AI Generated Art & What it Means for Artists

Isabelle Ferris '24, Staff Writer

Everyone has their opinions about artificial intelligence in our world – some imagine it as an evil force that will inevitably turn against its creators and destroy the world. Others believe that since AI has made positive advancements in fields such as medicine, education, and transportation, it is ultimately a good thing. But what happens when AI makes its way into our own forms of human expression, like music and art?
A new development taking both the art and tech industry by storm is AI generated art. Platforms such as Midjourney and Night Cafe use AI to create beautiful art pieces, just from a human inputting a text description.

Recently, a man named Jason Allen created the artwork pictured above through Midjourney. His piece won first place in the Colorado State Fair, against other artists who used paint, clay, or other physical mediums to create the artwork they entered in the competition. Allen’s victory infuriated artists around the world; for even though he was transparent about the image’s origin, all he had to do to create his winning piece was enter some words into a textbox, and have the computer program do the rest. These AI-generated art platforms make it possible for amateur artists to construct complicated, realistic images. While that could be a fun tool to experiment with, using it to defeat artists who spent hours sculpting, painting, or drawing their art seems unfair to say the least. Archmere art teacher Ms. Rachel Van Wylen states “the art world has been disrupted by various technologies throughout the years . . . what’s important to ask is not just whether the technology is easier to use or makes new things possible, but whether the art itself is actually good. And, with that, comes another question – what does it mean for a piece of art to be good? Mere technical proficiency or are we looking for something more?” An aspect of art that could offer “something more” could be evidence of human skill, touch, and even error. If artwork is too perfect, and fully created by AI, save a few text commands, doesn’t that take away some of the wonder inspired by artists’ work?
AI generated art also poses a problem for artists who sell their art for a living. If anyone can just log in to Midjourney or DALL-E 2 and create their own masterpieces for a fraction of the price, what purpose would the creations of true artists have? If any member of the general population can generate beautiful artwork in seconds, couldn’t real artistry fade into the background just as quickly?
This is not the first time that AI has pushed humans out of their jobs. Countless factory jobs once done by humans have been replaced by robots. Art is no different. As AI is trained to imitate humans and surpass them in categories such as efficiency and speed, the necessity for humans to employ their own creativity and thinking decreases. In an interview with New York Times columnist, Kevin Roose, Allen himself made a particularly troubling comment. He declared that “art is dead, dude. It’s over. AI won. Humans lost.” It was a big mistake for humans to allow AI this victory over their own creativity and abilities. While artists like Jason Allen take advantage of it, AI generated art is here to stay, and will do more harm than good. AI generated art takes away the prestige that human artists once had for their talents. AI has leveled the playing field of artistry, making it possible for anyone to be a top-tier artist, corrupting the incredibility of pure, man-made artwork.