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.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
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.