Do computers create art? Artificial intelligence in works causes controversy

An AI painting of what Van Gogh’s painting of the Death Star from the Star Wars franchise would look like

Photo: Pedro Markun

The work “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial” (“Space Opera Theater”) was chosen in August for first place in art competition from the Colorado State Fair (USA), in the “emerging digital artists” category. Who applied for the competition was Jason M. Allenbut the author of the work was not human.

“Emerging Digital Artist” was Midjourney, a Artificial Intelligence (AI) that creates images from sentences. ON algorithm is trained with a database of millions of works by real artists.

So, when a person makes an order, describing the image they want, and even the desired style, the system is able to create a work that matches that description. Besides Midjourney, tools like DALL-E and Stable Diffusion are also used.

The award has sparked debates online about the attribution of the word “art” to what is created by machines. Despite the relatively new element (AI), this discussion is already old and basically refers to artistic concept: what is she anyway? Does it necessarily depend on human skill and sensitivity?

Context is everything in art

A professor at the UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco) who studies the relationship between art, technology and communication, Nina Velasco claims that it is not technology which is used in a work that defines whether it is artistic or not, but how appropriate it is to discourses about the concept of art — which are malleable and dependent on the historical period.

“When Photography reports, there is a debate that it cannot be considered art. Today, photography is in museums and photographers are considered artists,” he says. “But photography can also be something else. It is an instrument of documentation, knowledge, memory.”

For the teacher, the same applies to images created by artificial intelligence. “It is questionable to say that anything made with the help of artificial intelligence will be of interest to the field of art,” he says. On the other hand, if behind these works there is a conceptualization of what is considered art on an institutional and cultural level, it is possible that they are considered artistic productions.

According to Pedro Markun, a hacker who uses Midjourney to visualize his project Jesus AI, an artificial intelligence simulating Jesus Christ, what defines a work as artistic is its ability to evoke emotion—and that’s what an artificial intelligence could do. “Today this is the subject of discussion. In 20 years, I believe it will no longer be a problem,” he says.

Markun also believes that the human action behind artificial intelligence brings a certain subjectivity to the work, since it is necessary to learn to dialogue with the machine. Sometimes it takes hundreds of tries to polish it encourage (an expression used as a command) until the image created matches what was intended.

“Just as you have to have specific skills to use brushes, you also have to have the ability to understand what you want and ask from the machine,” says Diogo Cortiz, professor of design and artificial intelligence at PUCSP (Pontifical Catholic University of Sao). Paulo). “So in these more sophisticated works, there is a continuous process of interaction between person and machine.”

Many people, however, resist this idea. “New AI Imaging technology convinced “Crypto Bros” [gíria usada para se referir, às vezes de forma pejorativa, a pessoas envolvidas com tecnologia] that typing prompt is the same as having artistic talent,” wrote one Twitter user commenting on the news of the arrival on the market of the first comic book with images generated by artificial intelligence – an illustrated version of the book Star Maker (1937), by Olaf Stapledon.

Artistic references or plagiarism?

Along with the debate about the artistic value of AI-created works, some questions are raised. ethical problems, for example how much the algorithm would “copy” existing works. The similarity between the works created by algorithms and the works present in the databases that feed the machines, some see as plagiarism. The accusation, however, is not considered a consensus.

“Actually, it’s not ‘ctrl+c’ and ‘ctrl+v’ in parts of the works. Is it there [a IA] he doesn’t even see the artwork like we do. He deconstructs that image into numerical vectors,” says Markun. “It’s almost as if she learned the brushstrokes in the painting, and from this understanding of how a brushstroke is created, she paints a new picture”, she defends herself.

Anderson Soares, coordinator of the artificial intelligence course at UFG (Federal University of Goiás), also compares machine learning to the way a human being can be inspired by another artist’s style. For him, this is borderline Copyright. “This is complex and difficult to judge, so I predict a series of conflicts from this situation,” he says.

An image generated by artificial intelligence that reproduces the style of the graffiti brothers Os Gêmeos

An image generated by artificial intelligence that reproduces the style of the graffiti brothers Os Gêmeos

Photo: Pedro Markun

machines x designers

Another ethical question about images generated by artificial intelligence also raises the age-old debate about how machines can “steal” people’s jobs – this time, the employment of human beings is at stake. designers and illustrators. However, there is no reason for these professionals to despair, according to Diogo Cortiz.

“Designers and illustrators will be increasingly needed, mainly to work with more sophisticated creations,” he says. “Of course, the machine does not reach the level that an artist can reach today. So it will be more of an auxiliary tool for creating simpler pieces, rather than actually replacing designers and artists. I don’t see it in the long term.”

Markun also believes in transformation Market, caused mainly by the lower costs, mechanical and intellectual energy used in creating these digital works. So it should be more common to see designers and illustrators using artificial intelligence in their creation processes.

“There is a natural resistance of human beings to anything that threatens their primacy,” says Markun. “However, as has happened in many other areas where artificial intelligence has already surpassed humans (for example, in chess), this barrier will not be able to last long. Artificial intelligence will keep getting better and better.”

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