Did you know artificial intelligence (AI) can now make art? It can paint and draw and create what artists can do and have done for ages. What kind of future does this create for such professionals in the creative industry then? A jobless one or not?
Amidst all the general hype over AI, there’s a constant buzz about its negative impact on the world as well. And a lot of it relates to how AI will lead to an increase in loss of jobs apart from fuelling ethical and criminal concerns.
It’s true that for the past few decades, AI has revolutionised the way humans interact with technology. Whether it’s composing music or offering voice assistant services (like popular SIRI and Cortana), AI has managed to acquire omniscience like never before.
There are those who believe that automation would kill thousands of jobs and livelihoods in the future. Their reasoning is solely based on how efficient it is to use AI for work. While there’s another camp which believes AI will only enhance what we do and how we do it. No matter what field it is, AI and technology function as tools to help us improve.
The truth, however, lies somewhere in between. While AI will end up taking over many jobs, making us more data-driven and efficient in the process, there are professions it might not be able to affect negatively.
We’re here to discuss what happens to artists or art as a profession as AI develops and evolves. Because there’s been a growing concern about it ever since AI technology started being increasingly used to create works of art. Whether it’s colouring tools or procedural generation techniques to create art, AI has invaded creative spaces and industries as well.
The AI-made Art That Sold For Over $400,000
In December last year, a painting produced by AI was sold at auction house Christie’s, in New York for $432,500.
“Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy”, a portrait of a sophisticated gentleman, was hailed as the first AI-generated painting to ever be sold. It was created by a French art collective called “Obvious”, that works on exploring the intersection of art and AI.
The portrait was generated using what’s known as the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). Thousands of existing human-made portraits from different periods in history were used as reference material to create the painting.
And although many read this as a sign and proof of the world getting closer to the point of AI reigning supreme, the portrait was criticised for being bizarre, fuzzy and vague. It was deemed unclear and many pointed out how it made the human in it look like a blob. People questioned if it could pass for what we know as “art”.
But the most important question the painting raised is this:
Can machines be creative? And can they truly replace humans as purveyors of art?
This is precisely the crux of the whole debate. And as long as we’re able to understand the answer well, we’d know artists aren’t easily replaceable.
The main idea behind this reasoning lies in how we make sense of creativity. If you define creativity in a restrictive manner, you’re bound to think AI is getting more creative. In this regard, even the smaller tasks that AI can perform today can be termed creative.
But that’s not the case. As long as we keep widening our definition of what counts as creativity, machines will always fall short of having it.
Another point in favour of artists is how any technology, especially AI, is more often than not a facilitator. In a study commissioned by Adobe, it was demonstrated how AI can’t replace the “human spark”. That it can only work as an enabler, a tool to enhance what humans can create or do.
For Tatiana Mejia, who manages Adobe’s AI platform Sensei, “creativity is profoundly human.” And AI “cannot replace the human spark”.
For many artists and people working in the creative industry, the advent of technology and AI is more like an efficient overhaul in how things are done. These tools are viewed as capable of performing repetitive tasks. It can work as augmenting artists and what they do, increasing their efficiency by reducing the amount of mundane and tedious tasks they otherwise would have to do.
Human intent, imagination and originality are still required to steer the way when it comes to creating art.
Art can be defined in many ways. But there’s no doubt that it takes an inherent human involvement for a piece of art to qualify as art.
And it is difficult to say whether AI can reflect or imitate the imagination and intent of traditional artists. Tools meant for auto-colouring or generating descriptive tags are being vigorously used. But they can only enhance our capabilities as artists.
Even though advancements in AI (especially computational creativity) has led to some form of art creation, it is the human involvement that adds depth and perspective to it. Human involvement makes it palatable to consumers and people in general.
AI can then be thought of as a creative partner – one that enhances what artists do and augments their process of creating art. A means to inspire and increase efficiency. A means to an end. But not something that can work as a standalone tool for art creation.
Because an algorithm can learn a certain painting technique as long as the technique already exists.
The Generative Adversarial Network or GAN used to create the painting was able to produce something new. But it needed several existing artworks from different historical time-frames to generate the portrait.
Or take IBM’s Watson, for instance.
Watson is American giant IBM’s machine learning system. The system was fed hundreds of images made by Antoni Gaudi and several other pictures depicting Barcelona and its culture. Watson employed its visual recognition as well as colour matching tools to identify different ideas and themes in Gaudi’s work and produce its own.
Another interesting example is that of Microsoft. Its AI bot was able to produce a variety of images from text descriptions including those of a bird and a double-decker bus. But the bot could generate these images only after it was trained on a dataset containing images and text.
This certainly demonstrates the derivative nature of AI systems. And how such systems require a certain control and human manipulation to function in the desired manner. The originality of ideas continues to remain exclusive to humans.
At most, we can learn from what AI is able to generate from artists’ work and use it as inspiration to create further works of art. But this process is cyclical and reciprocal.
We differ from machines because of our innate ability to step into unknown waters. To be able to think of and do things that haven’t been done before whether it’s art or music. This line of difference could be thin but it’s not penetrable. Especially not when it comes to creative professions like the art industry.
In conclusion: Embracing Art and AI
Needless to say, AI is transforming how we interact with technology. It is being used for a variety of purposes across a wide range of fields. And there’s certainly no doubt that it is revolutionising.
This is why it’s true that AI can have several implications for all professionals including artists, particularly in how they render their art possible. But that’s about it.
Artistic tasks demand a certain form of artistic vision and a machine can only do so much.
And like most artists have pointed out, AI should be seen as instrumental to human creativity. It’s a viable and advanced tool that can be employed to make the process of art creation smooth, easy and augmented. Simply put, it’s a means to an end.
In fact, it has the potential to become a field on its own. A field where it works to augment human creativity and mark the next step in the evolving continuum of artistic expression.
Do you want to learn how to leverage creativity with advanced technology to build a fulfilling career? Check out MAGES’ programmes and courses in the concerned field!
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