This article is part of a two-part opinion series on AI-generated artwork published on behalf of the Computer and Technology Club. The companion article is available here.
AI art is art. There’s no asterisk, no need for further explanation, no ifs, ands, or buts. The history of art coincides with the history of technology, and all technological advances give rise to new art: whether that be methods of plotting perspective or suites of digital tools. Art has always been an arms race between the mastery of existing techniques and the development of tools that threaten to render that mastery obsolete. The only difference now is that AI generated images represents a larger technological leap than any of us are used to and many of us are comfortable with, but it’s a pale world that shuns art that forces us to question the status quo and only embraces that which brings familiarity and comfort. What we’re seeing now is a nascent art form, and the technology, as indistinguishable from magic as it seems, is still in its infancy. Those who are creating with it have barely dug beyond the thinnest layer of possibility. The earliest years of photography must have been received with similar criticism. “It’s too easy”, “The machine does all the work”, “It’s a neat trick, but it can never be art”. How many people jumped to the conclusion that photography was nothing more than an easy way to replicate existing art without any of the essence or soul of those mediums? And yet those who believed in the potential of photography persevered. They discovered the limits of the technology, worked out methods of effectively using it, and formalized an artistic language, not without regard prior artistic mediums, but unique to the form. Myopic as we are in this primordial era of AI it may be hard to envision the forms of art that will emerge but make no mistake there will be a day when art forms based on using AI will exist. In this moment it’s still a child still in the cradle, and whether you choose to be a nurturing parent or a resentful one, it will one day mature from an enfant terrible to a vibrant and fully realized art form. Balk if you must, but I, for one, would like to play my part in that process.