From Public Books:
“The artist no longer creates work,” proclaims cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer, “he creates creation.” Schöffer’s remark is often quoted to describe art installations made with AI. It appeals because it flatters a classical hubris. Our species esteems itself as approaching the divine, godlike in our crafting of artifacts that then act like us. His remark also points to a consequence of expanding who, or what, is capable of artistic creation: Who gets to be an artist? How to become one?
It is indeed tempting to attribute creativity to machines. Take, for example, artist Sougwen Chung’s mechanical “arm,” D.O.U.G. (Drawing Operations Unit Generation_X). This machine was trained on Chung’s unique strokes; it roves over her canvas in live performances, drawing and painting in responsive collaboration with her. Or consider the 3D “robot artist” Ai-Da, who sees with camera eyes and sketches with a robotic arm. Her website specifies that she “is not alive, but she is a persona that we relate and respond to.”
However much it seems that D.O.U.G. and Ai-Da make art, each project has a human artist at the helm, with her own artistic vision and the impulse to carry it out. Yet whether imitating creativity or engaging in true creation, these art-making objects subvert our usual understandings of the artist as a type of author and of creativity as a uniquely human power.
Art’s relatively recent intersection with AI exposes the paradoxes of authorship, creativity, authenticity, and agency. In fact, the distinction between human and machine creation, as revealed in new books by Joanna Zylinska and Mark Amerika, is merely an artifice. The divide between the natural and the artificial functions as a device we produce and maintain. The artist too is cast as an invention: something that gets created over the course of producing an artwork, instead of asserted at its source.
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[This] called to mind Aristotle’s quip that art is the imitation of nature: the attempt by human skill to approach an ideal. His definition shaped the Greek concept of techne, referring not only to technology (Technik) but also to the “artistic” and “artificial” alike. In the art of computer science, are computer programs and algorithms then artistic objects that mimic nature? And if those objects are used to make more art—say, because they emulate the brain—should we regard them as mere tools, or as artists themselves?
AI art consists of art made with AI techniques, that is, specially trained computer models whose low-level structure mimics that of a brain. An artificial neural network like GPT-3 “learns” the patterns between words, such that it can predict the next word in a sequence or produce whole poems or news articles, for example, in the style of inputted sample text. OpenAI’s DALL∙E series was trained on text-image pairs and generates images based on text prompts. True to its etymology, the new DALL∙E 2 often outputs surrealist compositions. Users can input unusual combinations of things and abstract concepts (for example, “Bengal cat brothers sipping espresso and ruling the world”) and receive a range of visualizations in the time it takes to sharpen a pencil.
The existence of this genre poses a particular challenge. It calls into question whether art and artistic creation belong solely to humans. Zylinska and Amerika take up the challenge and champion the viability of a posthumanist art theory that views nonhuman entities as potential sources of art just as humans can be.
Link to the rest at Public Books
PG has been reading various articles and items discussing artificial intelligence. He won’t bore anyone with ethical, legal or copyright implications of increasingly more powerful ai technology and systems, but more visually-oriented ai creative projects are more interesting for a wider segment of the world.
The following is taken from the website of DALL·E 2, which describes itself as a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. DALL·E 2 is a project of OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company.
Here’s an original painting that will be familiar to many, Girl with a Pearl Earring, an oil painting by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, dated c. 1665:
Here’s a variant created by an artificial intelligence program developed by DALL·E 2
And another variant
and a third variant.
In answer to questions that may be entering the minds of those who are reading this post, PG says that ai writing tools are also in existence and will be getting much better within a short period of time.