Rise of the Machine: AI and the Future of Art
The Controversy Over AI in Art: Are Artists’ Concerns Valid?
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the world of art has sparked much debate and controversy within the artistic community. While not all artists are opposed to AI art, the vocal opposition to its proliferation raises important questions about the value of art and the role of technology in its creation.
Why are these artists so shaken about AI art? One of the main concerns is the potential devaluation of human-created art.
From an economic perspective, like any commodity, the value of art is determined by the rules of supply and demand. When the supply of art increases, without a similar increase in demand, the price of art decreases. Since it is becoming hard to distinguish between traditional and AI art, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the AI-assisted art would devalue art. The cost of creating art with the aid of AI, as well as the required skill and training, is much lower than the cost of creating art manually, meaning that AI art could potentially flood the market and possibly even make manually-created art economically infeasible.
For example, think how many people would prefer to purchase a print from a traditional artist for decorating their living room, when for the same price, they can commission an original, one of a kind artwork generated to their specifications and personal taste ? I think that the bespoke artwork would be more appealing to many people.
This concern over the devaluation of human-created art has led to much debate in the artistic community. Some professional artists, who rely on their art for their livelihood, are understandably concerned, as are some amateur artists who may feel like they are not playing on a level playing field against the superhuman power and speed of AI.
These valid economic concerns have also been fueled by the spread of misinformation about how AI assisted art really works. Some more vocal opponents of AI art have perpetuated the idea that AI relies on copying portions of existing artworks, leading to the misconception that AI artists are “stealing” art. However, this is not the case. AI art learns from existing images and artworks much like a human would study other artworks for inspiration, while these works are not memorized or accessed for generating new art. While in theory “overfitting” is possible, where AI models inadvertently memorize part of their training set, real world experience shows that image generation models such as Midjourney are not capable of substantially copying works of art. In fact, the size of text-to-image AI models are only a few of gigabytes, while they are trained on hundreds of terabytes of source images. This immensely lossy compression from the source image to the model, which reduces the volume of data by at least four orders of magnitude, implies that the probability for faithfully memorizing ‘substantial’ parts of specific works of art is extremely slim.
The opponents of AI art are lobbying to regulate the use of AI in art, requiring, for example, disclosure of the use of AI in the creation of artworks. But this overlooks the fact that AI art is produced as a collaboration between a human and a machine, in a way that blurs the boundaries between the two. It is impossible to determine whether an artwork was created entirely by a human or entirely by a machine, and in many cases, the machine is used as a tool to enhance or refine a work that was started by a human artist. This means that regulating the use of AI art may be impractical and ultimately impossible.
Overall, the integration of AI into the art world raises complex and valid questions about the value of art, the role of technology in its creation, and the impact on the livelihoods of human artists. The economic incentives for human artists to create art are crucial in maintaining the diversity and authenticity of art, as well as supporting the livelihoods of artists.
It is important for the artistic community to continue to have open and honest discussions about these issues and to find ways to embrace AI in art, while finding ways to recognize and reward the unique contributions and skills of manual artists.