Art, Creativity and AI

 

What happens if artificial intelligence bots start writing screenplays, music, novels, in general, making art? Is it still called art -and what is art at all?

Art

If “Art is human expression in various forms”, or “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” or “Art has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas”1, then can we say AI is expressing its emotions, ideas or imagination? Can it be said that AI is producing works to be appreciated? So, works of AI may not be called art or we may need to broaden the definition of Art.

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

If art is considered as a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation”2 or “A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.”3, then works of AI would definitely be called art. Furthermore, AI can even be a better artist than any other artist, considering the enormous data processing capacity compared to any single human.

Pottery Square, Kerensa PICKETT*

When you watch a movie and like it, would it make a difference if it’s written by a human or an AI algorithm? What would you think that if it turns out that the writer of your favorite movie used deep learning entirely, would you stop liking it? Or when you listen to a classical music playlist and there is a piece produced by an algorithm how likely can you differentiate it from Bach or Chopin? Is the question about art is the originality?

If the output of an AI can be appreciated aesthetically (in classical sense), or conceptually (in contemporary sense), does it make it art? These questions would even lead us to newer questions such as “If an AI can appreciate an art piece, would it make it a human?”. As the famous science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote: “Do Androids Dream of an Electric Sheep?4”

Creativity

Pedro Domingos, Professor of Computer Science, University of Washington, and one of the creators of Markov Logic Networks, on Youtube’s The Age of AI documentary5 says

Art and creativity is easier than problem solving. We already have computers make great paintings, that make music that’s indistinguishable from music that’s composed by people. So, machines are actually capable of creativity ”.

AI-Generated Painting by Robbie Barrat**

Therefore, the main question is why do we need AI to be creative? Expressing herself/himself is one of the most essential needs of todays people, so, why is the struggle to teach machines to create? Making art, literature and music are not like mundane tasks that we’re trying to avoid to do, or huge data that people can no longer process without additional help. On the contrary, making art is something that differentiates human from animals and defines our identity. Furthermore, from the beginning of civilization (for example in Gilgamesh), people looked after immortality and eternality by the means of creating an eternal work, whether it is a great building, a monument, a story, an epic or a song.

One reason why we need AI to be creative may be the huge amount of need for unique content for marketing and advertising. Importance of social media and internet is growing, so the importance of constant presence through different means, as well. Also, platforms such as Netflix, Disney TV, Apple, etc, needs consumption materials for consumers and it is getting harder to meet the demand.   

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762, Louvre Museum ***

Another reason might be deeper and more philosophical; the power struggle between nature and man. In the course of history of science, the scientific curiosity started with the effort of understanding the nature, in time, it evolved controlling the nature and in some degree, this goal is achieved. As the struggle for survival turns into taking control over nature, mankind is trying to have more control over its own creations and nature. Remember the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire6 from gods and give to humanity as the power to create. Now, with the AI revolution, the boundaries are being pushed and the real quest begins: creating something that can create on its  own!   

Francisco Goya,  Saturn Devouring His Son, 1819-1823

Will AI revolution turn against humans as Saturn Devouring Its Son7? It is still very uncertain and we haven’t even seen the real ethical problems and discussions yet.

Innovations in AI apparently does not diminish the numbers of these questions, on the contrary, only raise them more and makes them more complex. Also, we are moving away from the answers with each achievement. Whether you decide to choose one or another, technological improvements doesn’t wait for us to find answers and bring us new challenges and opportunities. I, personally, can’t wait to see and live in the AI future, what about you?

Footnotes:

1 https://www.lexico.com/definition/art

2 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/art

3 https://www.lexico.com/definition/art

4 The famous movie “Blade Runner” is based on this book

5 13’20’’, 4th episode “Love, art and stories: decoded” of Youtube’s The Age of A.I. documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr1fmKVY3cA)

6 Fire represents the power to create in this myth

7 Saturn Devouring His Son is famous painting by Goya which represents the father Saturn eats his son out of fear. According to some interpretations, Saturn is French Revolution and the people who made the revolution was consumed by it.

*https://unsplash.com/@kerensa1

**https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-17/ai-made-incredible-paintings-in-about-two-weeks

***https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus

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