Bloomberg — Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon have a formidable presence in the world of the arts. DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion have proven their ability to generate complex and interesting visual images. There is already AI-generated music, and it will get better and better. There is even talk of dictating a story to a computer and having the software generate a short digital movie.
The question is whether or to what extent this type of art will become fashionable, given the reduced role of human creativity. Despite the power of the underlying technologies, these works will have less of an impact on culture than their proponents believe. Consumers and fans want celebrity to accompany their art, and AI, for all its cunning, hasn’t quite nailed that trick yet.
Let’s think about music. If the songs of Taylor Swift or Beyonce had been created by a computer program, without any stars at the microphone, would they be as popular? It’s no coincidence that Taylor Swift has more than 227 million followers on Instagram: her fans want more than music, and that something extra (at least so far) has to be provided by a living, breathing human being.
Also in the world of visual arts, collectors often buy the story as much as the artist. Even experts have trouble distinguishing a real painting by Kasimir Malevich from a fake (he painted abstract black pictures on a white background, with minimal detail). The same image and the same physical object, when connected to the actual hand of the artist, are worth millions, but if proven to be a fake, they drop to zero.
AI-generated art may be so good that the world can’t ignore it. But even then his fans will be limited. Monteverdi’s music is pretty incredible, attracting millions on YouTube. However, she is more considered as a competitor to Justin Bieber or Jay-Z. Quality does not have to win. Chess-playing computers are unequivocally better than humans, and often more exciting, but games of computers against each other draw far less attention than a game involving Magnus Carlsen.
There is no doubt that there will be many collaborations between AI creators and humans, with humans being the public face of the joint effort. Scandals over authorship (“did he write any of that song?”) will crop up periodically, just as accusations of AI cheating have risen to prominence in chess. AI-generated art will attract the most interest when the aesthetics of the creation and the personality of the human companion seem to be in sync.
What if a group of AI creators is supervised or “trained” by a human? Will that attract fans? These processes surely have their limits. Imagine an NBA with human coaches and powerful and spectacular robots, more adept at dunks and 3-point shots than the best humans. That might be a niche in some corner of the sports or esports world, but it won’t displace Stephen Curry and LeBron James in the public’s affections.
AI creations tend to be combinatorial and pastiche because they are based on existing databases of images, sounds and cultural creations. Therefore, AI products can struggle to generate the kind of originality that leads to truly spectacular and intense levels of fandom.
Imagine that you take a future version of GPT-3 and give it all the texts in the world up to the year 1500. Would you expect it to be able to come up with something as important and original as the works of Shakespeare or Newton’s three laws? What Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles? Skepticism on this point has hardly been refuted by recent advances, impressive as they are.
It almost goes without saying that the AI revolution currently taking place is impressive. It is likely to have a huge impact in some parts of the art world, such as the commercial sphere – consumers are often not interested in knowing who made a particular ad or logo. Either it works or it doesn’t, and those conditions favor the machine. AI will also give the world quality (automated) personal assistants and autonomous vehicles, among many other advances.
But when it comes to the arts and culture, which have so much to do with social notoriety and celebrity, machines remain at a disadvantage.
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Taylor Swift will always be bigger than artificial intelligence
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