Sunday, February 5, 2023

Should A.I. Art Be Dismissed?

Change is difficult to deal with. Anyone over the age of 35-40 knows that. When I first saw the IBM building on 57th Street in New York about 70 years ago the display of a working computer took up most of the block between 56th and 57th Street on Madison Avenue. All these huge machines and reels of tape all of which would probably fit on the laptop I am currently writing on. At the grocery store you could buy milk, maybe skim milk. Today you will find a full row of different kinds milk: soy, almond, oat, etc. You have to adapt or hibernate.

An app called Shutterstock tells us how easy it is to create art using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). All you have to do is follow the instructions:

1. Imagine anything! Then type it into the search bar. Click Generate.

2. Shutterstock AI generates a few versions for you to choose from

3. Edit the image in Create, if you like. Or just license and download.

You may ask, does that really create art? But how is it different from looking at some object, landscape or person and pushing a button on your phone and having the image captured? In other words, before we dismiss A.I. art we should remember the history of photography. Photographs have been for sale since the 1850’s but at the beginning it was the photographer selling you a picture of yourself or family members. There were also Cartes de Visite which people handed out and the recipients put them in their albums to remember those who visited. It was more difficult to take a selfie with an 1850 Collodion Camera!

In the late 19th century photographic images began to be created as art to put on the wall and, God forbid, for investment. According to the publication, “Afterimage”, you could buy a photograph by the famous photographer Ansel Adams for $400 in 1975 and by now spend around a $100,000 for the same vintage print. I don’t know when that was written but In 2020 this Ansel Adams photo set a record of $988,000. Do note that the value of a photo depends on many things other than the image.

A.I. is advancing by leaps and bounds and while it depends mainly on what has been done before (garbage in, garbage out) the apps keep becoming more creative. Even NFT’s depend on photography. A.I. can be another tool for art created by humans. If you think about it even a paint brush or pencil is a tool with which you create something. An individual can use the app just like an art photographer can frame or manipulate a photograph. Look through the photos you have taken in the past and how many do you really want to show to anybody outside of your family.

Here is an image created by Google using A.I.:

The Week magazine has had several brief articles on the subject of A.I. as it pertains to creative writing as well as visual art. It discusses one of many apps, Lensa, which edits images. Again, artists are concerned that this is unfair competition and will eliminate the need for their talents. They forget that there are hundreds of thousands of other artists out there who are their direct competition.

In a publication called Shutterstock Kristina Libby wrote, “We’ll continue to see A.I. create images derived from and for human pleasure—often with a human involved. These images will more and more closely resemble artwork that we see every day, until we reach a point where A.I.-generated art will look no different than human-generated art.” Why should artists fear, if they become well enough known there will be plenty of artists out there who will try to imitate what they have done. That does not mean they will be successful. “

It is also possible that A.I. will create imagery that nobody has ever seen before. Think of Jackson Pollock. Whether that scares or excites you—or both!—it’s worth contemplating.

Things change and throughout history the human species has eventually learned to adapt … and there is a whole other Missive!

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