Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, has become a controversial topic within the past few years. Some are amazed by the technology, others are fearful of what it could do in the future. One of the most common uses for AI is in art, AI is able to generate images or sounds that almost perfectly mimic what a human could have created. That is where a lot of controversy comes from, whether or not AI is replacing human art expressions, and many more are afraid of the deception that AI creates. The problem with AI generated art is that it threatens the integrity and livelihoods of real human artists, due to corporations’ use of it as a way to save money.
AI art is generated from examples of art already on the internet, created by humans. Man-made art teaches algorithms what art looks like and the AI will generate something similar. People can type in whatever they want to into the prompts, and the AI will read it and use thousands of images as references to create something similar to the prompt’s description. Often filters are put on after generating the images in order to make it look better or more convincing (McFadden). Some of the most popular programs that generate art are Dream by Wombo, Dall-E 2, ChatGPT, and there seem to be more and more websites popping up everyday.
The main forms of art that AI is making is visual art, AI can attempt to mimic other types of art styles or create photorealistic visuals, many can be very convincing. While many images generated are not convincing, many see AI “photos” as a good example of the uncanny valley, many programs have created images that have tricked people into believing the “photos” are real. AI has also started to dabble in the creation of music, many are unable to detect the difference between man-made and AI generated EDM music. Another popular example of AI generated art is in audio generation, AI can perfectly mimic human voices and create convincing sounding conversations using the voices of famous celebrities. AI artwork is popular online because of how convincing it has become, it is entertaining seeing outlandish scenarios in such realistic visuals or audios.
AI has developed incredibly fast within the last few years, incredibly advanced AI is accessible to the general public via the internet, and anybody can create photorealistic images within seconds. In March of 2023, an image of the Pope wearing a designer jacket was created using AI, but it convinced a lot of people due to the realism of the man’s face and hands (Farrant). Dall-E mini was one of the first popular AI art generators, it was a prototype for Dall-E 2. Summer of 2022 Dall-E mini was able to generate art that looked similar to what it was trying to mimic, but it was consistently slightly off and created uncanny and blurry images. A few months later Dall-E 2 was released and took everyone by storm with how much better the images generated were. Dall-E 2 is constantly updated in order to improve the power of the pictures, and is even able to generate realistic faces and bodies now.
Some artists have been using AI art in order to bring about new combinations that were not possible before. AI promotes new creative ideas and techniques that inspire researchers who try to push the limits and see what exactly AI can do (McFadden). Businesses can use AI art to create promotional art for cheap, often creating an AI image and using photoshop to fix it up, much cheaper than hiring a freelance artist to create something similar. AI art has taken the internet by storm, everybody can use AI to create anything they want. It is obviously used in art communities, but AI is also used in music, meme, and gaming communities.
Despite how interesting AI is, many real artists have become worried about the future of art as a medium because of the rapid advancement of AI generated art. Freelance artists need to make a living by accepting commissions from companies or art collectors, but with AI anybody can type whatever it is that they need into a website, removing the need for serious artists (Jung). Many have become angry with the lack of creativity involved in AI art, as a computer does not need to learn the intricacies of painting or graphic design like a human does, a computer can learn in seconds if the coding is done right. AI artwork is taking over at art festivals and online auctions, making many artists trying to sell their work upset (Roose). Some people do defend the use of AI in the creation of art, as long as artists disclose that they used AI in the creation of their pieces. “Controversy over new art-making technologies is nothing new. Many painters recoiled at the invention of the camera, which they saw as a debasement of human artistry” (Roose), art evolves as new technology is invented, and eventually something like photography has become its own form of art different from painting or drawing, so maybe the future has its own spot in the realm of art for AI.
The problem with AI art is that it has threatened the livelihoods of thousands of artists, and threatens the integrity of the field of professional art. Art collectors and businesses can easily get art that is cheap by using AI art, and all they need to do is type exactly what they want into a website (Santos). AI can create very beautiful images that look just like human art styles, but it requires already existing artwork to generate, using other people’s images in creating a new one without proper credit violates copyright laws, and brings into question who should get credit for AI art (Jung). “Once the software “understood the rules of portraiture” using a new algorithm developed by Google researcher Ian Goodfellow, it then generated a series of new images by itself,” (Fautrel), who should get credit for creating a portrait, the programmer who wrote the code, the person who wrote the prompt, or the artists whose art was used by the AI to generate the image (Epstein)?
Many images created via AI have been going up for auction and selling for thousands of dollars over man-made artwork. Some see this as an interesting evolution to artwork, others see it as harmful to real artists, as the hard work and resources required to create a real painting is easily remedied by just typing a few words into a program. Artists strive to make a living from their work, but art created by AI threatens the integrity of painting as an art form because seemingly anybody could create anything with AI. Artists see AI art as a cheat that copies the talents and skills of real artists, many who have been dead for years, and can push natural talent out of the public eye (Jung). People can now create a Picasso or Basquiat painting using AI, but this brings up the moral question of who owns their art styles. Movie studios attempting to deep fake dead actors were met with pushback by the families of the diseased because they do not believe that movie studios own the faces of the diseased, and it seems that many artists see AI generated art that attempts to copy famous artists styles as illegitimate for similar reasons.
Paintings created by AI selling for thousands of dollars is one thing, but AI art winning an artistic award is another, and artists are not happy about that. In 2022 the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition awarded a winning ribbon to a man who created his painting using an AI program instead of paint and a canvas, upsetting many of the other artists (Roose). AI generated voices have become a recent phenomenon that scares people because anybody could potentially make anybody say anything using voice mimicking technology. People have been getting scammed or tricked by online messages that sound realistic, and many see this technology as especially scary in the realm of politics, because political opponents can make each other say anything controversial and it will be hard to prove them as legitimate or created via AI. AI generated images depicting politicians in controversial situations are also controversial, many images surrounding the arrest of Donald Trump story had tricked many into believing he was being violently taken by police officers, when he never was.
Some are confident that AI could never replace humans in the field of art, but many artists are scared and angry with AI’s role in creating art. Many are calling AI art the future of creativity because anybody can use websites to generate any image they want to (Campitiello). AI art generators are constantly competing with each other to create new algorithms to create the most convincing images possible. Human faces and hands were very hard to generate in 2022, but many programs have been updated to create them perfectly, almost photorealistic. It is very difficult to regulate AI art, some may see it as violating the first amendment if programs are censored or banned, and the internet is mostly unregulated by the United States government. While it would protect artists’ livelihoods if regulated, it is very unlikely that AI art generators will get regulated any time soon.
Art generated with AI has risen very fast and created a very controversial meta that has artists, businesses and programmers debating about its ethics. AI uses other peoples’ art in order to generate similar images, anybody can create whatever type of art they wish to by just typing whatever they want into a variety of websites. Many online have used AI for their own enjoyment, but sometimes AI art can rival professionally made art and win awards, stealing money and credibility away from real artists, and that is where much of the controversy comes from. Corporations have started to use AI in order to save time and money in creating promotional art for business. The future of AI can be unsettling, some see it as a great tool for advancing the field of art, others see it as a threat to artists and copyright with no regulatory action being taken. AI will likely not go anywhere and will continue to advance, possibly putting artists in jeopardy.
Campitiello, J. (2023, February 20). AI Vs. artist: The future of creativity. Cornell Tech. https://tech.cornell.edu/news/ai-vs-artist-the-future-of-creativity/
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Jung, A. (2022, November 28). Advancements in AI-generated art concern artists. The Campanile. https://thecampanile.org/2022/11/28/advancements-in-ai-generated-art-concern-artists/
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McFadden, C. (2023, March 5). The rise of Ai Art: What is it, and is it really art? What is AI generated art and how do AI art generators work? https://interestingengineering.com/culture/what-is-ai-generated-art
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Santos, R. (2022, November 8). Can ai-generated art replace creative humans? VICE. https://www.vice.com/en/article/epzkwm/artificial-intelligence-art-creatives-ai