I, For One, Welcome Our New A.I. Overlords

Hello, friends!

I was originally planning to post this last week, but then I got nervous.  I’m about to say something controversial.  I’m going to take a stance on an issue, fully aware of the fact that some of you will disagree with me—some of you may vigorously disagree.  That makes me a little bit nervous, but what makes me even more nervous is that I’m not 100% sure I agree with myself.  Even after taking an extra week to think things over, I still have doubts about what I’m about to say.  Okay, here goes: I am not super worried about A.I. generated art.

There’s a long history of people freaking out over new technologies.  I grew up in the 90’s.  I only vaguely remember the first time I heard about the Internet.  What I remember is that the Internet sounded scary.  No one seemed to fully understand what this Internet thing was or how it worked, but whenever adults started talking about it, they all had strong opinions.  Strongly negative opinions, it seemed.  Things were going to be different because of the Internet.  Things were going to change.  And if there’s one constant in life, it’s that change scares people.

And I’m not immune to that fear.  A few weeks ago, I saw a news article about a newly discovered exoplanet.  Photographing exoplanets is still, in most cases, beyond our current technology, so NASA sometimes publishes “artist conceptions” of what newly discovered exoplanets might look like.  Not this time, though.  This time, they used an A.I. generated image.  The image was beautiful.  I’m sure it was scientifically accurate, too.  And it left me feeling like I’d just been punched in the gut.  Drawing or painting what exoplanets might look like?  That’s a job, and it’s a job that will probably go away soon, because it’s a job an A.I. can easily do.

So I am worried about what A.I. means for creative folks like me.  However, I’ve also seen a little too much hyperbolic fear-mongering about A.I. generated art, writing, and music.  Despite what a lot of people are saying right now, I am not worried about A.I. replacing human artists entirely.  For the purposes of this blog post, I’d like to draw a distinction between creating art and producing content.  In theory, I could have an A.I. write blog posts for me, and I could have an A.I. generate silly cartoons for my blog, too.  Would you, dear reader, find those blog posts interesting and informative?  Would those A.I. generated cartoons make you smile?  Maybe.  But I suspect the novelty of that would only last so long.

I write and draw because I have things I want to say, and I don’t know any other way to say them.  Art exists to express feelings and ideas that would otherwise be inexpressible.  At its core, art is a form of communication.  An A.I. can produce content.  It may even produce informative or entertaining content.  But if I filled this blog with A.I. generated blog posts and A.I. generated cartoons, all the the thoughts and feelings I wanted to express would remain unexpressed, and the kind of human-to-human connection that art facilities would not occur.

So for that reason, I’m not super worried about A.I. generated art.  I am a little worried, because things are going to change, and certain niches in the art world (like artist conceptions of exoplanets) may disappear.  But this isn’t the end of art anymore than the Internet was the end of… whatever grownups in the 90’s thought the Internet would be the end of.  There will always be a need for and a desire for human-made art, because art is fundamentally a form of self expression.  It’s a form of communication.  A.I. can produce content, but it can never replace the human-to-human connection of genuinely human-made art.


My deepest concerns about A.I. art have little to do with the technology itself and more to do with the law.  Fortunately, the YouTube Channel Legal Eagle just did an episode about what the law has to say about A.I. generated art. Click here to watch!

And YouTuber Tom Scott recently did an episode about sigmoid curves and what they have to do artificial intelligence.  Click here for that.

11 thoughts on “I, For One, Welcome Our New A.I. Overlords

  1. Prediction is hard, especially when it’s about the future.

    It’s worth noting that visual art took a hit in the 19th century when photography was invented. It changed visual art from being about an accurate portrayal of some scene, which could now be done technologically, to something that generates certain feelings in us.

    I’m not sure, but I suspect AI is going to have similar effects. A lot of rote stuff will become obsolete. But it will leave a lot of room for more creativity. Of course, that’s still change, and change is scary, particularly since no one knows for sure where it ends.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was thinking about that too, how photography led to the rise of abstract art. At first, I thought A.I. might lead to a new wave of abstract artists, but given how weird and dreamlike A.I. art can be, maybe this will lead to a resurgence of realism in art. I could see it going either way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of something I read once about history history: For those who say plumbing is more important than art, remember that we lived for millennia without plumbing, but we have always had art.

    As a chemical engineer, a glorified plumber, that sticks with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how you sum it up as creating art vs producing content. If the sole purpose is to produce content, I see nothing wrong with using AI. If the purpose is to create art, then that will always require a human touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the way you’ve been using A.I. art in your writing process. In my mind, you’re a perfect example of someone using A.I. generated art right.

      Intellectual property rights were my #1 biggest concern, but that Legal Eagle video did a lot to calm my fears. It’s worth watching.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sort of a proto-holodeck, innit? Be interesting to see where it goes. Certainly no point in railing against it now that Pandora’s box has been opened. It’ll probably be the biggest paradigm shift since the beginning of the Internet age. Bigger than phones, even.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A more evolved system of “prompts,” I’d say. If we do make it to the distant future, I can envision human creatives co-existing with AI-generated art, movies, books etc. The human drive to create will still be present, but not relied upon as a means of earning a living. TNG being a post-scarcity society, they’re free to explore painting, writing, etc without having to worry about whether or not it’s going to pay the bills. They can also go to the holodeck and speak something into existence. In reality, there will be a long and painful transitionary period in which AI usurps creative(and other) jobs, leaving people high and dry in our capitalist society until we figure out how to adapt and make the necessary societal changes to do so.

        Liked by 1 person

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