AI or artificial intelligence is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately. A few years ago, AI gave us things like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, which are also known as conversational AI. But now, we see AI technology everywhere, even in art. So what is AI art? According to Artland Magazine, AI art is artwork generated by artificial intelligence; constructed through machine learning and data. 

Despite what you may have heard online, AI art isn’t all that bad. For starters, AI makes art accessible for anyone. We no longer have to spend a fortune on supplies or programmes to create art. With AI art generators like DALL-E, Dream and Craiyon making art, they only charge you one subscription fee of not more than $10, and it allows you to create unlimited images. Traditionally, we would have to spend money on art supplies like canvases, brushes and paint or even pay for editing programmes like Procreate or Photoshop. By using AI generators, art becomes a tool that anyone can use and we can create limitless images at almost no cost.

One of the best things about AI art is how easy it is to use. With the ease of AI, people with little to no artistic abilities are able to create masterpieces with a simple click of a button and a few prompts. All we have to do is key in words of an image we want to generate and BOOM a masterpiece in under 60 seconds. Just like that we can visualize anything from our imagination. Aside from creating artwork, AI is also able to expand an image, what this means is that AI is able to add backgrounds to inserted photos. If you have ever had photos where you wished you could get a little bit more of a scenic background? Well that’s one of AI’s specialties, using just a snippet of an existing image, these bots can generate an entire background to an image.  

                                                              Ally, who believes every cloud has a silver lining


It’s a no to AI art. Despite its convenience and supposed accessibility to artists and non-artists alike, it simply isn’t worth the possible death of creativity. The spiking popularity of AI art means an inevitable lessened appreciation for artists and their techniques. In time, the demand for artists and their skills may not even exist. When typing a precise prompt can yield multiple choices for selection, what’s even the point of paying a large sum of money to get a piece of art? As for prospective artists, why invest time, money, and effort learning how to create as a career when it isn’t even sought after and appreciated?  

Let’s take it one step further. In a world without artists and human-created artwork, what a world it would be! Existing art would be sampled to the point where some day no more new combinations can be made. Art styles will become so similar due to the AI’s limited sources to pick from, becoming dull and uninspiring. Art would be fully computer-generated, losing any intimacy and soul it once possessed. Would it take the death of illustration as an art form for us to recognise the value of artists and their capabilities?  

Art is more than technique and expertise. It is also an amalgamation of the artist’s experiences, memories, emotions and creativity. AI art may be capable of creating varied works of art at a rapid speed, but it comes at the cost of becoming shallow, pretty pieces devoid of any true emotion. The creation process is one that is beautiful and sacred, with many artists devoting large stretches of time to the process. The loss of that would be devastating for the world. In this horrifying scenario, human-created artworks would become rare and precious, with many artists fearing to share their work in fear of having it stolen from them. It may be a possibility for museums, private collectors and art galleries to bank in on this opportunity to limit access to only the wealthy and elite. A world like that would capitalise on public artworks and place restrictions on privately owned pieces. In the end, it could very well signify severely reduced accessibility to art.

Humans love things that are fast and convenient, and while technological advancements should be praised, there should be limitations on it to promote ethical use of such technology. AI art is nothing but plagiarism as it is unable to come up with anything new on its own, and a lot needs to be done to ensure no one is being taken advantage of. 

Jia Xuan, who believes that there has to be some better use for AI than this

When it comes to understanding the utility that AI art provides, it is inevitably going to swing in favor of it. I mean, how can we refute the speed and efficiency at which these AI programmes like Dall-E Mini or Midjourney? I don’t think we will ever be able to refute that, however, one thing that gets lost in the broader discussions about AI art beyond just whether or not AI art can be considered ‘real art’ or not, is the protection of the artists and creators. 

Let’s see it from their perspectives, you’ve spent your entire life devoting yourself tirelessly to a passion that everyone around you actively discourages, whether because of financial stability or the societal perception pushing the narrative that these career paths will never pan out. You spend decades honing your craft and producing countless art pieces that often receive little or no recognition despite pouring your heart and soul into it, only for an AI to scoop up your magnum opus and feed it into their databanks, just for it to be processed and reproduced in similar ways alongside the artworks of various other artists.

I believe the real issue that should be prioritized regarding the ethics of AI art is whether or not the artists are able to gain the necessary recognition that they deserve seeing as it’s their work that’s being repurposed for mass production for use by the general public. I think it’s important to make considerations for the artists whose work is being used, otherwise it’s no different to exploitation. These artists spend decades chasing success and recognition that they’re getting robbed of, and it’s important to protect that. At the end of the day, ethics should always seek to protect those who stand to lose the most even at the benefit of others, we have to make sure that these companies appropriately credit each individual artist whose work enables these programmes to function as well as they do.

Ethan, who believes that progress should never come at the expense of others

The concept of AI art, to many, symbolizes the future of art’s potential. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes art “more accessible” to those who aren’t “born with natural talent.” However, what defenders of AI art (as it is now) aren’t acknowledging is the fact that art has never just been for those select few hand-picked by God to embody the mystic talents of artists. Art has always been about expression – about communicating feelings that just won’t escape you in the right way when you’re trying to say them out loud. Ask any artist – regardless of talent, all of them will tell you that the best way to get good at art is to just wholeheartedly love and keep making art. So, to dismiss all that by just claiming that artists are “gatekeeping” a tool that “makes it so that everyone can make art” is to acknowledge that you don’t understand what art is in the first place – because everyone already can make art. Even if you’ve never even picked up a pencil, even if all you’re capable of drawing is a couple feeble stick men – you can already be considered an artist!

And, no – typing in a prompt into an AI art generator does not make you an artist. Otherwise, all 4.3 billion of Google’s users would probably be qualified for art school by now.

More importantly, with the growing commodification of art, AI art only contributes towards the exploitation of artists. Putting all the corporate use of AI art and the dwindling job opportunities for artists aside, no one can deny that AI has a serious ethical problem when it comes to crediting artists. It isn’t at all like the human brain, where one can take inspiration from others’ art and adapt it to their own style – AI art directly copies art from several different artists and blends it together into an amalgamation of whatever the prompt desires. The most obvious example of this is how artists’ watermarks, directly copied from their original work, often ironically end up appearing in AI-generated pieces. The worst part is – all of this is often done without the artist’s consent. Sites like Midjourney and OpenAI never compensate artists for the data training done on art pieces that they may have spent days, or weeks, working on; nor do they ever think to even get permission to use all the stolen work.

One could argue that it’s an issue with the sites, sure, but the AI art community often prides themselves on all this exploitation – with some “AI artists” (and take the word ‘artist’ here with a serious grain of salt) even submitting to art competitions with AI-generated work, taking the opportunity of success and compensation from artists that actually put in the effort to create art.

Truth is, I’m not even against AI art as a whole. As an artist myself, I find that using AI to generate prompts can actually be useful as a complementary tool to other artists – using it as inspiration for things like character modeling or background design. However, with the way it is now, feeding off of the exploitation of artists, with a community that’s mostly focused on commodifying art and making it something thoughtless and easily consumable – all I can do is hope that the appropriate legal measures are taken against websites like OpenAI for their blatant theft from other artists, and that reforms in the AI art community are soon to come. 

Natalie, who believes that capitalism is going to be the death of art someday

Written by: Ally, Ethan, Natalie, Jia Xuan

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