Human Art is Dead
It's something I've been toying with myself over the past few weeks, and the larger philosophical discussion is what really interests me about it. What place will human artists have in a post-AI art world? Am I going to be automated away? Oh my god, is human art dead?!
As usual, anything AI related has kicked in the kind of existential dread that only humans can feel. Wait actually, they're making a new AI that experiences existential dread for you — so never mind!
I understand where all this fear is coming from, and I think it's somewhat justified. The issue with any kind of automation is that we're living in an era dominated by capitalism. Only a suit with no real understanding of art would look at AI art and say "we don't need humans for this anymore", and unfortunately, that's who has the power right now.
Let's look at the kind of art that AI art seems most poised to replace: generic commercial art. Yes, to an executive, AI produced art of some mecha military robot for the next Call of Battlefield: Medal of Warfare seems just as good as one created by a concept artist. But that attitude belies a certain amount of contempt for these kinds of artists.
An AI-created mecha military robot is NOT as good as one created by human concept artists. Whether you think their art is generic or not, those artists have a passion for their work. Their passion and influences fuel and inspire the team of people around them, who also presumably love these types of robot designs. They grew up watching Voltron, Ultraman, Transformers, RoboCop, Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, etc. Every artist and designer, no matter how generic and corporate, is chasing the feeling they got when they were first inspired to enter the industry.
Why is an AI worse than a human artist? Because they are not a human artist. They can't enthusiastically talk about their inspirations. They do not have a passion for what they do. They can't make art about their experiences. They are everybody, and so they are nobody.
Art is always about the people behind the art as it is about any other aspect. If it turned out that Hayao Miyazaki pushed a 'make a Ghibli movie' button and that's how Castle in the Sky was made, I would have no interest in it anymore. It would feel like something crucial was missing.
"Castle in the Sky in the style of Studio Ghibli"
If companies make a conscious effort to have say, a movie that uses purely AI-created designs, it's going to have a very mixed reception. Some people will praise it and say it is beautiful. Some people will condemn it as shallow and lifeless. And ultimately, I think the latter group will be proven right.
The excitement of AI art — being able to essentially photobash concepts and styles together — exists on a very surface level. The only way AI art will be able to succeed is as an aid to artists — not as a replacement — because that's the only way something AI-created will get close to the level of passion, influences, and experiences that go into human-made artwork, and it's the only way AI art will be fully accepted by humans.
I plan on using AI-generated artwork to supplement my own art, but only in very specific ways: rapid ideation and textures. And I suspect for most artists it will be the same — a limited application of the technology to cut down on tedious and annoying processes for a much faster workflow.
When trying to come up with visuals, AI art can give me a good starting point, something to use as a reference. For example, in the art below, I love how the "detectives" are existing in this abstract, multi-perspective space, and the shape language and textures it came up with are very interesting. As an example, I could create my own artwork, in my personal style, that takes cues from this, or other aspects of the image such as the colors it chose.
"Methods the detective competition, cartoon"
It would be really great if I could just grab whatever images I like from Google and use them as textures for 3D models. Unfortunately, a lot of the time there's an annoying watermark over it. AI art can offer me copyright-free images that I can use as textures. For example, I used Midjourney to generate several doll designs for Life of the Dolls. It was super convenient. A bit of Ian Hubert-y texture projection later, and they were ready to be placed in my 3d environment.
"Cloth doll, stitches, handmade"
But even these things — ideation and grabbing free textures — are things that would be so much better if done properly by humans. I'm losing out on quality over speed, price, and quantity.
This moment where AI art is on the rise is coinciding with a fatigue of the generic and corporate and a push for authenticity, specificity and personality. Which is exactly what AI art lacks. How these two trends collide will be interesting to see.
Those are my current thoughts on AI. It's an unpredictable technology, so my opinion may change over time. To sum it up, I don't think it poses an existential threat to artists, in the industry or otherwise, though there may be a short period where it will seem like it does. I see it as a more useful version of Pinterest.
I hope I was able to reassure you if this was something you were worrying about, and feel free to disagree with me in the comments.