Hey Creativity, My Name’s AI: Is Artificial Intelligence Coming for Artistic Expression?
“A year or two back if you’d asked me whether graphic design was a safe job, I’d have said, yes, it was [a] pretty safe job — anything in the creative industries is a pretty safe job from racing against the machines. But now, actually, I would be somewhat worried if I was a graphic designer.”
That’s Toby Walsh, a professor of AI at the University of New South Wales. Like Walsh, many creatives are wondering how artificial intelligence and artistic expression will converge, given the explosion of AI art generators like Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and Dall-E. Will intelligent technology mark the end of the creative industry, or will this become a whole new ground of exploration?
According to Rob Salkowitz, the time of the artist is running out.
Salkowitz, a senior contributor for Forbes, predicts that special effects, animation design, and even illustration and graphic design will soon be generated by AI. In his article on AI and art jobs, Salkowitz writes that these art tools are posing concerns for the industry and could easily become a “dagger to the throats of hundreds of thousands of commercial artists.” Similarly, artist Sebastian Errazuriz took to Instagram with this message, “Which artists will be the first to be replaced by artificial intelligence? Unfortunately, if you’re an illustrator — that’s you. … It takes a human about five hours to make a decent illustration to be published; it takes the computer five seconds.”
And AI pictures aren’t shabby, either. San Francisco-based illustrator Karla Ortiz points out that while there is work to be done in AI art, the results are adequate. Companies focused on quantity over quality, or with little room for a graphics budget, will turn to these inexpensive alternatives, cutting demand for entry-level designers. “Because the end result is ‘good enough,’” Ortiz says, “I think we could see a lot of loss of entry level and less visible jobs. This would affect not just illustrators, but photographers, graphic designers, models, or pretty much any job that requires visuals. That could all potentially be outsourced to AI.”
While AI is setting off alarms in the creative world, others are embracing the change. Jess Campitiello, a Digital Communications Specialist at Cornell Tech, argues that generative AI can help creatives by saving time during the conceptual stage. Artists can share AI thumbnails with clients instead of taking time to sketch ideas. Others see AI art tools as a way to artistically empower the average person. Still others, like Refik Anadol, view artificial intelligence as a way to experiment with new forms of art.
Anadol describes himself as a pioneer in the aesthetics of machine intelligence. He believes AI and technology can be assets to art, not competitors. “Quantum Memories,” one of Anadol’s convergent pieces of art and tech, combined over 200 million nature-related images and processed them through quantum computing and algorithms. The result: a giant LED screen of constantly fluid abstractions, an interactive experience based on audience movement and positions in real-time. For Andol, artificial intelligence opens new possibilities for all types of artistic techniques.
In history, the emergence of any new technology leads to the destruction of some jobs and the creation of others. The same holds true for artificial intelligence. While some anticipate the elimination of whole portions of the creative workforce, others are more optimistic. Regardless of how bleak the future is for the industry, AI can never replace creativity.
Why? AI is not intrinsically creative. The art generators depend on human sources both for the artistic direction and source material. True creativity is not the sum of inputs and outputs but a reflection of God’s character.
In the first verses of Genesis, God acts as the supreme Creator. He thoughtfully delineates the order of his creation, taking delight in the work of his hands. In the Scriptures, God is compared to a potter and designer or architect (Isaiah 64:8; Hebrews 11:10). The plans for the tabernacle, with precise instruction on material types, colors, and design elements further reveals God’s attention to detail. The Creator gifted some of his artistic ability to humanity (Exodus 36:2). Only humans can creatively turn thoughts, experiences, and emotions into formats that others can appreciate and enjoy.
Toby Walsh gives pertinent insight. “Art is more than just making images that are realistic. It’s about asking questions, and addressing aspects of the human condition, whether that’s about falling in love and losing loved ones and human mortality and all of the troubling questions that art helps us to think about. Machines aren’t going to speak to us in the same way that artists speak to us because they don’t share our humanity.”
Even if the convergence of AI means the end of the art industry, creativity won’t die. Creativity is a special gift from the Creator, one that AI can never harness.