A few weeks ago, I received a text message from one of my most tech-savvy friends. The message described how he was exploring Stable Diffusion, an AI art generator and found my work in the database as well as the fact that my artistic style was something that the AI could replicate. He sent me some photos of the AI-generated works based on my style, and while they weren’t exact replicas of my work, they indeed did have similar lines, colors, and even energy. One of them even looked to have my signature on it. He thought this was cool that I had such a distinctive artistic style that AI could replicate it, and suggested I might use AI-generated artwork as a creativity tool. Let’s just say I had an entirely different reaction: anger, feeling my work was stolen, dismay, astonishment, and shock, to name a few. In the weeks that followed, I educated myself about these new tools, found out how they work, tested a few, and began to meditate deep implications of AI tools. So in today’s post, I will explore the challenges that AI poses not only to human creativity but also to our ability to express and connect with the deepest parts of ourselves.
2022 is the Year of AI
2022 is the year of AI–this is the year that a variety of AI tools have matured and gone mainstream. From rudimentary tools available a year ago to multiple tools available now which are much more complex and realistic, AI is taking the Internet by storm. A wide variety of AI generators have been released this year–you can now get AI to write a variety of texts for you (poetry, literature, blog posts, marketing text), AI can produce extremely high-quality digital art, AI can compose original compositions and works of music…it seems like AI can do pretty much anything you can do, but better and faster. This is always the way with machines–they are more efficient and require less work on the part of humanity, but at serious costs.
With a click of a button, any person regardless of skill level can generate a variety of arts–new texts, stories, artwork, musical compositions, and so much more. Sounds efficient and simple, and that’s how they are advertised. Look at Jasper Art’s website, which says “your AI creative sidekick turns your imagination into unique images and amazing art in seconds” or Stable Diffusion, which is another AI art generator, claims to be “AI by the people, for the people” and that they create tools “that will let us reach our potential.” But actually, that’s not what these AI-generated works are doing–as this post will describe. They are not helping you be more creative–they are taking away your creativity. They are not supporting your imagination, they are replacing it. They will not help you reach your potential–they will prevent you from even beginning. And they are not democratizing art–they are stealing artists’ work. What these AI art generators are really doing are stripping human beings of their imagination, their ability to create, their ability to hone a skill over time, and the intrinsic benefits that creative processes invoke.
Before we get any further, let me give my own background and why I am qualified to speak on issues of creativity. First, I am a published learning researcher who has spent nearly 20 years understanding how people develop as learners over time; I have 40+ peer-reviewed scientific articles on learning theory that focuses primarily on writing and long-term writing development. As part of this body of work, I have systematically studied the spiritual impact of creative art practices (through my 2018 Mount Haemus study; also through a forthcoming peer-reviewed scientific article in Pomegranate: An International Journal of Pagan Studies on creativity, learning theory, and spiritual practices). I am also an artist myself, and have practiced several art forms for the last 18 years and have worked with art as a spiritual practice (see my Instagram @druidsgardenart). I also belong to druidry, a spiritual tradition that honors creativity as a spiritual practice. In the druid tradition, we recognize the concept of “awen” which is the divine or creative inspiration that we get when deeply engaged in creative works. Thus, we have many strategies to cultivate, explore, and express ourselves creatively through channeling awen. As a leader in the druid community, I have mentored and supported new druids in taking up creative practices. All of these experiences have given me some unique insights into human creativity and why it is so critical to ourselves.
The Loss of Creative Benefits and Emphasis on the Product
One of the big problems with any mechanization, including AI-generated arts, is that it takes away the process of creation. In other words, if we can program a machine to do it for us, we no longer have to do it for ourselves. This is the basis of modern industrialization, and while sometimes this has real benefits (I do not really want to wash my laundry by hand), in certain domains, it completely takes away the experience of creating–which is where the benefits come in. What an AI-generated piece of art does is strip a human being of the process of creation. To create AI-generated art, you put your terms or inputs into the AI generator, and the AI generates creative works. Perhaps you like it or perhaps you don’t, so you refine your terminology or inputs and keep on tweaking till you get a piece of art you like. This practice of refining inputs is not an act of creation–this is an act of programming a machine. So when you do this, what exactly do you lose?
Creativity is one of the things that allows us to express ourselves as human beings. The act of creation is incredibly powerful for us as a tool for self-expression, idea generation, experiencing flow, and connecting with the world around us. Let’s now consider some of the main benefits:
Learning and deepening understanding through the act of creation. The act of a human being creating is itself the most powerful generator of creative ideas and thinking. In writing studies (my professional field) we have over 50 years of research demonstrating that people learn and grow their ideas as they write (we call this writing to learn). That is, the act of creation itself helps us generate new thinking, novel ideas, and innovation in powerful ways. I’ve seen this both in my own work as a writer and artist and in multiple studies I’ve conducted–you often have one idea or vision going into a piece, and the act of creating that piece deepens your vision or purpose, sometimes in very unexpected ways. What is fascinating about this body of research is that we know that it happens primarily through the act of creation. In other words, you get more new ideas when you create than when you only think about creating. If you don’t engage in that process, you don’t get the benefits of new ideas and deeper insights.
Experiencing the flow state. A second major benefit of the act of creation is the flow state. Flow is an extremely powerful experience that has similar benefits to meditation. When people are creating and entering a flow state, they become very deeply immersed in their work, losing track of time, having calmness and focus, and feeling really refreshed at the end of their experience. Flow states are a powerful creative tool and one that many people seek to cultivate–it literally helps us balance our emotions, heal, and balance ourselves. This is part of how creative practices can heal and balance us.
Healing and Expression. Many of the druids in my study of the bardic arts spoke of the critical importance of creative works for their own healing, self-expression, and even stability in the world. Creative arts was a place they retreated into in order to process their emotions, to heal from trauma, to make sense of the world around them, and to find a way of bringing balance into their lives. This is also well documented in the scientific literature and is another intrinsic benefit of creation–and I’ve shared a bit more about this from a spiritual perspective here.
Personal Unique Expression. Another benefit of the act of creation creating is developing one’s personal unique expression in the world. This is one of the things that makes us both uniquely human and unique among humans. If you sat four musical composers down and asked them to look at a beautiful valley and compose a song, those would all be uniquely different and tied to their own creative selves. You can literally create–with time and skill–anything that you can envision in your mind. You can cultivate a unique style and technique that is yours alone. In a culture where everyone is meant to buy the same things, think the same way, and where we literally have laws that prevent us from living in different ways–this is an incredible gift. Using AI-generated arts strips you of this opportunity to express yourself as only you can.
Living in an inspired world. When you engage in creative practice, it allows you to see the world in a different way. You are constantly walking through the world and seeing what sparks new creative ideas. Maybe its the way that the leaves are blowing from the tree, or the way the sunlight comes over the hill, or a wonderful conversation that you just had with a friend. Maybe it is someone else’s creation that you then respond to in turn. This allows you to see the world through the lens of your art, which offers great benefit to you and to your interaction with the broader world.
Creativity as a spiritual practice. For those in the druid tradition and in other traditions, creativity is even more of a sacred thing, as we see it as tied to our spiritual practice. That is, the act of engaging in the flow state, in creating new things, in finding one’s inspiration in the living earth–these are all spiritual practices for us. For druids, it is not so much the end creation but the act of creating itself–the process of creating–which can not only offer us joy and satisfaction but also help us work through our darker natures. These things all
This list offers just some of the individual benefits of engaging in the creation of any art form–music, poetry, songwriting, painting, wood carving–as a creative practice. These benefits are not small things–for many people in my various studies and for myself, they are literally how we interact with the world. If we allow AI to create for us, we cut out the process of creation, and we lose access to all of these incredible benefits.
Cultural Myths and Honing Skills
One of the reasons that I think AI-Generated Art is so popular stems from a variety of problematic cultural narratives that AI-companies are using to their advantage. In other words, these companies and programs prey upon people’s fears and struggles in a culture that discourages people from taking up creative practice. That is, regardless of what we know about how creative practices work, and why they are so beneficial, these cultural narratives can really hold dominance–and it is why AI-generated art is being so fully embraced by the broader population.
One of these cultural myths is the “myth of talent.” I get this all the time as an artist, and I’ve seen it repeatedly in my participants in research studies. This is also reflected in psychologist Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset theory. The myth of talent is the idea that if you aren’t good at something immediately when you start, you’ll never be good at it–so why bother? This myth says that people either have talent or they don’t–your skills and abilities are fixed. Learning research shows again and again why this is inaccurate, but modern educational systems create people who are afraid to fail (because in educational systems, failure has real consequences) and thus, reinforce the idea that art is a gift or talent, not something anyone can do. The truth is that very few people are good at something when they start to create–and part of the joy of honing and learning a skill is seeing your improvement over time (see my own progression as an artist here). But if you have been culturally primed to believe you aren’t creative and skilled and never will be, then it feels like these kinds of creative works are out of reach. Then, AI-generated art seems like a good idea.
A second cultural myth has to do with capitalism and the need to engage in activity that generates money. If you are still developing your skills in some art form, people will often tell you “don’t quit your day job.” If you have spent a great deal of time developing your skills, then the language changes to “you should sell your work.” When creations are always framed in terms of capitalism, it can be challenging to allow that long process of building your skill level to happen. When we add AI-generated art to the equation, suddenly you can bypass all of this learning and simply click a button and produce art. That’s such a capitalist, efficient thing to do.
A third cultural value, which I’ll explore in the next section, is the myth of efficiency. Tied to capitalism, it is the idea that we should be efficient in our production, not waste time. In western culture, the more efficient a thing is, the better. The long hours of practice in order to develop a skill are contrary to this myth. Thus, if you can click a button and produce something that would otherwise take you years to develop the skill for–that’s a great thing, isn’t it?
The truth is this–human beings are extraordinarily good at learning new things, adapting, and honing our skills over time. Every single one of us can learn a creative practice, and with time, patience, the right tools, and good instruction–become very competent at our craft. In doing so, we gain all the benefits I shared above, and we get to hone our skills in a variety of ways. Dedicating oneself to learning an art form can make you a better human being, in a variety of ways including:
- Learning how to learn from your mistakes
- Learning how to turn mistakes into successes
- Self-determination and perseverance
- Thinking for yourself, including planning and executing a vision
- Honing our five senses including observation, listening, taste, smell, touch (depending on the art form; for example, as a visual artist I have a keen sense of observation and have been taught to observe minute details of things to depict them)
- Honing our ability to think and reason (especially with written words)
- Honing or physical dexterity and fine motor skills
- Allowing us to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in our work
- Being able to share this craft with others who want to learn
- Offering unique expressions and gifts to a community, in response to that community
On an individual level, these creative arts allow us to be our best human selves. On a cultural level, they enrich our communities. Every culture on the planet has produced art as part of being human, and every culture has had its own unique expressions. AI offers us none of these things, and in fact, the use of AI-generated art forms strips us of our ability to hone ourselves and grow in these many ways.
The way that AI works is that AIs are fed billions of inputs into a large, complex database. Some of these literally contain most of the information available on the internet–all of human knowledge. From that, the AI “learns” and then eventually, with enough complexity, can generate unique things based on that database and input. But where does the database come from? It comes from human creations–billions of them. In the US, for works like poetry, visual art, and music, the artist copyrights their artwork unless they give that copyright up (which might be uploading it to a certain social media platform, offering creative commons licensing, or putting it in the public domain).
Stable Diffusion made the mistake of releasing their process for how they created their database and talked about how they drew images from major art sites such as Pintrest, Deviant Art, etc. In other words, they took people’s copyrighted art without their permission, put it in their database, and then used that copyrighted work as the basis for the AI’s “original” creations. Thus, these AI programs are being accused of theft of artwork, which is exactly the circumstance that I described in my opening to this post.
Thus, while these AI tools claim to be democratizing forces that allow all people to be creative–that’s not what is happening. They are literally stealing billions of human creations to build their technology. This technology is absolutely built on the backs of existing creators while also threatening those creators’ livelihoods. In talking about the entire AI situation with a loved one, one thing he said really struck me, “It’s not that it took your specific work, rather, it reached into the soul of your work.” Even as I post this here–with some new artistic creations I’ve painted in the last two weeks to offer visual decoration for the page– I wonder, how long will it take for an AI crawler to come in and steal my work? Can I ignore that it hasn’t happened? Can I not let that change my own relationship with my work? And how do I handle the feelings that this evokes? What do I do to protect myself?
So when you click that AI program and start generating “unique” images–they are being generated on the backs of people who have spent a lifetime in honing their skill. They are probably often generated by people who are professional artists, who are trying to make money from their works, and for whom livelihood is threatened. These artists did not give the AI company permission to use their work, but their work is being used all the same.
Humanity, the Myth of Progress, and the Machine
Finally, let’s dig into a bit broader of a cultural narrative and history to understand how AI-generated art, and AI in general, is part of the same worn-out progress narrative that is currently killing our planet and stripping humans of the opportunity to be independent, autonomous, and fully realized people. I see AI-generated content is just the latest iteration of the myth of progress and the industrialization of the world, a movement that has been going on for three centuries.
The rise of industrialization essentially took individual skilled human labor and traded it for factory life and unskilled labor. In the name of efficiency and progress, starting three centuries ago, human beings–who were entirely self-sufficient–began having their labor replaced by machines in factories that could do it faster and more efficiently, but not necessarily better. The result of this three centuries later is that modern human being living in Western society depends on that society for nearly everything: they cannot produce their own food, shelter, clothing, or warmth. They cannot take care of themselves. Their identities are completely determined by the clothing they buy, the brands they associate with, and what they consume. They are less free than nearly all of their human ancestors, in that they are bound to the system because it sustains them. Compare this to our ancestors even a few centuries back who were entirely skilled at attending to all of their own needs (they had to be or we wouldn’t be here), and we can see how little skills we have to provide for our basic needs compared to our ancestors.
Perhaps this wasn’t an issue on anyone’s radars before the pandemic, but I think the pandemic has shown just how fragile the global systems upon which most of us depend are. And how perhaps, it wasn’t such a great trade to literally trade our ability to take care of our needs for whatever so-called benefits we get from it.
As time and technology increased in the beginning of the industrial age, laws and social movements forced people off their land and into factories and cities. Old ways of life, close to the land, where you depended on the land for your needs, were lost as people transitioned to this new way of living. Now, industrialization has woven its way into every aspect of our lives, from food production to clothing to transportation. Industrialization fosters disconnection–now we don’t know what the impact of our consumption is because we are entirely removed from it. And as we know–this current way of life is killing our planet. The three centuries of “progress” is currently causing the 6th mass extinction on this planet, putting all life at risk–including human life, and making all of us very sick, unhappy, and unhealthy. It is obvious that this narrative has failed, and the vision behind this narrative has failed, and there are a lot of us working hard to put something better in its place.
I see the rise of AI as simply another version of this old and tired narrative. While industrialization, materialism, and consumerism have turned people into unskilled consumers, now a new form of machine, AI is threatening to strip us of what makes us most human–our creative gifts.
Perhaps this section is a bit radical for you, but I ask you to pause and think: what will happen to human beings and our communities when allowing machines to do all of our creation for us? What does that leave us with that makes us uniquely human? Are we shifting into just another form of consumer identity, to the point where the very foundation of human-ness, our creative gifts and resilience–is being co-opted by a machine? What is left other than consuming?
I’m not going to stop the tide of AI here on my little corner of the internet. But what I hope I’ve done is give people some pause to think about how this so-called fun and innocent programs are really problematic. I have watched so many people embrace this technology without a single thought as to the ethics of it, the impact on others, or the impact on themselves.
One of the things that really saddens me is what people will lose in embracing AI-generated arts. How many people will think this technology is wonderful, that with a click of a button, they generate whatever they want, without ever knowing what they are giving up? What saddens me is that it is entirely possible that entire generations of people will never know what it means to hone one’s craft to the point where they can create exactly what is in their own minds–and the joy of the first time that happens. They will never know the deep peace and tranquility that comes through getting deeply immersed in the flow state when you are creating. I hope that this post has given you some food for thought, and before you go out and start generating new works using AI, consider what you–and others–are losing in the process.
Also, for those who are in the druid tradition, AI-generated arts produce another kind of very serious problem. In fact, I’d argue that AI-generated art is the antithesis of what we are attempting to accomplish in the druid tradition. AI-generated arts cut us off from one of the core parts of our tradition–the inspiration and experience of the flow of Awen in our lives and the power that cultivating these creative gifts offers as a spiritual practice. Thus, please tread carefully.
PS: I originally had this in my post but decided to append it to the end, as it took me off the topic of creative arts and AI. Multiple articles have come out in the last five years that suggest these AI tools are anything but benign; some even suggest that Ai may be one of the greatest threats to humanity. New research from teams literally building AI suggest that AI work in novel ways that programmers cannot expect when engaged in complex decision making, which means AI are not controllable or predictable. Alarms have been sounded by many, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, about the potential dangers of AI. In other words, the issues with AI go well beyond the creative arts.
Thank you for this post! I agree with every single word you wrote. This Al-Generated Arts is just madness, and like you I feel anger and sadness, and the urge to scream wake up.
Sandrine from France
Hi Sandrine, thank you. How have you been coping with it?
Well said! As a former Commercial Artist -Retired, Everything we did, meant we had Creative ART skills. Implementing tools such as drafting table, T-squares, triangles, rapidographs, color separations, 35 mm Cameras, dark rooms to process our photographs etc. Just an example of the skill needed to produce ART for advertising… Keep creating!
Thank you for sharing! 🙂
This was very well written and I totally agree I feel this is just the beginning of it all tho. May I copy a portion of this essay to share on Facebook?
Sure, you can share the post! I also have it shared on my page if you want to share from there: https://www.facebook.com/druidgarden
i will be reading the whole piece in its entirety. that said, the initial skim i did and i am giving you a standing ovation 👏🏼
this is such an important message for today. the more i read and learn about various practices in capitalism, the more I appreciate the Luddites. and various other protests movements throughout history.
i have been learning about permaculture over the years while also learning the path of the druid, which you appear to have been combining in your spiritual practice. one thing i have learned in these past few years is that the best learning is actually getting your hands dirty, either with paint or dirt, and actually doing.
i am full of gratitude for you and the work you are doing. i have came across you, due to listening to Druid Wisdom with Dave and Keara. such a welcome addition to my life.
Thank you for your comment! Yeah, I think that’s it. All of industrialization, any form, including this new one, strips us of our own ability to do things for ourselves. To create a “generalist” perspective (Wendell Berry talks about this extensively in The Unsettling of America) where we are capable of doing a lot of different things competently. This whole AI-art issue is just another way in which our power and skill is being stripped away.
So go, get covered in paint and dirt, and never look back! (I just got back from a 3 hour gardening excursion harvesting pumpkins and transplanting winter crops into the greenhouse! Now I’m going in the art studio. Paint + dirt, haha!)
Yes, Yes and Yes !! Thank you, Dana, for thoroughly and articulately addressing this issue. I have grave concerns about the mass push towards all things AI. Social media has already taken such a toll on most peoples’ creativity, and I’m sure most people are not even aware of it. I have shared your blog to my friends, and my page. Many blessings!
The popularity of AI art is heartbreaking. I know people are having fun, but also know there’s an inherent sadness driving that “fun” – the sadness that comes from longing to create. AI art is like a Rave, lots of endorphins, but a hard & lonely recovery after.
Thanks, Kim! My issue is–its great you are having fun, but you are having fun at someone else’s expense and depriving yourself of the joy of creation. It saddens me.
I agree completely with your viewpoint. One thing that occurred to me is the possibility that the increasing popularity of AI created “arts” will cause further cuts to art budgets in public schools. This will be a great loss to children who will be forced to deal with relentless STEM education. Of course, science and math are important, but they aren’t everything. It seems like sometimes STEM classes are valued more than the arts which are the programs to go first when money gets tight. If AI can create then why “waste” time having children make art themselves or waste time studying great works of art or literature? The move to AI feels like a threat to humanity. Thank you for your article.
Oh my….I didn’t even think about this at all. There are already so many threats to the humanities–the things that make us human. This is absolutely one more…which saddens me.
This is really excellent, thank you Dana. I see sweaters in my mind’s eye and then knit them up, following the pattern in my mind. Same with quilts. And it makes me sad when people tell me, Oh, I could never do that, I need a pattern! Free your mind and just go with it. I find AI really scary, my one thought is we possibly don’t have enough remaining energy left to let it take over the world. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I mourn our lost world, but am energized by reading your blog posts. Thank you.
Hi Heather! Free your mind, indeed! Thanks for sharing your creative process and thoughts. I also am mourning, and I hope more of us may realize what all this means.
Excellent post! I appreciate the time and creative intellectual labor you put into this blog. I became very fired up reading this and I am very glad to have your teaching points to guide me. I hope to find tangible ways, beyond how I live my life, to show my protest to the march of AI in our society. 🌿
Hi Suzanne, Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad that you are fired up! We need more people fired up about this. I feel like humans are too quick to say “oh, shiny new tech” without really thinking of the implications of it.
Serving our Lord — fulfilling our purpose and potential — is performed by thought, word, and deed of the lord within the body temple; it is the ordained purpose of the lord within the body-temple to serve the Lord-of-lords.
Thereby, the continuum of heaven, whence cometh truthful triune design and control, and the kingdoms of the earth, manifesting their ‘coat-of-many-colours’, are unified in consciousness.
In the ‘experimental state’ of mankind, where consciousness in and of the Tree-of-Life was sacrificed to the temptation of the tempter, human-consciousness of the body-temple – the ‘me’, or ego-identity – has been, and still is beguiled by the tempter.
The tempter doesn’t work directly through the male-aspect of the body-temple because it’s easier to work through the female-aspect of body-temple. Mankind, unconscious of the kingdom-of-the-lord within, caused its positive male and negative-female realms to lose their polarity in the lord.
Conditioning of children begins in prenatal gestation, and continues through the stages of the maturing-process, unless the pattern of control-by-knowledge is relinquished — “get thee behind me” — as demonstrated by Jesus.
Otherwise, our potential creativity is eclipsed by the clever-mind, through artistic emotional expression, whereby the ego is besotted by its creation; the subtlest form of image-worship. Idol, or image-worship, is what first beguiled Eve, the emotional-realm of man, resulting in certain death.
We can see how easily Eve was beguiled “thou shalt not surely die!” Death had not yet been experienced by the first couple, and Eve had no idea what it would mean to die, to separate oneself from the Source-of-Life. All you gotta to do is give the fruit a try! Eve did, Adam followed, they died.
The triune realm of man – heart, mind, and body – is designed and evolved, gestated and matured by life, for the Triune Ray of God to manifest heaven-and-earth, through our connecting morphic-field medium of consciousness, symbolised by water.
This outlines the cause-of-death, by which religions, cultures, and traditional education has sustained the illusion of knowledge-empowered potential, which has lured mankind into the pursuit of happiness and self-fulfilment, but, contrary to hope, is the path to slow, but certain suicide.
It can be reversed, if a person – no matter how immersed in their own treasured belief-system – is willing to use their mind-capacity to understand in logic and reason with their lord, our purpose in life, whence we originate right in the present moment, and where we wakefully belong.
Thank you for your comments, Peter! Always nice to hear form you.
Wonderful and important article. I strongly agree with your observations!
Thank you, Waterandsometimessteam! 🙂
Oh, so relevant! I am a card-carrying ‘Luddite’ where tech is concerned. The big question is: What happens when the power goes out? (and it will…)
Yeah. I have dyslexia, and what I’ve found is that as technology has increased, it becomes more and more difficult for me to access and use it effectively. Interfaces grow more complex and change frequently. Two-step authentication with the 10 seconds to put in the code…makes it really hard to navigate! So I’m right there with you!
So many feelings as you described the messages from the tech friend – shock, horror, disgust, outrage. The things I’d heard about AI art prior to this post gave me a deep sense of unease, and the heartbreak from learning of the theft aspect here seems to justify that unease.
It feels like Western society is stuck in one part of a cycle: consume. We entrench in ‘consume’ at the expense of ‘connect’, ‘release’, and ‘transform’, it seems.
Thank you for putting your time & energy into this post. It has inspired me to judge myself less & create more.
Judge less, create more. Exactly. :).
I couldn’t agree with you more.
I really appreciate your writing Dana. What an excellent essay. I agree completely with your sentiments. Creativity is not merely about the end product, it is primarily about the process of creation. When I paint or write, I somehow feel I am tapping into a deep well of power. It’s an amazing feeling of connection. To something in me, to something in every human and in every living being. AI and the machine world on the other hand are all for disconnection.
Yes! That’s such a great metaphor for thinking about creativity–a “deep well of power.” We are connecting to our spirits, our souls, our subconscious–and the spirit of all which is around us.
Thanks so much for your comment and for reading! 🙂
Agree with 99% of your writing – especially the commodification of art as a product of western capitalism.
I am an AI engineer, though, and one part that I feel is left out significantly is that these art generating algorithms and machines (not the works they produce) ARE the product of inquisitive minds adopting creative attitudes.
To build a system capable of analyzing art and then mimicking the creative process of a human IS a skill and a craft, which has taken a lifetime to hone. To hold that complexity in mind IS a beautiful act of creation.
These tools are available for local runtimes, downloadable as public repositories, customizable and adjustable. They are distributed freely and greatly without profit motive by the massive communities of creative thinkers who put to task on giving what is a box of thinking stone the ability to create. It’s a beautiful thing, in that way.
The works of AI will forever be derivative; it is their very nature. Artists will not stop making art, and to build an AI this complex is, as I contend, an act of art itself.
I really appreciate your perspective and sharing your thoughts. I’m glad to have your voice here, and I’m interested in conversing more. I don’t disagree with you that AI are also a product of human creativity–it is an amazing feat. Perhaps one of the most complex feats humans have ever accomplished. I am in full agreement with you on it.
But again, I point to the ethics of the matter. Do you honestly believe that these tools won’t put artists, musicians, and others out of work? (The very people who have unintentionally contributed their own works?) Do you think that AI isn’t going to remake society and are we going to like the result? I have a few friends who are primarily D&D/Character artists and I know that their own requests for custom character art have gone down 90% in the last few months…only one small data point, but one that resonates with me. But beyond that, my understanding is that in the next 20 years, AI is going to render something like 50% of the current jobs (such as the entire trucking industry) obsolete. What are all of those people going to do? And is that really ok?
The part of the conversation with my friend I didn’t share was how he told me he was building a copy of Stable Diffusion to create his own AI-generated tarot deck. As someone who spends about 5 years creating a deck, it wasn’t hard for me to see where that was going. Why would anyone pay an artist for a deck if they can generate one and then get one copy printed for like $30? Who would wait for me to finish another? I guess I just find this whole thing heartbreaking. Interested to hear your thoughts.
I agree with you entirely on this. Our society is geared to teach us a single skill, which we’ll be paid to perform, while we pay to have everything else done for us. It basically strips down the entire purpose of a human life, which is to learn and experience and do for ourselves. The good news, as a few commenters hinted, is that energy-intensive AI is not going to survive the Long Descent. I don’t know how long it will take for this to go away, but I believe it will.
Brilliant post! I agree entirely!
Creativity comes from the soul. We are created to create. I use bobbin lacemaking to create even though machines have been making it since 1809. Machines create to consume. We create to live.
Yes! We create to live. That’s a beautiful statement :).
AS = Artificial Stupidity
Thanks for the comment. Totally understand! 🙂
I appreciated this article. One saving grace may be that humans don’t simply want to consume artistic products but also imagine and resonate with an artist’s process and the inner work required to create something. For example, large abstract canvases at an art museum would not be particularly interesting without the specter of the artist somewhere in the viewer’s mind. If AI created “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, it would just be weird, not brilliant. I wonder if, after the WOW of AI generated art fades, it will lose relevance due to its shallowness not its problematic ethics.
I think the problem with a lot of this technology is that people use it blindly. It is quick to be released, quick to be embraced, and nobody really questions it. I do think that the pendulum will swing back at some point, but as you point out, that’s not where we are now. I think about, for example, the difference between big industrial agriculture and small family farms; we are now seeing a large-scale rejection of big ag. And maybe, we’ll see a large-scale rejection of industrial art too….something’s think about. Thanks for reading and for your comment!
I agree with everything you wrote. I’m just a budding artist who is still learning what I’m capable of creating. And the concept of AI sent red flags flying, telling me something isn’t right here. It makes me feel like this is one more step towards making people unnecessary to do a job or craft. I liken it to the self check-outs that are in just about every store, and now certain fast food places are testing out automated drive-thrus. It scares me too, that the AI can take my art or some artist that I respect and admire and that it can copy it and then produce other things.
I think too many people are jumping on the band wagon of these generators with their own personal image. I almost downloaded one of the apps because I was curious to see what I might look like. But when I got to the page, I got such a bad feeling about it that I changed my mind and didn’t install it.
I also don’t think the work these programs would create based on your work or mine or anyone’s would be a good thing. I don’t think it would benefit us in any way. I don’t believe these programs will be giving credit to the artist of origin or “inspiration”.
Thank you for writing this and raising awareness.
I’m glad you are following your instincts when it comes to AI. It’s too unethical and raises too many flags for so many people. But also…it steals our humanity. It makes us redundant. Keep working on your art, regardless of the AI! You will be so happy that you did. Thank you for reading and sharing :).