Home Artistic creation Art and AI could mean the end of human creativity

Art and AI could mean the end of human creativity


Last week’s Colorado State Fair was Jason Allen’s first time competing in an art competition. So it came as a surprise to the 39-year-old fantasy tabletop game creator that his creation, “Space Opera Theater,” won a first blue ribbon in the “digital art/digitally manipulated photography” category.

What surprised even more people than Allen was that he had created his work – a rendering of three lushly robed figures looking through a sparkling portal to another world – with the artificial intelligence tool. Midjourney. For Allen, the win was an unexpected triumph, but for others it was the fuse that sparked a heated debate about the potential uses of AI — and abuses — in the arts.

Midjourney, DALL-E, and other text-to-image tools are just one of the ways AI has worked its way into the creative process. Look no further than the brief but controversial existence of rapper IA FN Meka or the appearance of a deepfake company on “America’s Got Talent.”

Is AI a new technology that will create the next great art movement? Or does it announce the destruction of the artist? It turns out that the answer is not so simple.

“It’s important to be aware of the implications of automation and what it means for humans who might be ‘replaced,'” says Cansu Canca, associate research professor at Northeastern, and founder and director of the AI ​​Ethics Lab. . “But that doesn’t necessarily mean being afraid of becoming obsolete. Instead, the question we should ask ourselves is what do we want from machines and how can we best use them for the benefit of humans.

Concerns about AI’s perceived incursion into art go beyond the allegations of digital plagiarism that have been thrown at Allen. With the push of a button, he was able to create a work of art that would have taken hours to create by hand.

“We are witnessing the death of art unfolding before our eyes – if creative jobs are not machine-proof, then even highly skilled jobs risk becoming obsolete,” said one Twitter user. “What shall we have then?” »

Derek Curry, associate professor of art and design at Northeastern, isn’t convinced that AI art will ever replace the creative work of humans. By its very nature, technology has its limits.

“He can’t produce anything that he hasn’t already been trained on, so it’s impossible for him to legitimately create new things,” Curry says.

This is far from the first time that new technologies have caused controversy in the artistic community.

“A lot of the hype is very similar to what happened towards the end of the 19th century with photography,” says Curry, a trained photographer.

Similar to photography, Curry says humans play a much larger role in creating AI-generated art than most people realize.

“There’s this back-and-forth process that, to me, as someone working materially with this, doesn’t feel automated at all,” Curry says. “Everyone talks about ‘the algorithm did this’ or ‘the algorithm did that.’ In my experience, I don’t feel like the algorithm does much, you have to push it into whatever you actually want it to do.

The cycle of fear and acceptance has happened with every new technology since the dawn of the industrial age, and there are always casualties that come with change.

“There are real ways in which an activity that was done one way by a human can now be done in a different way, requiring fewer humans to do that job than before,” said Deirdre Loughridge, professor music associate at Northeastern. .

If AI-generated and AI-assisted art becomes more commonly accepted, artists will need to radically rethink how they do their work, spend their time, and structure their creative process, says Loughridge.

But she also argues that there is a general lack of technological knowledge around AI that leads to misperceptions about what it can do for artists. In music, artificial intelligence has been used for timbre or pitch transfer, allowing singers to use their voices as synthesizers while singing into software that transforms pitch into the sound of a different instrument.

Like any other technology, the way AI is used changes when it gets into the hands of artists, not the other way around. Loughridge compares it to Auto-Tune, a pitch correction processor that was once controversial but has become a music industry standard.

“It’s a tool that was supposed to do this invisible pitch correction, but people turn it all the way to the zero setting, which was never supposed to be done, and it creates this distinctive sound, and then several distinctive sounds,” explains Loughridge. “Something like that I could definitely see [with AI].”

For Jennifer Gradecki, an associate professor of art and design in the Northeast, AI also has potential as a creative aid, in part because of what it can’t do. According to Gradecki, artificial intelligence can help find the most generic answers to artistic dilemmas, leading him down more creative paths.

“We were trying to come up with a collective name using AI and it was fun to see what some of the combinations he would come up with were, but nothing was good,” Gradecki said. “Nothing was as creative as what we would be able to generate.”

To fill what they see as a gap in AI technology literacy, Gradecki and Curry worked together to develop a Creative Computing minor at Northeastern. The aim is to provide students with a critical and creative understanding of how artificial intelligence can be used. The first course, Introduction to Creative Computing, started this fall, and there are plans to run another introductory course in the spring.

By focusing on the potential, as well as the limitations, Gradecki and Curry hope to show students that AI is no different from any other artistic tool. Artists are always bound by the limits of their creativity and their tools, whether they use a brush, a camera or a neural network. In this way, the future of the arts does not belong to the AI, as its worst critics fear, it still belongs to the artists.

“I think this idea that AI could possibly replace creativity, it just seems really implausible to me that it could go that far,” says Gradecki. “Creativity is actually the only thing that cannot be automated.”

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