The AI debate still rages on; Some consider it theft, some consider it a threat for human artists, some see it as literally Skynet coming to get us, and some see the opportunity to do something better… AI is many things… But theft? Seriously?..
4 or 5 decades back, the idea of having a computer fit in your pocket was considered sci-fi. When the quartz calculator was commercialized, we didn’t see mathematicians go out of business. We didn’t see them suing the calculator manufacturer for ‘stealing’ their equations and theorems either.
It’s always great to debate something new and to discuss its pros and cons. Lets really discuss the good and the bad, that AI brings to the table… After all, AI, like conventional software, is a tool. As fancy and advanced as it may come, it’s still a tool. The only ‘sentience’ it has, is when you automate it. If its wielder is lazy, has cheap motives or wants to misuse that tool, the output’s bound to be destructive. Bottom line is: AI is here and it’s staying here. Let’s make the best out of it.
Despite the massive amount of research detailing the workings of AI (freely available on platforms like Github or Huggingface), It is surprising to still hear people say that AI art is theft of intellectual property. Some falsely believe that AI prompted art literally steals the finished and existing work of another artist. AI art, to put it simply, works through a process known as pixel diffusion – picture it as a digital airbrush directed by a prompt on a canvas made of blank pixels. The more detailed and precise the prompt, the more your digital airbrush conjures pixel tapestries woven by your own imagination alone. Of course you can tell the prompt to paint you a woman in the style of Luis Royo, but the AI is not going to steal a Luis Royo painting. It’s going to make a brand new digital painting for you, in the style that you requested. Exactly as if a passionate fan of Royo goes through years of training, mastering the airbrush and mixed media to produce art that emulates their idol’s. Except that AI does that within seconds, and in digital format. The time spent on an artwork is what frustrates artists most, concerning AI. Some even trick themselves that it is the time spent on something, that gives it value… Newsflash: It’s not. Skills, medium and talent/experience are all at the service of The creative process and its end output.
It’s the IDEA behind your work, that elevates it to art status. Nobody cares (except maybe your mom) if you did it in one minute or in 3 weeks.
One can understand the frustration of people (especially digital artists) who spent years perfecting their craft, only to see AI replicate it in an instant. But after frustration, comes realization: What took us weeks and months to finish, we can now finish in hours. More business for us! So far, AI is not sentient, and if it ever becomes so, It’s our duty to stop it (but that’s another story).
Another normie misconception, is how easy it is to generate AI art. People who say that, have not gone deep enough into the AI rabbit hole. Anyone who went through the not-so-menial-task of locally installing Stable Diffusion, will tell you this: AI is not for everyone. Reading weekly updates on huggingface, watching daily tutorials covering Stable Diffusion’s multitude extensions and capacities, trying checkpoints, training LoRa models, studying prompts and embeddings, figuring out Deforum or Warpfusion scripts, and discovering the immense work being done by the AI community, is a world by itself. Same goes for the 3D-printing community.
Now let’s talk about the downside of AI… As it revolutionized the art and design landscape in 2022, It came with a massive caveat; art students born in the 2000’s discovered a tool for artistic expression that is so practical, it’s devilish. Why is it devilish, you might ask. Well because it comes with an insanely tempting proposition: The power to do what seasoned artists can do, with a simple prompt! How will an art student remain motivated to learn an actual art skill, like painting, sculpting, drawing or airbrushing, let alone a digital art skill like 3D modeling or animation? Where’s the advantage in today’s straight-to-instagram/straight-to-tiktok content-driven world, when a prompt can do it?
AI’s promise comes with a seriously dark side: The de-skilling of the new generation and its complete dependence on AI-generated art. What will be the percentage of Gen-Zers who will still go through the effort of learning a digital art skill or a traditional art skill? Our guess is .5% tops. The generation we’re part of, watched technologies replacing one another, as vinyl players got replaced by cassette players, then by CD players, then by digital files and now cloud files. TV sets became thinner, PCs became cheaper and faster… We learned traditional media, then digital media, and now AI-generated media. The Gen-Z and Gen-alpha did not get that opportunity. We hope they will be curious and motivated enough to dig into media and technologies that predated them; it doesnt hurt to diversify one’s artistic repertoire. Without electricity or internet, are you even an AI artist? Are you an artist at all?