Artificial intelligence (AI) has brought forth a new era in the world of creative expression. While some people argue that AI art generators can unlock human creativity on an unprecedented scale, others believe that they pose a significant threat to the livelihoods of human artists.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into both the positives and negatives of AI-generated art, and discuss how we might strike a balance between embracing technology and preserving human creativity.
The Bright Side: Positives of AI Art
1. Democratizing Creative Expression
AI art generators have the potential to bring creative expression to the masses, allowing individuals who might not have had the time, skill, or resources to realize their artistic visions.
There are a lot of people out there who might have a lot of interesting ideas but may never have had the time, skill or money to bring them to life. Through AI, they are now able to realize the vision of the imagination and turn it into something tangible.
For example, an indie game developer who has a grand vision for a game they’d like to make, but don’t have the skill or resources to create the art assets to bring it all together. AI can now help them accomplish that and bring a new work into the world that would otherwise never be seen.
2. Faster Prototyping and Ideation
AI can help both traditional and digital artists explore a wide range of possibilities for their ideas quickly and efficiently. In a short amount of time, you can fully explore the full range of possibilities for your ideas before setting pen to paper or brush to canvas. You can quickly see what works and what doesn’t, and get a proper direction.
This is more useful for commercial art where there is a “time is money” factor. I realize the act of exploration itself is one of the great joys of making art, so it could also be viewed negatively depending on the context. But this is just another tool that exists to speed up the creative process if you’d like to leverage it.
3. Exploring Impossible Ideas
AI art generators, like Midjourney, enable users to explore their imaginations in ways never before possible. I’ve been using Midjourney for several months now, and as a curious and creative person, it has allowed me to explore my imagination in ways it wasn’t really possible before.
I’ve begun to view it as a camera for your mind and imagination. And it can also delight and surprise you when the generation doesn’t exactly match your vision, but presents something in a different (more interesting) way that you hadn’t considered. You can quickly realize any crazy idea you have in your head, and the exploration of the AI’s “imagination” (which is essentially the collective imagination of humanity) can be fulfilling in of itself, or at minimum entertaining.
4. Remixing and Enhancing One’s Own Art
AI art generators offer an untapped potential for artists to remix and enhance their own work in new and interesting ways. By embracing these tools, artists can unlock new modes of expression and take their work to places they couldn’t have imagined.
The potential this has for artists and photographers to remix their own work in so many new and interesting ways, and unlock new modes of expression is unreal. Because of the blowback among the art community, very few are exploring their own work in this way.
Got some photography that you’d like to turn into a different art style, or view it on a different planet? This tool let’s you do things you couldn’t feasibly do before.
The Dark Side: Negatives of AI Art
5. No Opt-Out or Compensation for Artists
One major issue with AI art is the lack of opt-out options or compensation for artists whose work is used to train the AI models. This is really my main gripe about AI right now.
While yes, an AI in some ways creates “new art” in a similar way a human artist would when given an idea to bring to life, it’s capabilities are far more powerful and sweeping. Artists never agreed to have their work train this model, and if they don’t want to, they shouldn’t be forced to, or should be compensated for that.
6. Identity Crisis for Human Artists
The rise of AI-generated art may cause an identity crisis for human artists, as they grapple with the notion that machines can create better art than they can. This could impact self-worth, recognition, and the growth that comes from the traditional creative process.
This is the first time in history where we are presented with the notion that a machine can make creative works better than us. What does that do to our minds, our self-worth, our perceptions of self and each other. How will awards and recognition even work because we won’t even be reliably able to determine whether the artist made their piece on their own, or whether they just had AI make it for them. And also, the creative process itself is one that helps people grow into themselves and mature.
Will the ease of use of producing “art” lead to more people not developing these skills and the character-building elements that come from the traditional creative process?
I think one potential way this could go is that it will lead to more human artists moving away from digital art and more into more traditional forms of art such as oil painting, sculpting, etc. that can’t be replicated in the same way as AI. Perhaps that could be a good thing in some ways.
7. Economic Disruption
AI-generated art is part of a larger wave of economic disruption caused by AI advancements in various industries. As the technology becomes more efficient, human labor may struggle to compete, forcing artists to adapt or move into other lines of work.
Obviously, this is a major negative, but it also applies to practically any other form of employment that involves a computer, as AI is currently in the process of completely transforming our economy. The thing is, there is really no putting this genie back in the bottle, so we either need to learn how to leverage it, or move into a line of work that won’t be as disrupted by the AI revolution. Those include jobs that involve more human to human interaction (nursing, hospitality, etc.) or involve physically manipulating the real world somehow (plumbing, electrician, construction, etc.)
No amount of complaining about this is going to change the coming wave, because ultimately our economic system has an incentive structure that rewards efficiency, and AI is far more efficient than human labor could ever hope to be.
And then I realize “commercial art” isn’t “art” and never was. It’s a way to pay the bills, but it isn’t a deep expression of oneself through the creation of art. It’s designed to get other people to buy things, nothing more and nothing less. So is it truly a loss for “art” if “commercial art” is replaced by human+AI output?
For most of human history, art was not something people did for money. The few that could make a living that way were funded by ultra-wealthy benefactors. So it seems we might see a return to that.
Of course, as a society we will need to figure out a way to serve everyone’s needs in this new economy, but that is something that will need to be grappled with across the board.
Looking Ahead: Finding the Balance
AI-generated art isn’t going to “end art.” Rather, it presents us with new opportunities and challenges. By embracing the positive aspects of AI art generators, we can empower more people to express themselves creatively. At the same time, we need to address the ethical and economic concerns that come with this technological revolution.
Just as surfers wouldn’t stop surfing even if a robot could outperform them, human artists will continue to create and express themselves. AI art generators are a tool, and it’s up to us to use them wisely, striking a balance between technological innovation and preserving the essence of human creativity.
* Modified from my original post here.