Generative AI: Envisioning a future of AI-dominated creativity

Media created by artificial intelligence has reached a breaking point. Even before the debut of OpenAI ChatGPT electrified the Internet, the research lab captured the attention of the art and design world with its DALL-E generative artificial intelligence system, which allows anyone to create images of anything their heart desires simply by typing a few words or phrases.

Over a million users have signed up to use the DALL-E beta in recent months, and the company is expanding its footprint even further by offering an API so that creators, developers, and enterprises can integrate this powerful technology and explore its creative potential more deeply. . Meanwhile, AI-generated work continues to disrupt other corners of the cultural landscape, from a six-figure sale for a generative portrait at Christie’s in 2018, to this year’s controversial top prize for an AI work in an emerging artist competition.

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The emergence of AI creations in the upper echelons of the art world and the proliferation of user-friendly AI software such as DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Lensa have reopened the creative production and ownership debate and prompted practical answers to previously posed questions. belongs to the field of theory: what distinguishes a machine picture from a work of art? How do we — as creators, curators, collectors, consumers — give meaning and value to art? And perhaps most importantly, what impact will generative AI technology have on the future of human creativity and artistic expression?

Art instability

As Walter Benjamin wrote in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, the reproductive and creative technologies of the modern world lead to the fact that all art is detached from its primitive, ritual and sacred context, making editing, copying and processing works of art an invariable feature of art itself. , so that in the modern world, art no longer speaks of the eternal concepts of beauty and aesthetics, but of a constant flow and instability, always changeable and changeable.

For AI-generated art, this instability is reflected in the fluid, ugly, lo-fi, and sometimes unsettling qualities of the artwork that Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) produce.

Unsurprisingly, there has been significant backlash from artists and creators, many of whom claim that generative art is plagiarism and threatens artists’ creative endeavors and their livelihoods. Others, like celebrity designer Jessica Walsh, are less concerned about such fears: “Whenever a tool threatens people’s work, there will always be a backlash,” Walsh says. an exponentially large presence in the creative world.”

For example, in the music industry, digital modification has become the norm: musicians such as Brian Eno and Aphex Twin have risen to prominence over the past few decades using tape loops and computers to create ambient or generative music, and sampling is a cornerstone of popular genres. contemporary music such as hip hop, pop and electronic music. In 2022, most of the top-selling pop artists have used autotune and compression to some degree in their music, essentially correcting the organic anomalies of the individual human voice.

Credit where credit is due

Much of the debate has centered on the issue of credit and creative authorship: who is the artist of works created with an algorithm, written by an encoder, and processed with photo editing software? While we don’t usually give importance to the main tools used for creation, such as Photoshop, specific equipment, font factories, or auto-tuning, this standard may already be changing. Many works of art created by artificial intelligence even have the creator’s “signature” – often a garbled line of code or text – just like a human artist signs his name to indicate authorship.

The rise of AI-dominated images has prompted tech giants such as Adobe, Microsoft, and Canva to launch their own generative product features. The platform acknowledges that moderation of this policy will depend on whether users report images suspected of being “fake”.

So, with this rapid spread of generative AI in the creative and commercial landscapes, can we enter a world where little AI-assisted editing, like taking a photo, editing scanned images in Lightroom, or using filters, is becoming so commonplace that it’s becoming slightly forced? . art production requirements in general? Or, as advocates of generative AI predict, will the technology turn out to empower artists, spurring creative innovation through increased production capacity and affordability?

Another framework by which we could try to understand or predict the future social role of AI in the creative industries is the debate about the production and consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food we eat. In the same way that we certify the foods we consume as organic or non-GMO, will the day come when we will claim that our creative work is fully generated, partially augmented or created using zero digital technologies?

Maybe a better question to ask is: can we tell the difference between AI-generated work and human-generated art, and will it matter to us? A 2017 study by Rutgers found that most participants were unable to distinguish a clear preference for human work over AI-generated work. Perhaps, when it comes to taste, the perceived ability to distinguish AI from human effort could be a marker of sophistication and difference.

Where will the generative art of AI take us?

If we value creativity and what is inherently human, will we see a day where machine creativity dominates and purely human-centered creativity has higher cultural and economic value? Or, as in the case of the music industry, will the normalization of AI instead destroy the artificial/human creativity binary, fundamentally changing consumer preferences and public attitudes towards the production and consumption of works of art?

In his almost century-old essay “The Work of Art,” Benjamin suggests that the nature of art is to go beyond the formal limits of the technical paradigm in which it was created; thus, art is not a function of technology, but the generative force behind it, driving innovation and striving for a world that does not yet exist.

Brendan Cieko is the founder and CEO of Cuseum.

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