Is AI-Art Art? And why do we Care?
Sylvia, is a young woman who wants to become an artist one day. Will she succeed? Here are four of her paintings.
Now, is this art what she is doing there? At first glance, yes of course. But one could argue that it isn't: the castle is just a good copy from a photo, the bird in the cage is a frequent motive without any new creative idea, as is the impressionist style woman on the bottom left. There are also paintings reminiscent of the one on the top right, so all in all a lack of creativity while at the same time a good proof of technical ability.
But maybe it is different: maybe she had some creative ideas and chose to paint in a way to convey her emotions? We would have to ask her.
Or maybe we are anyway to stingy and the paintings are art, just because she produced them as such? Copying someone else's style doesn't make it not art, maybe just not as good art?
We see that the question of whether a painting is art or not is a matter of definition.
Now, how about AI art? Well, nothing much to add here: the above four paintings were actually not generated by Sylvia, the aspiring artist, but by DALL-E 2, a recent AI. Are they art? Well, of course it depends on the definition again. On the one hand, we might even add the necessity of a conscious entity expressing its feelings through the paintings to the definition of art. In this case, AI art won't be art, until the AI has provably a conscious (and that would also be difficult to define). Then no need for further discussions, case closed. On the other hand, we might say: well, if we can't tell that it is AI-made and we called it art if it were done by a human, then it's art anyway. In this definition, the generating process would not matter, only the empirical observation of people's judgement about its result (when they don't know a priori who is the "artist").
Now to the punchline of the story (warning: spoilers ahead!): in the game, there is a character named Sylvia, and she indeed paints. It is the year 1992 and AI is in its infancy. She presents her paintings to the player (four of them you see above), and they discuss about their meanings and then about the future of art. They conclude that art will be the only job left to be done by humans after computers have taken over all other tasks: from manual labor to taxes, math, sciences. – And everybody would have agreed back then!
It's a bit worrisome to see that we were all seemingly totally wrong here: art is one of the first intellectual jobs that AI is now threatening. How wrong are we now when it comes to predicting what AI will do in our future?
But finally a bit of comfort for the artists here: the work on "Sweet Science" demonstrates that when AI takes over one job (producing pictures) and thus reduces our creative space, new creative spaces open up: a project like "Sweet Science" wouldn't have been possible without this AI. So the very same AI that kills the jobs of some artists paths the way to the production of other creative works!
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Update: If you are German speaking, here's a nice article from the NZZ about the artist side of the problem. And since we are talking about AI: if you are not German speaking, here's an AI that will do the translation of the article (or anything else) for you: www.deepl.com