Computers can now create art! But is it the same as human creations?

6 min read

For those of us mere mortals, aka not art inclined, we may think of art as the sole bastion of talented creative masters. These individuals epitomise the very best of human creativity. On the fundamental level, art is really not just limited to the masters, everyone of us can indulge in a spot of artistic creativity. We’ve been using art as an intrinsic way of expressing ourselves; our emotions, and our knowledge to other people. If we think of art in this way, it can be seen as a form of communication that is unique to us humans. However, recent events have shown that Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has begun to intrude into the art scene. An example would be the painting, Edmond de Belamy that was sold for $432,500 – nearly 45 times its highest estimate. This begs us to question if A.I. has begun to eat into this realm that once belonged only to humans.

The present

Currently, A.I. hasn’t had too much influence over the art industry. With people still producing paintings and music albums, we can still believe that art is something that’s made by humans. However, like the example above, we’re already starting to see signs of A.I. creating paintings. ‘Edmond de Belamy’ is an A.I.-generated painting by a Paris-based collective called Obvious. Hugo Caselles-Dupré, a member of Obvious, said that “We found that portraits provided the best way to illustrate our point, which is that algorithms are able to emulate creativity”.

A portrait of Edmond De Belamy

Just like Edmond de Belamy, A.I. is also taking its baby steps into the music industry. One example of this is a program called ‘OpenAI’. As Jon Porter from TheVerge says, “OpenAI’s MuseNet is a new online tool that uses A.I. to generate songs with as many as 10 different instruments. Not only that, but it can create music in as many as 15 different styles, imitating classical composers like Mozart, contemporary artists like Lady Gaga, or genres like bluegrass or even video game music”. Soon enough, there’s likely to be A.I.-generated songs and art forms.

Now, the question here is – If artificial intelligence were to be able to emulate creativity, would that be beneficial or disadvantageous to us? Would artists still be able to create inspiring artworks? Would musicians still be able to create soothing pieces? Or would all these be taken away from us, and be dominated by A.I.?

We’re already over-reliant on technology in many parts of our lives, and that reliance on technology might rub off with the art scene, and lead us into losing the ability to differentiate human-created art and A.I.-created art. We might also be wholly dependent on technology in the future to be creative. This might sound a bit far stretched, but it is definitely something that could happen.

AI and Machine Learning

With these questions in mind, we have to plan out the risks that we might take by letting A.I. into the art and music industries. It might be like letting babies into a playground, or it might be like letting a pack of wolves into a herd of sheep. As of right now, A.I. definitely isn’t able to create art with the same quality as humans. They’re only able to create art from taking the data provided to them and piecing them together, making them seem unique, but in fact they are still replicated from human creativity.

This is because “art” is a complex thing. It’s not simple for A.I to just learn how to make art out of nowhere. Ken Weiner, a blogger on Scientific American, says that “Even though the Cloudpainter machine (an artificially intelligent painting robot) has evolved over time to become a highly intelligent system capable of making creative decisions of its own accord, the final piece of work could only be described as a collaboration between human and machine”. What this means is that with our current set of technologies, the artwork of any A.I still involves a human touch. But what about the future?

There is something called ‘machine learning’, and it is an application of artificial intelligence that provides the system with an ability to take in data and learn and improve from its past experiences and uses. This is extremely important since machine learning could allow A.I. to create distinctive forms of art and music that may not even closely resemble the input data, opening the concepts of originality and creativity to A.I.-generated art and music.

The future

In the future, with the development of machine learning and A.I., the question is: Is this handmade, or is this made by A.I.? A.I.-generated images already lurk around in our daily lives, and we might not even notice it until we look more closely. A.I.-generated faces, where they take 2 different photos and merge them together; or Snapchat filters, where they locate different spots on your face, such as your nose or your eyes, and put a mask on it, are both examples of A.I.-generated images and videos that have become part of our daily lives.

Sooner or later, A.I., along with the help of machine learning, will be able to adapt to our current world and will eventually create everything for us. Art would be made by taking previous paintings in order to make a new one, while music would be made by taking previous songs of a specific genre and re-produce beats, patterns, and rhythms all on its own. A.I. might even emulate human creativity and produce never-before-seen pieces of art.

It feels like we are on the verge of an A.I. revolution in the art and music scene. Just like how jobs were changed, for better or worse during the industrial revolution, A.I. may change the way we view and appreciate music. New, different art and music styles could be produced, styles of the past like Mozart’s music could be recreated, resurrected, revamped. The question here is, in what way will A.I. change the art and music world, and how would we, being creatures able to emulate creativity and the people who gave life to these machines in the first place, deal with it?

Written by Gao Yi Lun
Illustrations by Toh Bee Suan

Sources cited:

“Why Is Art so Important to Mankind?” Artist, artist-strange-work.com/why-is-art-so-important-to-mankind/.

“Is Artificial Intelligence Set to Become Art’s next Medium?: Christie’s.” The First Piece of AI-Generated Art to Come to Auction | Christie’s, Christies, 12 Dec. 2018, www.christies.com/features/A-collaboration-between-two-artists-one-human-one-a-machine-9332-1.aspx.

Porter, Jon. “OpenAI’s MuseNet Generates AI Music at the Push of a Button.” The Verge, The Verge, 26 Apr. 2019, www.theverge.com/2019/4/26/18517803/openai-musenet-artificial-intelligence-ai-music-generation-lady-gaga-harry-potter-mozart.

Weiner, Ken. “Can AI Create True Art?” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 12 Nov. 2018, blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/can-ai-create-true-art/.

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