Artificial Intelligence has been impacting society, both positively and negatively, in more ways than we as people will ever understand. Some argue that AI undoubtedly has privacy violations, heavily contributes to the growth of unemployment, and has heightened racism through typecasting minorities. Others would argue that AI opens the door to an easier, more secure, and coherent way of living. This prevailing debate with no anticipated result or solution does not only apply to the previously stated subject matter. The controversies surrounding this machinery have been prominent in the world of art, which is what I have chosen to explore. Specifically, I will analyze what it means to be an AI Artist, whether they are creative, and how to make use of these seemingly permanent tools.
At this point in time, some can identify whether or not an art piece was created using artificial intelligence, however, this technology is increasingly improving and will soon create art that we will fail to recognize as being created by machinery. A 2021 study explored this concept and found that “individuals are unable to accurately identify AI-generated artwork and associate representational art to humans and abstract art with machines” (Gangadharbatla, 2022). Before declaring what an AI Artist has been said to be, it is crucial to note that AI Art is not created by actual artificial intelligence. The production process of AI art involves no use of artificial intelligence, but instead machine learning algorithms. Those branding this work seek to profit off this title of “artificial intelligence” due to its advanced or futuristic feel while masking the reality of its humdrum product. Essentially, the term artificial intelligence is implying that a mind is involved in the workings of these creations, fostering a leniency to AI art that would not extend to algorithm-pushing advertisements.
Focusing on who or what can truly be titled an AI Artist, a 2020 article titled “Who (or what) is an AI Artist” explores the term’s history and theory while addressing its controversies. Its main finding is the proposition that “AI art’s interactions with art institutions have not promoted new creative possibilities but have instead reinforced conservative forms and aesthetics” (Browne, 2020). It has been argued that while the tools themselves are not creative, humans can use these tools in a creative way. The fact of the matter is that the only reason these AI tools work is because of their extensive databases of pre-existing artworks to draw upon, bringing no relevance to the argument of humans using these tools creatively. This is what powers them as these databases are composed of countless unapproved images. These learning tools do not make their own decisions, they do not think critically, reflect, or have any general awareness. At their core, AI art tools cannot create anything new; they are simply converters.
This technology will not be stopped, however, we as people can decide how we want it to impact our world. If we as people can make good of these tools and use them to make a positive impact, it is important that they are benefiting and based on the consent of the artists creating these works. Credit must be given where credit is due and there should be no worry of an artist and their work being exploited, only to benefit the few who have done wrong. Studies have suggested that in the context of AI and visual arts, agency must be reconsidered as something more than human perspicacity and intentionality. Feminist scholar, Karen Barad, fostered the idea that “a shift from knowing about towards knowing with the world has emerged, which stresses that the relations we have and produce with our surroundings are not only modes of being simultaneous of knowing” (Barad, 2007). After analyzing the functions of AI, its impact on the art world, questioning its title as a creative tool, and how it can be used for good, I believe that AI does more harm than good for art.
AI has the potential to be a valuable tool, but it simply crosses the ethical line of banking on true artists’ work without their consent. Profiting off of one’s own artwork has its great difficulties, so the fact that companies are taking artist’s work to benefit themselves is tremendously upsetting. Some could say that this is not a valid argument since these AI creations could use the art of world-renowned artists such as Vincent Van Gogh. No matter what level of success the artist has reached, having their work exploited across all mediums is not acceptable. Yes, people have “innocently” incorporated his work and style into their own products as a form of admiration, but an artist’s work should remain their own unless they have given consent for companies to profit off their piece.
Gangadharbatla, H. (2022, March). The Role of AI Attribution Knowledge in the Evaluation of Artwork. Sage Journals. https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/doi/10.1177/0276237421994697
Miller, A. I. (2019). Authentication Required. Login.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. https://direct-mit-edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/books/book/4547/The-Artist-in-the-MachineThe-World-of-AI-Powered
Wojciechowski, A., & Korjonen-Kuusipuro, K. (2021, October). CAN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BECOME AN ARTIST? Human Technology. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356069450_Can_artificial_intelligence_become_an_artist