How A.I Is Reshaping the Creative Industry

The future of art is already here, and you might hate it…

Technological advancements are so commonplace these days that they might even be considered “run-of-the-mill.” The predictions made by so many mid 20th century philosophers and scientists (and Star Trek) are coming true on a daily basis. It feels as if, by turns, we alternate between statements like “what an amazing time to be alive” and “I miss the old days when I could just switch it all off.”

And now you say you want Artificial Intelligence making your “art” for you?? Hopefully Marshall McLuhan is somewhere in the universe mumbling, “saw that one coming!”

Our creations… creating!

In a matter of seconds, programs like Midjourney and DALL-E 2 are forming a bridge from human hearts and minds to computer circuits, wires and ones and zeros… and they’re coming for your art! Any quick online search will yield Artificial Intelligence Art samples galore, some of them quite good! Many of them may even elicit an emotional response from you (perhaps in spite of yourself.)

Colorful images made to your exact specifications can now be produced at the touch of a button! How do you feel about the A.I. art you’re witnessing? Does it matter at all that it wasn’t directly created by a person?

Meanwhile, we still approach art as we always have: with the desire to connect emotionally with another person’s creation. To feel, to see the world differently (if only for a moment,) to reach out through time and space and feel another human hand reaching back.

What would happen if that hand was a robohand!?!

The uncanny valley.

In 2007, Robert Zemeckis interpreted the Beowulf legend for film in the form of a completely CGI rendered movie. The result was both impressive in its technical accomplishments and off-putting in a way that was difficult to describe. Beowulf attempted to create photorealistic characters in a fantasy movie, but the technology wasn’t advanced enough to meet the filmmakers’ ambitions. The release contained a cast of characters we recognized as human, but not quite human enough. Movements alternated between halting and cartoony. More importantly, facial expressions were off and not quite real!

It felt important, but it didn’t feel relatable.

The same can be said about A.I. art. It can be beautiful, but it can also lack the human spark we look for when appreciating human feats of creation.

This piece “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” was awarded a blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair’s art competition. Beautiful, isn’t it? The saturated reds, the highlights, and deep brown shading all serve to create a fantastical time and place that is at once enticing and visually stunning. Would it change your opinion of the piece to know that it wasn’t created by human hands, but by Midjourney, an AI art program? Is its power diminished in your eyes knowing it wasn’t painted so much as fashioned from a series of punched-in keywords?

Needless to say, traditional artists weren’t happy with the results of this particular competition, and the piece’s creator, Jason M. Allen quickly had to defend his choice to submit a creation that he didn’t exactly create.

And herein lies the conundrum!

A.I. creations are cost effective. They’re capable of producing endless variations of the same content. They work quickly and produce desired results in seconds. They’re able to personalize a unique piece with little to no effort. Results are, when done with care, indistinguishable from traditional creative methods.

But there’s a flipside to all that ease and convenience…

A computer program is incapable of truly understanding what we want to see. They lack the fundamental understanding of what humans look for in a piece of art. Frankly, how could they? A computer, no matter how powerful, can’t match the human brain’s desire for the aesthetically pleasing (at least not yet.)

It also can’t come up with new ideas that have the potential to spur creativity forward. These quickly collated images have to come from somewhere. Unlike brush strokes on canvas or Photoshop, the images come, not from the mind of the artist, but from the rolling waves of the unoriginal… i.e. the internet.

All that to say, A.I. art still requires a human touch, however slight.

But is it art? Does it matter?

Simply keying in requests in a program like Midjourney, some would insist, is not enough to be considered an artistic venture, much less an original vision at all. It’s clear that A.I. art isn’t substantial enough to truly be called “art” in the classical sense.

But is it “art” enough for the future of advertising? Is it enough for the future of businesses that don’t have the time or budget to commission artistic works when the need arises, but still want images that entice and inspire? Is simply typing requests to a program that, seconds later, produces an image enough to justify ditching the traditional avenues in favor of convenience? Should freelance artists simply be allowed to fade back into the galleries and salons from whence they came?

Well, let’s find out!

We created the piece in a matter of seconds using an A.I. art generator available through Google (www.wombo.art). Entering in the keywords above and choosing the style was all it took to be given this image in a matter of (literal) seconds. Pretty, isn’t it? A man is looking into the sunset, perhaps lost in thought. He looks into the future, maybe. The image is bright, yet vague. Hopeful, yet forlorn. The positioning is correct, and the color choices are nearly perfect. It’s not art, but it’s pretty, and all we did was type in some words we wanted to see! And what A.I. programs like this can do above the consumer level is beyond impressive. (For the record, our key words were “giant, person, realistic, clouds, mountains, water, sun, fire.”)

Is that enough to prove the practicality of programs like Midjourney and its ilk?

Perhaps.

Only time will tell if something like this proves useful in the long run, and there are no solid conclusions to be drawn from this debate, but it is still a debate worth having.

True art will always have its vaunted place in society, but is there room for A.I. creations as well? Frankly, for better or worse, there will probably have to be

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