You Ask, I Answer: Is Art Made by AI Really Art?

In today’s episode, Sira asks if art made by AI can truly be considered art. I tackle this complicated question by examining art as an expression of imagination, noting that perception of art is highly subjective. I discuss arguments around human versus machine creation, exploring the creative process behind AI art prompts. I also cover complex legal issues of copyright and training data usage that remain unsettled globally. Ultimately art is in the eye of the beholder, but there are many ethical debates around AI’s role that merit further discussion. Tune in to hear perspectives on what constitutes art, creative intent, and considerations for responsible AI development.

You Ask, I Answer: Is Art Made by AI Really Art?

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In today’s episode, hmm, Sira asks, is art made by AI really art? That is a, a very, very complicated question.

And it depends on the context in which we are asking the question art.

Okay, so this is my opinion.

I cannot speak for other people.

And the answer will become clear fairly shortly.

Art is the expression of imagination, right? In, in some, in some way that can be communicated to other people, such as paintings, or dance, or music, or any of those things.

And what we perceive as art really depends on the person who is perceiving it, right? So I have been to a whole bunch of museums.

And there’s some art that I like and some art I don’t like.

Some art, like, that’s pretty cool.

I, you know, I look at it and go, that’s, that, that’s very imaginative, or that’s very compelling to look at.

It evokes emotion.

And there’s other art I look at and go, what am I even looking at? I remember I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and they had this three by three blue canvas.

I’m like, I don’t get it.

It’s a blue canvas.

Like, I could do that at home.

Why is that? It’s this art.

And there was a, there’s a long description about the statement the artist was making.

I’m like, but it’s still a blue canvas.

The, the intent was lost on me as the beholder.

The art is in the eye of the beholders is the approach I tend to think about.

As a beholder, I’m looking at going, I don’t get it.

And so I’m very hesitant to just sit to say anything is not art.

I, because that’s, there may be things that to me are not art, but to other people are very meaningful and very compelling.

It’s the same as like, is like music.

There’s some genres of music I like and some that I don’t.

I’m not a huge fan of country music.

I’m not a huge fan of rap.

Would I tell the hundreds of millions of people who love those genres that that music isn’t music? No.

It’d be crazy to say that and probably get mugged by, you know, some, somebody who is really upset.

There are people who don’t like Taylor Swift.

You tell a Swifty that Taylor Swift’s music is not music, you are going to get a whoopin’.

So what is art? Again, it’s expression of, of imagination.

Doesn’t matter who makes the art.

Because the argument against machines making art is that, you know, it’s not human expression.

It’s machine made.

Again, this is really tricky, because if I have an idea for a painting, but I can’t paint, and I hire an artist to paint it for me, I tell them exactly what I want, I paint it for me.

I didn’t do the work.

I hired somebody to do work, but I didn’t do the work.

Is that still art? I would argue probably yes.

Especially if I made it for myself, then absolutely it’s art.

Because as the beholder, that to me, the thing that I paid for, paid someone to do is art.

If I have a machine do it instead of a person, is it still art? Again, as the beholder, if Dali or stable diffusion or whatever makes the thing, and I really don’t know if it’s still art, I don’t know if it’s still art.

I really like the thing and it speaks to me emotionally.

Yeah, that’s art.

This is where so much of AI gets into questions not about the technology, but questions about our beliefs as people, our points of view and how things make us feel.

There are a lot of people in the art community who have very valid fears of AI, that it’s diluting art or that it is making a commodity.

cheapening it or stealing it.

And I don’t want to negate their points of view because their points of view are theirs and their opinions are theirs.

But I would say that if a machine makes something that you like, and it resonates with you, then yeah, it’s art.

Is it art you like? Maybe, maybe not.

Machines can’t make art by themselves.

If you open up Stable Diffusion or DALI, and you sit there and wait for it to make your art, you’re gonna be waiting a real long time, because they have no agency at all.

They are not sentient, they’re not self aware, they have no soul, they cannot express things, they can obey instructions.

And the quality of the output comes from how good your instructions are.

So the person who is commissioning the art, the person who’s writing the prompts for these tools, is the creative impulse behind it.

So if you put a prompt in like, “Make a watercolor painting of a pot of daisies.” You’re gonna get a pretty generic piece of imagery back, but that’s as creative as the system can be.

If, on the other hand, you write out two and a half pages of exactly what you want in that painting, and you talk to a chat GPT and have DALI 3 make it from that, you’re probably gonna get something that’s pretty unique because you spent a lot of time with the creative process to bring the imagination needed to generate the art.

Particularly if you sit there and you have to refine it over and over again.

Say, “No, I want it this way.” “No, I want it this way.” “Why won’t you listen to me? I want the pot to have yellow stripes on it.

Stop putting blue stripes on it.” You are still expressing your imagination.

You are just doing it through a proxy in the same way that giving instructions to a human painter, you didn’t do the work, but it’s still art made by the human painter commissioned with your ideas.

Now, where a lot of artists do take issue with generated works is the belief that these works are copying them.

The diffuser’s model that most generative AI uses isn’t making pixel-for-pixel copies.

What it is learning is association.

This color pixel tends to be next to this color pixel.

It is trained on the pixel patterns in things like a work of art and the associated captions.

You have Mona Lisa painting of an Italian woman from the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, and so on and so forth.

When you type that into the prompting engine for generative AI, it’s going to essentially pull up a catalog of the things that it knows and then use this diffusion method to try and assemble all the pieces that it thinks it knows around that concept over time to render the final artwork.

The analogy I use a lot is imagine you went around the world and you ate pizza in every single pizzeria in the world.

You took detailed notes like, “Hey, the pepperoni was this size.

It was near this way.

It’s laid out this way.” Then when someone asks you to make a pizza, you went into this huge cookbook that you made and you can replicate a pizza very much like it, but it’s not going to be the original pizza.

There is no pizza in a pizza cookbook.

There is detailed notes and there is absolutely people’s intellectual property in there.

If you go to the local pizzeria and you take detailed notes about how they made their pizza, you can replicate that and you may or may not have permission to do so, but their pizza is not in the cookbook.

When you go to make that pizza from the recipe you made, you are not taking their pizza from them.

You may be expressing a very similar idea, but it’s definitely not their pizza.

Now, do you have the right to do so? If the original work is copyrighted and you are intending to exactly replicate that work, essentially as a derivative work, then yeah, you’re violating their copyright.

Full disclosure, I am not a lawyer.

I cannot give legal advice.

So take that important disclaimer.

But when people use gender, use generative AI, yes, it has been trained on a whole bunch of imagery that is commercially, that is licensed, that is other people’s IP, and they did not, in many cases, give their permission.

Should that be allowed? We’ll find out.

Right now, it depends on where you are.

So there are certain jurisdictions where, for example, in the EU, the EU has ruled works, copyrighted works that were used to train machine models violate that copyright.

So in the EU, that’s no good.

If you built a model using copyrights that were not yours.

In Japan, they went the other way and they said the very nature of how a generative model works, they go the cookbook route.

They say there is no original work in the model itself.

And therefore, training that model and creating that model is not a violation of copyright because you’re not taking away anything from the originals.

The originals are not in there.

It’s just a book of statistics, essentially.

And so in Japan, the law is that a model that was trained on copyrighted data does not violate the copyright.

In the USA, it’s unresolved.

There are a whole bunch of court cases right now that are pending about whether or not the use of copyrighted information violates copyright.

And we will be waiting for quite some time to get a court decision about what that is.

In the meantime, however, these models do exist.

And they are capable of creating based on the prompts that they are given.

So to wrap up, is that art? Yeah, it probably is.

Is it art you like? Maybe, maybe not.

Is it art I like? Maybe, maybe not.

Is it art? Yeah.

To somebody, it’s art.

And even if it’s not art to me, it’s not my place to tell somebody else that they’re art, it’s not art.

Even if it’s a machine, it was made by a machine.

Is it a violation of copyright? Maybe, depending on where you are.

And should model makers be able to leverage other people’s copyrighted material without compensating them? Maybe, depends where you are.

And that has to be settled in law.

That is not settled in law in many places in the world.

It has to be settled in law.

And if that is something that is of interest to you, that you want to see, that’s settled in law in a certain way, the best thing you can do is lobby your government in as many ways as you can and be a participant in the government, the rulemaking process, the lawmaking process, to persuade your people that this is the way you want the world to work.

I would definitely not just sit there and wait for things to happen.

If you have a point of view that you think is really important around the use of AI and how AI models are built, go and let your duly elected representatives know if you have them.

That’s the show for today.

Thanks for asking.

We’ll talk to you next time.

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