Artificial Impersonation: Why Generative AI Art is Not a Real Art

In the annals of art history, there have been many paradigm shifts that challenged the status quo and sparked intense debates about the nature and boundaries of art. The advent of photography in the 19th century, for instance, stirred a heated discourse about its legitimacy as an art form. Critics argued that photography, being a mechanical process, lacked the authenticity and emotional depth of traditional painting. Over time, however, photography carved out its niche, evolving into an accepted and respected medium of artistic expression.

Today, we stand on the brink of another significant shift as Artificial Intelligence (AI) enters the arena of art creation. The development of generative AI algorithms that can produce visually stunning pieces of art has been heralded by some as a revolutionary advancement in the creative realm. However, just as with photography in its early days, the entrance of AI into the art world has ignited a fiery debate. While many questions center around aesthetics, copyright, and value, the core question does not seem to get enough visibility. And that question is: can AI-generated art be considered real art?

While some some point of views, such one expressed in Ray N. Kuili’s The Dawn: Rise of AI series (story two, The Recluse of Santa Fe) tend to be nuanced, the simple answer to that question is, no it is not. Despite the aesthetic appeal of AI art and the undeniably sophisticated technology behind it, it lacks the fundamental elements that have defined and shaped our understanding of art for centuries. These include the intentionality of the artist, the authenticity of the work, and its ability to reflect human experiences and emotions. At its core, AI art remains an artificial impersonation, an echo of human creativity rather than a genuine artistic expression. Now let’s dive into details.

The Odyssey of Defining Art: A Journey Rooted in Humanity

The question of whether AI-generated art can be considered real art necessitates that we first wrestle with the often nebulous concept of what ‘art’ really is. This journey takes us through the meandering passages of human history, across different civilizations and epochs, each contributing its own interpretation and understanding of what constitutes art.

Art, since the dawn of civilization, has been a testament to human creativity and ingenuity. The early cave paintings in Lascaux, France, dating back to around 15,000 BC, weren’t merely decorative. They bore the mark of human hands, served as a record of life and survival, and were likely imbued with cultural and spiritual significance for their creators. This suggests that even at this early stage, art was a medium through which humans communicated their experiences, emotions, and beliefs.

Fast forward to ancient Greece, a civilization that greatly revered the arts. Works such as the marble statue of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, were not created merely for their aesthetic appeal. They were expressions of religious devotion, philosophical ideas, and societal values. Artists, like Praxiteles who is believed to have sculpted the Aphrodite of Knidos, poured their personal perspectives and societal influences into their creations.

In more recent times, the advent of modern art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries further broadened the horizons of what could be considered art. Artists like Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso broke away from traditional norms, creating works that were deeply personal and often abstract. Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ isn’t just a visually stunning image; it’s a window into the artist’s state of mind, an expression of his emotional turmoil. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, a powerful monochrome mural, was a political statement, a response to the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

These historical examples underscore that art is a manifestation of our consciousness, our understanding of the world, and our ability to reflect upon it. Artists create art based on their life experiences, emotions, and perspectives, infusing each piece with a part of their soul. Art, therefore, is not merely about aesthetics, but also about intention and emotionality, both of which are uniquely human traits.

In contrast, AI, as it exists today, does not have experiences or emotions. It does not possess consciousness or a worldview. The ‘creativity’ displayed by AI is a product of its programming and the data it has been trained on. It can mimic styles and techniques, but it lacks the intentionality and emotional depth that permeates human-created art. This stark difference brings into question whether AI-generated art can truly be considered real art.

The Machinery Behind the Canvas: Unraveling the Process of AI Art Creation

To better understand the distinction between human-created and AI-generated art, it’s crucial to peer behind the curtain and explore the mechanisms driving AI art creation. This journey takes us away from the familiar scent of oil paints and the tactile pleasure of clay, into the world of algorithms, data sets, and machine learning.

At the heart of AI art creation are algorithms known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which have revolutionized the field in recent years. GANs operate by simulating a sort of creative tug-of-war between two components: the ‘generator’, which creates new images, and the ‘discriminator’, which evaluates these images based on a set of training data.

Picture, if you will, an apprentice painter working under the critical eye of a master. The apprentice, akin to the ‘generator’, strives to produce works that mimic a specific style, be it the bold strokes of Impressionism or the dreamlike quality of Surrealism. The master, playing the role of the ‘discriminator’, critiques the apprentice’s work, pointing out where it diverges from the chosen style. Through this iterative process of creation and critique, the apprentice gradually improves, producing works that increasingly resemble the desired style.

In the case of GANs, the ‘master’ or ‘discriminator’ isn’t a seasoned artist but an algorithm trained on thousands, sometimes millions, of images. For example, when the AI artist ‘AICAN’ was used to create the artwork ‘Portrait of Edmond de Belamy’, it was trained on a dataset of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries. The ‘generator’ in AICAN used this data to create new portraits, while the ‘discriminator’ critiqued them based on their resemblance to the training data. The final product was an image that, at first glance, appeared to be a genuine, human-created portrait.

However, there’s a significant distinction that sets this process apart from the human artistic journey. In this AI-driven creation process, there’s no inherent ‘thought’ or ‘intention’ guiding the work. The AI doesn’t choose to paint a portrait or decide to convey a certain emotion or message through it. It doesn’t grapple with how to interpret the world around it or ponder on the best way to express its thoughts. Instead, it leverages patterns identified in the data it was trained on to generate outputs that can mimic the aesthetic qualities of human-created art.

While this process is undeniably impressive from a technological standpoint, it lacks the creative intentionality that is fundamental to the art-making process. The AI may produce works that are visually compelling, but it doesn’t imbue them with meaning or purpose. And it’s this absence of intentionality, this lack of a guiding ‘thought’ or ‘message’, that makes many question whether AI-generated art can truly be classified as real art.

The Question of Authenticity: Unmasking the True Self of AI Art

As we delve deeper into the debate about AI and its role in art, one stark aspect comes into focus – the question of authenticity. Authenticity in art is a concept as old as art itself, and it’s central to our understanding and appreciation of it. This issue becomes particularly salient when we juxtapose human-created art, with its rich tapestry of personal experiences and emotions, against the output of an AI, a construct devoid of personal consciousness.

AI art, despite its often stunning aesthetics, is essentially a reflection, an echo of the creative inputs it has been trained on. It’s akin to a highly skilled parrot that can replicate the sounds it hears with astonishing accuracy but doesn’t comprehend the meaning behind them. An AI trained on Monet’s works might generate paintings that, superficially, echo the luminous colors and fluid brushwork characteristic of his style. However, it’s merely imitating patterns it has identified in the training data, not expressing a personal response to a sunrise over a pond of water lilies.

Let’s take, for instance, the iconic painting ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch. This work of art is not just a striking image; it’s an embodiment of Munch’s psychological state, his feelings of anxiety and despair. It’s a visceral response to his lived experiences, a reflection of his inner world. This depth of personal meaning and emotional resonance is something that an AI, despite its computational prowess, is currently incapable of achieving.

Furthermore, the creative process that an artist goes through is much more than just the final output. It’s about the journey, the emotional and intellectual engagement with the work. It’s about the struggles, the moments of doubt, the breakthroughs, and the sense of accomplishment upon completion. Artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci poured years of their lives into their masterpieces, engaging in a labor of love that was fraught with challenges yet ultimately rewarding. This journey, which is an integral part of the artistic process, is something an AI does not and cannot experience.

In contrast, an AI’s ‘creative process’ is a series of calculations performed in a matter of seconds or minutes. It doesn’t wrestle with creative blocks, question its choices, or feel a sense of satisfaction when it generates a visually appealing output. This absence of a creative journey, of a struggle and an emotional engagement with the work, further dilutes the authenticity of AI art.

This lack of personal consciousness, of lived experiences and emotions, is perhaps the most glaring reason why AI-generated art, despite its aesthetic appeal, might fall short of being considered real art. It reminds us that while art is often about the visual end product, it’s equally about the intention, the emotion, and the journey behind it. And these are elements that, as of now, lie beyond the reach of AI.

The Conundrum of Authorship: Navigating the Maze of AI Art Creation

As we delve further into the world of AI-generated art, another key question emerges – who is the artist? The idea of authorship in traditional art is relatively straightforward: the artist is the creator, the individual whose experiences, perspectives, and intentions are reflected in the work. However, the waters become decidedly murkier when it comes to AI-generated art.

Is the artist the AI itself, which generated the artwork? This proposition seems challenging to accept. As we’ve discussed earlier, the AI is merely executing a series of computations based on the programming and data it has been fed. It doesn’t have experiences or emotions, nor does it possess a conscious intent to create. It’s more akin to a paintbrush, a tool that, while instrumental in the creation process, is not the source of the creativity itself.

Perhaps, then, the artist is the programmer, the individual who coded the AI and provided it with the training data? At first glance, this seems a more plausible argument. After all, without the programmer, the AI wouldn’t exist. They defined its capabilities, selected the data it was trained on, and initiated the generation process. They played a significant role in shaping the final output.

However, this perspective also has its limitations. While the programmer sets the parameters for the AI, they don’t have direct control over the specific output. They can’t predict what the AI will generate, nor can they infuse the work with their personal experiences or emotions. The AI’s output is, in essence, a product of probability and pattern recognition, not a reflection of the programmer’s inner world.

Another perspective to consider is that the real artists are the individuals who created the original artworks used to train the AI. This argument has some merit. After all, it’s the styles, techniques, and creative choices present in these artworks that the AI learns to mimic. Without these works, the AI wouldn’t have a basis for its creations. However, this perspective is also problematic. The creators of the original artworks didn’t intend for their work to be used in this way. Their creative intent, their personal message, isn’t accurately represented in the AI’s output.

This maze of potential authorship reveals a further layer of complexity in the debate about AI-generated art. It underscores the absence of a clear, individual creative voice in these works. This lack of a distinct artist, of a source of intentionality and authenticity, creates a sense of disconnect for the audience. It can reduce the capacity of the artwork to resonate on a deeper, more emotional level, thus further distancing AI-generated art from the realm of real art.

The Deluge Dilemma: How AI Art Overshadows Human Artists

One of the most profound concerns stemming from the rise of AI-generated art is the impact it has on human artists, particularly in terms of visibility and livelihood. In an already competitive art market, where many talented artists struggle to gain recognition and sell their work, the flood of AI-generated art adds a new layer of complexity.

As AI-generated art gains traction, it has the potential to oversaturate the art market. The sheer volume of AI art that can be produced at a rapid pace is mind-boggling. Unlike a human artist, an AI can churn out numerous pieces in a day, each one as visually appealing as the next. This abundance of AI-generated art can drown out human-created art, making it even more challenging for human artists to get their work noticed.

What’s more, the novelty and technological appeal of AI art can also overshadow the deeper, more emotionally resonant work of human artists. In a world fascinated by technological innovation, there’s a risk that audiences may be drawn to AI art simply because it’s the ‘new thing’, rather than due to an appreciation for its aesthetic or emotional value. This could skew the market dynamics, pushing human-created art to the sidelines.

Another concern is that AI-generated art could potentially undercut human artists in terms of pricing. Given the speed and ease with which AI can create art, it’s conceivable that AI-generated pieces could be sold at lower prices than human-created art. This could create an uneven playing field, where human artists struggle to compete economically.

This is not to say that AI-generated art doesn’t have a place in the creative landscape. Its ability to generate novel images and patterns can serve as a tool for inspiration, and its potential applications in areas like graphic design are vast. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the rise of AI art doesn’t come at the expense of human artists.

As we navigate the evolving intersection of AI and art, we must strive to maintain a balance. We need to create space for human artists to thrive, ensuring they receive the recognition and remuneration they deserve for their work. We must also educate audiences about the value of human-created art – its depth, its ability to connect with our emotions, and its reflection of the human experience.

In the grand tapestry of art, there is room for both human creativity and technological innovation. But it’s essential to remember that while AI can generate intriguing visuals, the heart of art lies in the human touch – something that no algorithm can replicate.

The Uncharted Future: Holding Fast to the Essence of Art in the Age of AI

As we stand at the intersection of AI and art, we find ourselves venturing into uncharted territory. The advent of AI-generated art has stirred up a tempest of questions and debates, challenging our fundamental understanding of what constitutes art. While some may appreciate the novelty and aesthetic value of AI-generated art, it is essential to reiterate the core argument of this article: AI-generated art cannot be considered real art due to its lack of intentionality, authenticity, and human connection.

Art has always been an evolving concept, reflecting shifts in societal norms, technological advancements, and our collective consciousness. From the breakthroughs of the Renaissance to the rebellions of modern art, our understanding of what constitutes art has continually expanded and transformed. However, in these historical examples, the core principles of artistic expression – human intention, experience, and emotion – have remained consistent, even as styles and techniques have evolved.

While AI-generated art may be a product of our technological advancements, it lacks these fundamental principles that have been the backbone of the art world throughout history. It’s crucial to recognize this distinction, even as we continue to explore the potential of AI in creative fields. Embracing AI-generated art as a distinct genre or a new frontier in creativity should not dilute the essence of what makes art ‘real.’

It’s important to maintain a clear distinction between AI-generated art and human-created art, recognizing that the two are fundamentally different both in their creation process and in the meaning and intentionality they carry. We must be vigilant in ensuring that the influx of AI-generated art does not overshadow or undermine the profound depth, beauty, and significance of human-created art.

Moreover, as we navigate this new landscape, it’s crucial to critically examine the ethical implications of AI art. Issues around authorship, intellectual property, and the use of other artists’ works for training data are just a few of the challenges we must address. The art world, in collaboration with legal and technological experts, needs to establish guidelines and regulations that ensure fairness, respect for original creators, and the preservation of the integrity of the art world.

One possible approach to address these concerns is to limit the use of AI-generated art in specific contexts or industries. For instance, AI-generated art could find its place in commercial applications such as advertising or entertainment, where the emphasis is on visual appeal rather than artistic depth and intention. By reserving the domain of real art for human-created works, we can ensure that the essence of art – as an expression of human emotion, experience, and consciousness – is preserved.

In conclusion, while the advent of AI-generated art presents an exciting and thought-provoking development in the art world, it is essential to remember that it cannot replace or replicate the intrinsic qualities that make art real. As we venture further into this new territory, we must approach it with open minds, critical thinking, and a deep respect for the essence of art. By maintaining a clear distinction between AI-generated art and human-created art, we can preserve the invaluable role of art as a reflection of our humanity, even as technology continues to advance.

In Conclusion

Despite appearances, content generated by AI can be a lot of things, but it’s most definitely not art. Lacking the intent and skill of the human behind it, the content generated by AI system is true only to the word “artificial”. A stick figure painted by a 3-year-old is much more of a work of art than an amazing fantasy painting produced by AI. Because when it comes to art, it doesn’t exist without an artist.

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