What's the difference between a human artist and an image generator AI

Lucía Ferro
Predict
Published in
6 min readMay 20, 2023

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No artificial intelligence will overtake art.

Photo by Bárbara Fróes on Unsplash

It is the honest message what IAs lack. A person can hide behind a ton of microchips and wires but that won't cover a desperate seek for attention or an unsatisfied need for bread. An artist, however, can communicate those same desires, and gift us all with a life lesson that puts one more stone on the history of our civilization.

You can give an excellent description in natural language as input to the AI and still, you will be asked for an explanation. Otherwise, why would there be a canvas with a single black dot in a prestigious museum?

The history behind the artist gives meaning to the work of art, without context, there is no story to tell. When we look at a picture we don't only wonder what the message is but also what did make the artist think that way. Every human being has good reason to come up to a conclusion. Sometimes, the path is obvious because we've seen it many times (like an AI interpolating ideas from a bucket of data) but when we come across an original idea we know there is some unusual life story behind it.

It is not only the message that matters, it is also the intention with which it was delivered, too. We often discuss the intention behind the message when talking about comedy. It is in fact what drives the whole debate about the limits of comedy, a fine line between making someone laugh or offending them. In the same way, it matters if the creator was trying to tell something meaningful or trying to sell you some stuff.

If you are smart you probably avoid watching as many ads as possible, and it is understandable. Very few ads have any artistic value, most of them are plain manipulative videos prepared to break your will and interfere with your self-control.

"Art" made by an IA will likely be superficial.

I wouldn't even call it art. I find it arrogant to apply such a deep concept to something that has no soul. They are images, sure. Art, no.

Beauty is forged with imperfection. Surely AIs are trying to emulate this therefore chances are you might encounter a beautiful image made by artificial intelligence that can trick you into believing is being made by humans. But why would you give any value to that?

Well, you probably don't, and the explanation is very simple. It is the same reason why you don't toss that damaged photo cut out of an old magazine and have no problems donating a perfectly brand-new print that got left in the apartment you just moved into. I dare to say, the quality of the image is much better, the imperfections have been well emulated and you can't even tell is not a real painting. Still, you prefer the cut-out picture.

Images and their by-products might lower their prices like it happens today with everyday objects. There is no denying that, we all know that aggressive capitalism will devour anything that can be produced in an assembly line. But the same way, we all know that a set of cutlery from Ikea has no art value apart from a tiny spot in the minimalist style that, surprise, surprise, capitalism loves.

Art is priceless because it transits our spirits and leaves a print that we can only explain to ourselves. It has always been about the story.

Perhaps we are about yo regress back to a time when the ability of inspiring meaning in people's imagination was all the art there was, yet art will continue to be human because humanity resides within its meaning. Perhaps, we will turn into bards making up stories about images just to catch a few coins. To be honest, we already do it. We take pictures with camera phones filled with AI and we upload them for a few likes. But do you dare to call yourself a photographer?

AI, the final resource

Ultimately, art is the expression of human creativity and imagination. Any experienced artist knows that an excess of resources does not make the labour of art any easier, but more challenging instead.

In order to escape ennui, a man either works beyond the extent of his former necessities, or he invents play, that is to say, work that is only intended to appease the general necessity for work. He who has become satiated with play, and has no new necessities impelling him to work, is sometimes attacked by the longing for a third state, which is related to play as gliding is to dancing, as dancing is to walking, a blessed, tranquil movement; it is the artists’ and philosophers’ vision
of happiness.

— Nietzche

This paragraph, taken from Nietzche's book Human, All-Too-Human, pretends to show us a way to the happiness of the artist. As creativity and imagination are part of our human condition, I think we can assume it applies to everybody to some degree. Nietzche used to say that we must dance in chains, meaning we cannot have total freedom because restrictions are the muses that inspire us.

When aspiring artists sit down to think about what to create, they often blame their inability to perform on not having enough resources. AI, as the final helper, has the potential to give us that infinite range of options we often think are the cause of our failure. The truth is, some of the most appreciated works of art have been made with very little, and it is precisely the fact that the artist was so constrained that made their art so valuable. Artificial Intelligence will never have the juice that powered the tormented artist or the hopeful one that imagines a world where no one has gone before, simply because it can't have irrational emotions.

Maybe AI will overflow the market. We want to have what others have. Be owners and inspire jealousy. Have an unreal sense of protection. All of that leads us to cherish only what falls into conformity and safe social standards that promise a certainty that, sorry to disappoint you, does not exist. Look at how cities are designed. They are ugly even when they have a few green areas, but hey, they have very functional buildings with little apartments where to house many workers, who, at this rate, won't even be considered human; only useless cattle that became endangered species just like donkeys were replaced by trucks.

We've left Gaudi as an architect of the past as if we didn't need more beauty in the present. No wonder we are sure an AI is going to overtake the arts. We are not appreciating the effort the artist has put into it, we are only thinking of getting a sample for ourselves. But decoration and marketing design has nothing to do with art. There is a huge gap in between in which human particularities thrive for their uniqueness. If you don't see the difference, I encourage you to look for it. And if you refuse to acknowledge that area of our existence, well, I simply pity you and wish you good luck.

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

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Lucía Ferro
Predict

Writer. I often think before writing, sometimes I even think without writing. So I guess I am also a Thinker. A Thinker and a Writer. https://luciaferro.com