c&p #9: Will AI replace your art? Maybe.

As a self-declared "technologist" or someone who is always standing at the forefront of many different kinds of technology, I'll admit that I've been late to the game when it comes to talking about AI publicly.

That's not because I don't think AI is interesting; on the contrary, I've been keeping my pulse on and deepening my understanding of AI for the better part of a decade already, and I've seen it mature so much over the years. I'm thrilled to see it finally hit the mainstream, and I'm interested to see what happens next.

Midjourney prompt: "A dystopian world, robots on one side, humans on the other, clashing and waging war on each other"

Rather, it's because I have an understanding of how AI and ML work that I've chosen to be patient with seeing how the general zeitgeist has reacted to the breakneck pace of what's occurring in culture, especially considering all the near and far-reaching touchpoints AI is sure to have throughout our entire lives. 

Many, many years ago, it was painfully apparent to see that AI was going to shape our future world. And to see this all unfolding today is utterly fascinating and worth thinking deeply about.

There are a lot of topics to cover here, but as it pertains to art and creativity, there has been a lot of discussion around copyright and consent, compensation, career displacement, the ethicality of AI-generated art, how AI-generated art will shape culture, and so on.

Meaty topics, to be sure. Topics I'm excited to dive into in future issues if you're also excited to dive in with me. 

Midjourney prompt: "A Japanese female model wearing a kimono and using a paper umbrella, Mount Fuji in the background, Autumn leaves surrounding the frame, at sunset"

But above all, perhaps the most pressing issue I'm seeing the zeitgeist talk about in art, is the thread of career displacement and how AI threatens the careers of many artists. 

The reality is that you can type in a sentence and press a button, and an AI will generate that exact thing you asked for. Man, that's no joke. For the artists out there who are scared that AI is going to replace your work, honestly, you may have valid concerns here. This stuff is scarily good.

There are many ways to see all of this. There are many perspectives to take, sides to sit on, many a devil and many an angel's advocate to play.

My take on career displacement is this: art is a luxury. It always has been.

The art you make is a sign that the time you live in is one where we, as humans, are prosperous enough to have the capacity and resources to do so. The fact that you're making art of any kind, rather than doing manual labour, or even knowledge work for that matter, is a sign that your work isn't critical to advancing the human race. And as such, you can be replaced.

On the flip side, it's the same transient, fragile, and disposable nature of art that makes the enjoyment of it valuable in and of itself. As humans, we enjoy consuming art in our free time. To some, the more art they're able to consume, purchase, and involve themselves in is a reflection of the very lifestyle they have, one where they have the luxury and the freedom to do so.

Midjourney prompt: "A drone shot of a lake with an island in the middle, in Winter, Snowing, the island has a Torii gate"

If you're worried about your art being replaced by AI, I'd ask you to answer a question: what is your art for?

Because if it's self-expression made for yourself, then by the very nature of it being for you, it has no value to anyone else.

However, if it's self-expression for the purpose of being shared with another: to spark emotion, to tell a story, to deliver a message, or to fix a problem, then it has value.

In the latter case, the question then is, can AI do the same thing faster and put you out of a career? Well, maybe. But I don't know what medium of art you're in, so I can't give you a definitive answer to that right now. 

What I can tell you is that AI is coming for every medium, and eventually, what I foresee happening is that art is going to go one of two routes.

The first is that AI will be used to solve a problem that art has had a solution for. Need a pretty piece to fill up your wall? AI can do that. Need a random image of something specific to illustrate your point? AI can do that. Need a quick jump-off point for an idea in your mind that you want to make for yourself? AI can do that too. In this instance, you're probably going to be replaced.

But where I see artists live on forever is in the idea of connection.

Humans connect with other humans. And sure, humans can connect with inanimate pieces of art regardless of how they're generated, but the value that can never be replaced is the connection that humans have to other humans, emotionally, physically, and abstractly. 

Midjourney prompt: "A photorealistic portrait of an Asian woman, in her twenties, hair slightly parted and falling off to the right side of her face, a slight smile, looking straight at you, in dslr style, with crazy detail"

Think about it. If you have an artist create a piece of work, and you've got the story from them about what it means to them, the amount of time, effort, and love they've put in to create that piece, the backstory. And then you get an AI to make the same thing; when you look at the AI piece, you think, "oh, it's just AI". It's shallow. It's cold. It's fast. But when you think of the human-made piece, you connect with the story; you connect with the human and their experience. Humans are wired for connection. 

These connections to humans and their work can happen everywhere in all sorts of ways. And it's this very connection that we're all going to start to value more and more as we move forward in cooperation with AI in the future.

Of course, I could be completely wrong, and AI wipes out all art as we know it, but I don't think that will be the case. If anything, in the future, I believe AI will provide us with ways to be more efficient and make many things in our lives easier. That will give us even more time for things of luxury, like art, to be made, and that will then present more opportunities for us to think about how we can also continue to evolve the value of our art. 

Man, it's crazy to think this is just scratching the surface. Much more to think about here.

See you next week, creative. 


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