Artificial Intelligence Won’t Replace Human Artists
Artificial Intelligence, again and again, is proving to be a major threshold event in our society’s history. the likes of which could be compared to the invention of electricity, the internet, and the following periods of change that ensued. Within the past 5-10 years, technological advancements in machine learning have paved the way for an exponential increase in the capabilities of artificial intelligence. While many applications of this technology have been recognized as having positive effects on the efficiency of our lives, one particular family of AI has arisen sparking worldwide controversy regarding its future: Artificially Intelligent Artists.
To fully understand the philosophical implications of AI Artists, we must first examine the technological breakthroughs which sparked this investigation, and their strengths and weaknesses.
In November of 2022, the Artificial Intelligence research company OpenAI released a demo of their latest project, “Chat GPT”, free for use by the public. The site, which as of April 2023 is still free with the addition of a “Premium” tier, represents the largest advancement in written-language generators of its kind. Up until this invention, the written works of A.I. were laughable in their structure and rhetoric and never came close to emulating the abilities of an educated human writer. In the words of Kevin Roose, a technology columnist at the NY Times, “For most of the past decade, A.I. chatbots have been terrible – impressive only if you cherry-pick the bot’s best responses and throw out the rest.” Chat GPT differs from its predecessors in that it produces coherent and intelligent responses and, if prompted, “artful” ones as well. The concept which powers this technology is called “machine learning”, which is defined by IBM as the process in which “[AI] focuses on the use of data and algorithms to imitate the way that humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy.” Similar to the way humans learn from teachings and mistakes, A.I. learns from each inquiry inputted into its system.
Another form of this AI Art technology is that of the visual arts: A.I. painting and photograph generators. Rising in popularity within the last few years are apps such as “Lensa” and “Wonder: AI”. Text can be inputted into one of these programs and an image will be created based on the commands. For example, the prompt “Mona Lisa in the style of Van Gogh” could be requested, and the A.I. would generate this using a technology known as “Convolutional Neural Network”. In the book Machine Reading Comprehension, Chenguang Zhu, a research manager at Microsoft, defines a C.N.N. as an “advanced and high-potential classical artificial neural network model which can tackle and handle higher complexity data, difficult compilation, and preprocessing of data.” An important takeaway within this technology overview here is that CNNs employ “compilation”, an idea that is prevalent when discussing creativity. Moreover, Zhu sums up the uses of this technology as being “used for image processing tasks that involve image analyzing, image recognition, video analysis, [and] segmentation of image.” Basically, the software blends recognized visual patterns associated with each part of your written prompt and compiles each pattern visually based on its vast database of already existing imagery.
While the technology is scientifically proven, the originality of A.I.-created works is a heavily debated topic, especially among human artists who believe their intellectual property is being directly stolen and compiled without their consent. Within the past few months of 2023 artists and art platforms have gone as far as to take legal action against A.I. companies regarding this issue. In January 2023 Getty Images, one of the world’s largest media hosting companies containing 477 million human-created assets, filed a lawsuit against the art generator company Stability AI. In a press release directly from Getty Images on the day of the filing, the company stated that “Stability AI infringed intellectual property rights including copyright in content owned or represented by Getty Images. It is Getty Images’ position that Stability AI unlawfully copied and processed millions of images.” The company goes on to say how they’ve already given several A.I. companies legal access to their database for the purposes of training their algorithms, in an effort to further A.I. research. However, in this case, “Stability AI did not seek any such license from Getty Images and instead, we believe, chose to ignore viable licensing options.”Just like if a music artist uses a sample of a previous song in his track, any art that contains direct elements of previous intellectual property must be used legally and with credit given to the original creator.
An example of this can be found in MC Hammer’s bold use of Rick James’ Super Freak in his own U Can’t Touch This, which contains a repeated line of music from James’ song. Rick James filed a lawsuit against MC and eventually settled the dispute outside of court when MC agreed to credit James as a songwriter. The use of A.I. involves performing the same task, admittedly on a much larger scale with abundant data, which raises the question of whether it is actually creating anything new or if it is simply compiling human creations, acquired legally and sometimes illegally. The resulting works may be indistinguishable when mixed using A.I., but “indistinguishable” is just A.I.’s disguise for “not original.”
A fundamental argument against both written and visual art generators is the fact that they are not “creating” anything from scratch. Nothing is an original work of inspired creativity, but rather a vastly complex act of digital plagiarism. But to understand why this is so, the answer to “What is creativity?” must first be explored.
The broad idea of creativity is impossible to completely define, as it is an infinitely complex and individual concept. However, as defined by myself, works of creativity are born from imagination and inspiration and are heavily correlated with their originality. Sometimes creativity occurs through deeply personal emotions and our reactions to them, or the spark of an idea that comes out of an unsuspecting event or experience. Jeanette Milne of the 2020 British Journal of Nursing, points out that “without curiosity, there is little creation. Clearly, both are needed to generate ideas, patterns, and combinations that can lead to new and innovative products and services.” While her insight is referring to products and services, the principal also applies to art. Curiosity and creativity are needed to produce anything that is completely new and original.
Scientists and scholars alike contest that artificially intelligent artists can produce work that exhibits originality and true uniqueness. Those who argue this, claim the algorithms are so advanced now that A.I. work is NOT simply a compilation of previous art, but is the byproduct of “true” creation, indistinguishable from that of humans. In an essay published by the University of Guelph in Ontario titled GAN Computers Generate Arts, the author explains how “Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) use deep learning archi-tectures to facilitate generative modeling. In this approach, the goal of the model is to generate new examples of data that would not be distinguishable by humans as data coming from the real set. This is achieved upon successful training where the adversarial network can identify patterns in the data and learn the distribution of the dataset.” Author Sakib Shahriar is telling us that A.I. Art algorithms, referred to as “GANs”, are technologically capable of producing “new examples of data”, otherwise known as “new art”.
The creative weakness of AI, which is the reason why it will never truly be able to replace the human artist, is that it can never generate a new idea or work of art without stealing from previous works. However advanced machine learning, CNNs, or GANs get in their ability to extract stylistic trends and compile them coherently, they will always be doing SOME form of just that: compiling. Just as an essay whose author copied work from another source, yet changed the language to make it “their own” is considered plagiarism, so too should a work of AI-generated art that does the same. Simply changing the way you express each idea does not change the origin of the idea; the idea is not yours (or AI’s) if it is simply rephrased.
The viewing of art without any context or bias is exceedingly rare. Perceivers of art tend to show some sort of bias when viewing a work, frequently from knowledge about the creator and their reasons for creating. We often look to the creator’s intentionality for the art, which in turn affects how we both interpret and connect personally with the piece.
This practice of judging art has a brand new application in the world of the 2020s, with the rise of Artificial Intelligence. While the art produced by these non-human creators can indeed theoretically be perceived with 100% objectivity, with regard only to its aesthetic and personal value, and without any influence from its inhumanness, this propensity becoming the norm is a fallacy. Because of the inevitable artist-bias, people have stronger connections to Art produced by living humans, rather than emotionless, intentionless algorithms.
To understand how viewer connections with art rely heavily on the presence of human emotions within, we must first understand the fundamental relationships between emotion and art. Since the dawn of organized thought in humans, art has been used consistently as a form of emotional expressionism. On cave walls, we expressed our feelings of pain and loss through depictions of battles and bloodshed. Emotions from real-life events and ideas are often what cause artists, of the Paleolithic era and of today, to create the art in which they create.
Because of the artist’s known causation for creating their intentional piece, perceivers can receive more expressed emotion from the canvas than they would knowing nothing about them at all. In the article titled How Does Art Express Emotion the author, Ismay Barwell, argues that “How works of art can be expressive of emotion and thus sad, happy, or melancholy must pose itself as a problem for anyone who believes both that works of art are not conscious entities and that only conscious entities can have feelings and emotions.” Ismay, a philosophy professor at Victoria University in Wellington, is arguing here that works of art could be considered animate objects since they can actively express emotion. While I admit that personal emotion can be found in any art, including AI’s, I argue that the artist’s own human expression is a leading cause for this sense of “animation” in inanimate things.
The Artist Intention theory is a long-debated counterintuitive topic that can never definitively be proven as truth or fallacy due to its deeply personal nature. However, as it pertains to whether or not the artist behind the art matters, it is extremely important to explore further. Literary artist L.N. Tolstoy claims in his book What is Art? that an artist has only created a genuine work of art when he “hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them.” While this can just be written off as one man’s opinion, it’s important to note that L.N. Tolstoy is considered one of Russia’s most significant figures in literature. As an artist himself, Tolstoy openly recognizes the importance of expressing emotions through art, and simultaneously how the presence of artists’ OWN feelings in their art affects its quality, value, and most importantly, relatability.
The deepest connections we make with any type of art will always be that of seeing ourselves within it. When we look at a certain painting or listen to a certain song, our most profound reactions are always those found within ourselves. When you see yourself in a work of art, the connection is visceral. I argue that this emotional bond between art and self can be tarnished by Artist’s Intentionality. A movie that you resonated deeply with may be irreversibly ruined for you if it is revealed that the filmmaker was abusive to their cast. This contamination of art connection, while a deeply sad truth, is inevitable and ever-present already in our society.
To examine how Artificial Intelligence being discovered as the creator of a work will impact a viewer’s perception of the work, I’d like to briefly make a connection to a string of events taking place in pop culture. The phrase “Separate the Art from the Artist” has been brought to recent spotlight with the rise of cancel culture in our society, most recently and notably with Ye, formerly Kanye West. Previous lovers of the rapper’s art around the world have had their bonds with his music broken because of his recent racist outburst. In the polarized article Separating Art from the Artist is Impossible, student editorial journalist from Virginia Commonwealth University Kofi Mframa boldly claims that “this phrase [separating art from the artist] is just a lazy cop-out that gives fans an excuse to not think critically as to why they continue to support problematic artists… To remove an artist from their creations decontextualizes their work and leaves it devoid of meaning.” It’s important to note this source is opinion-writing and is merely being used as an example of how woke cancel-culturists think. I believe it provides great insight into the minds of those who stand against “Separate the Art from the Artist.” This opinion shows how it is becoming increasingly impossible for people, especially younger generations, to perceive art entirely independently from its creator.
Since people are already growing less and less likely to be able to separate the human artist’s life from their work, it is safe to say that they will apply this same bias to work that has no human behind it at all. Much like when a pop star is revealed to be a racist, if a recent art sensation, consumed and enjoyed by the masses, is revealed to be completely A.I. generated, I predict its value among many (not all) will diminish.
While it may be possible to view all art without any artist-bias, it is an exceedingly rare practice and becomes rarer each day. The state of our emotional connections to art is influenced by our knowledge of the artist’s intentions, cultural and social contexts, or the complete and utter “lack thereof”. AI-generated art may be visually impressive and individually relatable, but it lacks the emotional depth and intentionality that makes human-made art so much more meaningful and powerful. As a result, AI can never replace the passionate and intentional art of human artists, and our emotional connections to art will always be tied to the human experience.
AI is able to outperform humans on nearly all tasks that it is assigned, what makes art so different? All claims about Art are controversial by nature, however, the rebuttals made by those who support the “A.I. Artist takeover” are founded on fundamentally erroneous concepts.
The direct rebuttal to my claim, that A.I. will replace Artists in the future, is founded on the false concept that artists are something that is even replaceable in the first place. In the International Journal of Education and Management my opponent, author Rubio Yang, points out that “according to John Pugliano, an American investment finance expert and author of The Robots are Coming, ‘any routine and predictable job is likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence in the next five to ten years.’ Some artists expressed concern about this phenomenon, they pointed out that maybe artificial intelligence will replace artists in the future.”
AI is by far not the first time a new technology has threatened previous art forms. To name two out of a vast list of examples: the invention of photography threatened painted artwork, and the advent of streaming music threatened the physical music medium. These inventions both disrupted the status quo and caused artists and art purveyors to be up in arms, much like people predict about A.I., however, we see now that the threat of these technologies permanently replacing their predecessors has been proven false. There will always be appreciation for painted artwork despite the inventions of photography and moving images, according to Google, as of 2022 there were “somewhere in the region of 15,000 art galleries in the US.” Photography and Paintings now coexist in the world of art, each having its own special value. There will also always be a following for physical media despite the digital revolution. According to the U.S. 2022 Luminate Year-End Music Report, “In 2022, sales of albums on cassette tape in the U.S. increased by 28% to 440,000”. Taylor Swift recently released an album on cassette tape, thought to be an absolutely dead and “replaced” medium of art. Technology will always advance with time, but art has proven again and again to be resilient against obsolescence. The focus shifts from time to time to different art forms, but none ever seem to be fully eradicated, which my opponents suggest AI will do.
If artificial intelligence could somehow possess the ability to create new ideas, it would by definition no longer be an “artificial” intelligence. It would possess a skill known only to living beings: new thought. However close we may seem to this God-like invention, regarding Written-word and Visual Art Generators of the 2020s, AI replacing Artists is STILL, fundamentally and definitively, science fiction. Art of any form is something that is viscerally human and is created by its creator through new thought and genuine inspiration, and while it can indeed be appreciated, AI Art will never fully replace the work made by living, breathing, emotionful humans.
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