most frequently uploads Minecraft- and Roblox-related gaming videos, with these two games being notably popular among children. In early August of this year, van den Bussche announced he’d be replacing his presence in videos with an AI version of himself — a 3D avatar reminiscent of VTubers that he’d trained to make videos for him. He claims he made this choice to keep his business alive.
“Every time I wanted to take a holiday or I needed some time for myself, I couldn’t really do that because my entire business would stop,” he said. With this newfound format, van den Bussche can release content without effort in the form of AI-generated scripts and voiceovers.
What is so appealing about this? van den Bussche no longer needs to “work,” yes, but is there any artistic integrity here? For the hundreds of thousands of people — the majority of whom are children — that will watch these videos, what will they gain? They are not connected with Kwebbelkop in any regard. They are watching recycled scripts of his old videos repurposed through AI, mechanically coming out of this avatar’s mouth. There is no humanity, no authenticity, only machine-generated slop.
In the beginning, there was at least a decent indication that these videos were artificially generated, as the thumbnails reflected the AI avatar as opposed to van den Bussche’s actual likeness. However, on Sept. 22, he released a video called “The End of Kwebbelkop AI…” that teased a shift in his channel. Displaying his human self in the thumbnail, there was a clear impression that he might be turning away from AI. However, right away, van den Bussche quickly began to push back against the criticism of his AI content.
“One of the arguments I kept hearing over and over is that they wanted to see me. The real me,” Van Den Bussche said. This lead to the introduction of his next endeavor: an AI version of his real likeness called the “Kwebbelkop 2.0 model.”
He revealed that everything in the video was completely AI-generated, including the van den Bussche on camera who had been speaking to us. When watching the video, this fact became fairly obvious, as his face moved in a disjointed and robotic way.
When exploring his channel, the thumbnails on his most recent videos appear to have his real face in them, and there is no indication in his video titles or introductions that they are AI-generated. But click on a video like “Roblox COLOR or DIE… (FULL GAME)” and a trained eye can quickly tell that the van den Bussche we see in the top-left corner talking to us is actually the Kwebbelkop 2.0 AI. The entirety of the video is AI-made, from its script to van den Bussche himself. Yet he doesn’t disclose this anywhere. Would a child be able to tell that this video is not man-made? If not, is this ethical? Will we reach a point where AI and human creation are virtually indistinguishable?
Not only does van den Bussche allege that AI will benefit his channel in the long-term, but he also extends it as an opportunity to other influencers, selling his brand of AI that they can use to “enhance their storytelling.” He encourages other influencers and gaming channels to use his methods.
van den Bussche says that he arrived at this state due to burnout — he felt overly immersed in his brand, forced to churn out gaming content daily and unable to focus on anything else. With the start of Kwebbelkop AI, he felt better able to branch out while the AI version of him continued to produce content. In a theoretical sense, this sounds OK — we often feel overwhelmed with our work, and if we could have what is essentially a clone do our work for us, it would allow us to take time for ourselves.
However, this poses a more philosophical question when applied to reality: What is the value of art in an age where you have the choice to AI-generate content forever or make human art for a limited time? Is it more valuable to continue to churn out endless quantities of poor-quality content, or should we instead emphasize high-quality content that’s less frequent? Would we value Vincent van Gogh the way we do now if he was immortalized as an AI generating constant, repetitive work? I don’t believe we would; what is valuable about art is the human soul placed into it, as well as the temporariness itself. Amazingly, we can view the history of a lived person through their artwork or content — it doesn’t matter if that’s through gaming content or a philosophical painting. van Gogh is long gone, but we can understand his mindset and perspective through his authentic work, and this stands regardless of the time. Will we be able to find any meaning in AI-generated content down the line? If anything, I believe it will be centered around what human-made content helped to train said AI.
The “brand” of Kwebbelkop’s morals align with quantity over quality; now, we see an AI generating nonstop content flow as opposed to quality, human art. Behind it all, van den Bussche has hired an entire team that is working to keep this AI constant and well-trained. Even if van den Bussche doesn’t need to be present in making his content, the AI itself cannot go on without this team of people holding it up; so, at what point does van den Bussche become the face of all of their work as well?
Even if Kwebbelkop is only using this AI-self to make “filler content” — i.e., gaming content that does not offer much substance anyway — why should we blindly accept that? There is still inherent value in this “filler content” as art. Sure, it may not take much creative exertion or personal reflection to make a gaming video, but there is still value in sitting there and playing a game. There is still an art to recording it, speaking directly to your audience and choosing what to keep in when editing the final cut. All of this is very deliberate and human, in the hands of the creator himself. An AI may be able to learn all of this, but cannot make authentic decisions the same way we can. In that sense, “filler content” should be defended as real art despite its lowbrow nature.
van den Bussche advertises his AI as a brand that other creators can purchase as if the entirety of YouTube will soon become filler AI-generated content and influencers. Why should we settle for that? Even if the man-made version of this content isn’t very substance-filled, isn’t it infinitely better that it’s human?
If this is the route YouTube and art as a whole is going, the question must be posed: What is the benefit of consuming media made by AI? It seems often that people attribute human traits to AI, claiming that it “made it up itself” like a person, but that is not the case. It simply recycles real human work and art. It cannot have lived experiences to share, but instead regurgitates a conglomerate mixture of them. There is no AI without humans, no AI art without learning from human art.
The sentiment that we must adjust to AI is a perplexing one; time and time again, influential voices online will cite how terrifying AI is, yet to prove this point, they keep using it. It keeps getting brought into the public sphere as some inevitable fate when it doesn’t have to be. We don’t have to treat it as a legitimate threat if we stop paying attention to it, yet thought leaders sabotage these human-driven values in favor of using AI to save money.
If AI worries you, I completely understand — there is a looming threat of job loss in many industries, and the pressure to discuss AI feels inevitable. With this ongoing cultural conversation, it’s not abnormal to feel hopeless, but I believe that we can, at the very least, combat AI by showing our love and care for human work and art. If we stand united in our adoration for human creativity, perhaps we can make steady progress in securing our value. AI would be nothing without us.
Daily Arts Writer Katelyn Sliwinski can be reached at email@example.com.