Artificially intelligent systems are gradually intercepting all areas of modern life. For mundane, repetitive jobs such as chat rooms, search algorithms, and text summarising, these systems can of course be useful. But what happens when AI begins to take over the very essence of human nature: creativity?
Well, it’s already happening. Upon delving into the world of AI art, the website AI Art Gallery pops up. Upon first glance, it appears to be an online gallery of sorts, with stunning abstract and surreal works of art available for purchase. However, once settled on the ‘How it Works’ page, the reality (or alternate reality) is much clearer. Below a header aptly named ‘Art that Captures the Eye and the Mind’, the gallery explains that they create their work by teaching AI about human art – exposing it to millions of art samples from the past 1500 years. The AI then “learns to distinguish the artistic elements in the art that evoke human emotions”, to create its ‘unique’ artistic style. Creepy.
As harmless it may be (though arguably, morally wrong) for an artificial intelligence system to absorb 1500 years worth of historical art for its own ‘style’ – the lines become slightly blurred when it takes inspiration from living artists, who are often struggling to make ends meet as it is. One example of this has been highlighted by an outpouring of artists on TikTok, with many users suggesting that the recent influx of ‘AI Art Generator’ apps popularised on social media platforms are in fact stealing people’s artwork once scanned into the programme.
The normalisation of AI programmes in the creative sectors isn’t slowing down, either. World renowned software company Adobe recently introduced new AI tools such as photo restoration and background replacement, which function with terrifying detail and accuracy. Creatives around the world panicked – so much so that Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer, had to reassure users that AI should only ever be “your co-pilot in creative endeavours”.
Despite visible unease within creative communities regarding AI’s advancement into art, there is an undoubtable demand for it. An AI-created painting sold for over $432,000 in 2017, a startling figure when compared to how much its human equivalent could ever hope to make (the answer for a first time artist sale is not a lot). Is this the end of the human artist, or just another period in art history we will one day look back on with fondness? Theoretically, it’s not impossible. Technology has combined with art once before with success in the form of Pop Art. Exploding onto the art scene in the sixties, this vibrant movement used none other than photography as a working research tool and as an inspiration.
That tech and art have worked in such harmony together in the past doesn’t take away the fact that – let’s face it – AI can be scary AF. It does however open up a conversation as to if we can really ever ethically use new AI technologies for art, whilst it feels impossible to safeguard human artists.
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