As artificial intelligence has been slowly becoming more and more of a mainstream term, there has been a question rumbling in the art community:
“Will AI replace creativity?”
It’s a fantastic question, to tell you the truth—and certainly shows what sorts of problems we’re wrestling with as a society in today’s day and age.
First, it’s important to consider what our definition of “art” is in the first place. A very broad definition within the art world would be, “Anything created by a human to please someone else.” That’s what makes something an art. In this sense, photography is an art. Videography is an art. Painting, music, drawing, sculpture, all of these things are done to evoke an emotion, to please someone else—created by one human, and enjoyed by another.
Artificial intelligence then has made its way into the digital art world in two stages.
Stage one: AI became a trendy marketing phrase used by everyone from growth hackers to technologists, with the intention of getting more eyeballs on their work, faster. So the term “AI” actually made its way into the digital art world faster than the technology itself, since people would use the term to make what they were building seem more “cutting-edge” than anything else in the space—regardless of whether or not it was actually utilizing true artificial intelligence.
Stage two: Companies saw the potential artificial intelligence had in being able to provide people (in a wide range of industries) with tools to solve critical programs. For example, we use data science at Skylum, to help photographers and digital content creators be more efficient when performing complex operations—like retouching photos, replacing backgrounds, etc. We use AI to make the process of creating the art more efficient, automating the boring or tedious tasks so that artists can focus more time and energy on the result instead of the process.
The next Mozart or Picasso won’t come from artificial intelligence. However, AI will change our definition of what defines “art” in the first place.
There’s a great article in Scientific American titled, “Is Art Created By AI Really Art?” And the answer is both yes and no.
It’s not that artificial intelligence will fundamentally replace human artists. It’s that AI will lower the barrier to entry in terms of skill, and give the world access to more creative minds because of what can be easily achievable using digital tools. Art will still require a human vision, however the way that vision is executed will become easier, more convenient, less taxing, and so on. For example, if you are only spending one day in Paris, and you want to capture a particular photograph of the Eiffel Tower, that day might not be the best day for your photo. The weather might be terrible, there might be thousands of people around, etc. Well, you can use artificial intelligence to not only remove people from the photograph, but even replace the Eiffel Tower with an even higher resolution (from a separate data set) picture of the tower—or change the sky, the weather, etc.
The vision is yours, but suddenly you are not limited by the same constraints to execute your vision.
What lowers the barrier to entry for artists is that you aren’t forced to learn the complexities of AI.
Digital art tools are built to make the process as easy as possible for the artist. If you consider the history of photography, as an art, back in the film days, far more time was spent developing film than actually taking pictures. This is essentially the “injustice” technologists are looking to solve. The belief in the digital art community is that more time shouldn’t be spent doing all the boring things required for you to do what you love. Your time should be spent doing what you love and executing your vision, exclusively.
Taking this a step further, a photographer today usually spends 20-30% of their time giving a photo the look and feel they want. But they spend 70% of their time selecting an object in Photoshop or whichever program they’re using, cutting things out, creating a mask, adding new layers, etc. In this sense, the artist is more focused on the process of creating their vision—which is what creates a hurdle for other artists and potentially very creative individuals to even get into digital art creation. They have to learn these processes and these skills in order to participate, when in actuality, they may be highly capable of delivering a truly remarkable result—if only they weren’t limited, either by their skills, their environment, or some other challenge.
So, artificial intelligence isn’t here to replace the everyday artist. If anything, the goal of the technology is to allow more people to express their own individual definition of art.
There may be more Mozarts and Picassos in our society than we realize.