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AI-generated Artwork: Op-Ed

I recently saw a social media post about AI artwork. Someone typed in an art request and based on those inputs alone, AI-powered software produced beautiful images. I’ve tried it before but the results were not as flattering. It was puzzling and admittedly I was a bit spooked as it raised the prospect of AI-generated art replacing the need for photographers. After mulling it over, came away with a few takeaways.

A looming question, which I’m sure many artists have contemplated, is whether or not AI will start taking share in the $579 billion art industry.

One certainty, is that AI will continue to improve. The imperfections I noticed in AI-generated images will surely disappear with future software iterations. The kinks will get worked out, as we’re still in the early innings of this technology revolution.

However, before tossing out your paint brush or camera, there are still major advantages we human artists have that will allow us to retain our value: authenticity and a connection with our subject matter.

To my knowledge, we are not yet robots and robots are not us. AI can learn from us but can’t replicate our brain’s more complex processes, equating to roughly 100 trillion calculations per second. Anyone can take a beautiful photo of a nice sunset. And generally speaking, AI can produce a beautiful photo of a nice sunset too. But there is an element of authenticity that separates artists from the rest. It’s possible for AI to copy the style of an artist, but what it can’t do is come up with a modus operandi that would allow it to produce something robustly unique.

AI is currently a lot of things. Authenticity is not one of them. There is tremendous artistic value in being authentic. Although AI might be capable of producing eye-catching images, it might be a while before it is capable of learning this very complex human trait, that not even every human possesses.

Another advantage humans have over AI is the inherent connection we have with our artistic interests. This invisible element is conveyed in artwork and ‘felt’ by the viewer. Examples include, a painter that adores a certain type of flower. The photographer that loves whimsical romance. The sculptor who wishes to convey loss. As artists, we feel. We put that feeling onto some type of medium. And then others feel it too in a way that is unique and valuable to them. That cyclicality cannot be hacked by AI- it cannot fabricate that connection which is so important to the infrastructure of why people buy artwork.

The consumer will have the final say. And while AI presents legitimate threats to artists, it is my belief that the human elements discussed above will protect against a broad displacement of artists. Some areas of artwork may be more prone to AI-based disruption than others. Artists will likely take a hit, but not the cataclysmic knockout blow that some are forecasting.

Ironically enough, I asked ChatGBT this question. Here is an excerpt of its answer: “While AI can be a useful tool for artists, providing new ways of exploring and creating art, it is unlikely that it will replace human artists anytime soon. Instead, it is more likely that AI will be used to enhance human creativity and provide new opportunities for artistic expression”

Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear where others stand on this!

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