The Heart of the Android

Crews Varner
April 1, 2023

The arrival of mainstream artificial intelligence has been extremely quick, and like most new technologies, was commercialized very quickly. DALL-E 2 and ChatGPT have been the most popular recent additions to the armada of AI, but I remember when Tesla announced its first electric, almost fully-autonomous self-driving car in 2015. As a 15-year-old, I was ecstatic to see the beginnings of the future that cartoons showed me growing up. I began thinking of all of the possibilities of artificial intelligence and what boring tasks could be automated. Shoes that tie themselves? A lawnmower that cuts your grass for you? Taxes that do themselves? (Please?) Now, eight years later, AI seems to have gone in the exact wrong direction.

What happened here?

Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but a while back the arrival of artificial intelligence to save us from menial tasks was extremely hyped. I was especially excited to be living in such a time where technology seemingly made huge advancements overnight. Now, AI developers are being asked to slow down and "take a break." How did we get here?

In relation to the arrival of “AI Art” this past year, many creatives have expressed their discontent over such a concept for a couple of main reasons. First and foremost, AI art is theft. The generation of AI art involves taking artwork and images from the internet with or without the creator’s consent and then using that to create a new composition.

Now, AI art didn’t start this way. DALLE-2 began as technology that would attempt to create an image based on a text prompt alone. However, as others began using this technology and expanding upon its capabilities, soon users could download an app, upload a couple of selfies of themselves, and a few minutes later be greeted with hundreds of artworks that resembled them. Scary stuff from an artist’s perspective!

Once upon a time, artificial intelligence was genuinely exciting, but we’ve gone in the completely wrong direction with it. Neither the goal nor the result of AI should be to replace the jobs of hardworking people. It shouldn’t even replace hobbies. I believe AI should be treated as a tool, not as a worker.

So, what direction should AI take when it comes to art and design? And how can artists and designers adapt to the age of AI art?

Let me be clear, I’m no software engineer and I have pretty much zero clue how artificial intelligence is made. I can only give a humble designer’s perspective on this, so take it with a grain of pepper.

Even though AI art is still a ways off from replacing artists, every piece of art generated from these tin cans should probably have a label marking the image as AI art, and reusing and redistributing it should be illegal. The second part would be difficult to enforce, but the label would serve as a reminder of what these generations should be used for. AI art should, at most, serve as an inspirational guide to an artist. Perhaps an artist is having difficulty visualizing something that they want to create; AI can assist with that! Many different artists have their own opinion on AI art, but this is where I would draw the line for it. To be honest, art and design don’t really need to be touched by artificial intelligence at all, plenty of other areas of life could use that resource much more. However, this is as far as AI art should go.

Alright, so it turns out that software developers won’t meet our completely reasonable demands and the robots will continue to march forward. What now?

The paragraph before was a complete fantasy, it’s never going to happen. It would be nice, though. How can artists and designers prepare themselves for AI to become even more advanced and better at “creating” art? First, I would like to say again that AI art is still nowhere near the technical level of actual professionals in the art and design world. I’ve seen some companies foolish enough to use AI art for their promotional material on Twitter and Instagram and get shredded to bits by the comments making fun of them for very obviously using AI art. 99% of the time, it’s not hard to spot at all. However, even if AI art was actually good, I still believe humans can’t fully be replaced. AI can provide art, sure, but we can provide even more value than just a .png file. Offering design packages, guidance, and specific advice based on a project is something AI will likely never be able to replicate in our lifetimes, and that’s really only scratching the surface.

My point is this: AI is creating more problems rather than solving them. You would think computers exist to solve problems, but the dawn of the AI age has raised many technical, ethical, and security-related questions. What data should AI have access to? Is AI going to take my job? My wife left me, can I marry this robot? Etcetera. The proposed “AI summer” where the development of software past GPT-4 is prohibited is a good start, as it will also take time for society to adjust to this groundbreaking tech.

Fear not, fellow creatives, AI isn’t going to take our jobs. Will the creative industry be challenged by these new tools? Absolutely. I think it's just another It's important to keep in mind that the appeal of any artform is the fact that it was made by a human. Art completely misses the point if it's not humans sharing their experiences and thoughts with one another.