Is Artificial Intelligence Taking Art’s Humanity?



Person painting an AI generated sky, created by DALL-E 2.

Emi Lew, Staff Writer

After years of practice, classes, and YouTube tutorials to hone my artistic skills, and now a machine comes along that can create art far beyond my expertise within seconds. With all this fancy new technology, what’s the point of picking up a paintbrush anymore?

To make AI art, one only needs to insert images into an algorithm, which would ‘learn’ their style, and then generate images based on the provided images.

“What is most unique about this is, unlike a Google search where it will find an image that is as closely related to your prompt as possible, it will generate the image from scratch,” Director of Educational Technology Brian Grantham said.

This process is made simpler by the existence of websites like DALL-E and Midjourney, which have already curated a range of images and only requires the user to type in a short prompt.

This is where the root of the controversy begins. These websites mostly acquire their images by sweeping popular sites where artists post their work, such as ArtStation and Deviantart. However, none of the artists whose artwork was taken wanted their art to be used in these programs.

AI art algorithms can also be trained in specific styles to mimic real artists. This was the case of Kim Jung Gi, a South Korean artist who was well known for his ability to draw complex scenes from memory with ink and brushes. Just days after his death in 2022, his artwork was fed into a model that could then perfectly replicate his style.

Although the intent of the person who created the model was not malicious, many thought that the act was extremely disrespectful to Kim.

The most prominent argument that is occurring right now for the usage of AI art is to make art more accessible to everyone, as learning to draw and being satisfied with the outcome can take what can be years of experience and hundreds of dollars in art supplies. On the other hand, a person could generate a beautiful image in seconds with AI art, but can art really be boiled down to just be a pretty picture?

“The point of [art] is not how easy it is to replicate. There is thought and there is meaning that the artist puts into [the artwork],” art teacher Tobi Kishimoto said.

Ignoring the struggles, emotions and efforts put into human art is the same as ignoring art altogether. An art piece is not just the result, but it is the process: the time, energy and creativity.

“I’m not sure how I feel about it being art because it is made by a computer and AI isn’t fully developed to the point where it can pass off as having human emotions, so I think it’s either a different type of art or shouldn’t be called art,” junior Jesscia Lee said.

A key part of art is its inclusion of its creator’s perspective and ability to evoke emotion. It is because of this connection to fundamental human nature that art pieces, even hundreds of years old, can resonate with the people of today.

“Student voice, or human voice, is the big difference [between work made by AI and humans]. The machine can give you art, but it can’t give you that personal experience, it’s not going to give you perspective from an individual, and it’s not going to give you that level of emotion. Is it a piece of work? Yes. Is it an accurate piece of work? Maybe. But does it carry that voice? No, and that’s the absent part here,” Grantham said.

AI art, which lacks the ability to feel or experience, could never be superior to a human artist who has. There are so many different factors that change a person- where they were raised, the people they meet, the media they were exposed to- all of which are poured into their work.

“Art is something innately human. Humans always look for something to inspire them. Art is a great way of storytelling and it [shows] how people see things through time,” freshman Tyra Doiguchi said.

While AI art meets some of these ‘criteria’, it misses out on having a human’s constant creative input. However, AI art could be utilized by artists to further their own creativity.

“AI art isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s the marketing portraying it as something revolutionary- and it is, it’s a wonderful algorithm that can help people- but the way they’re saying it, about replacing artists, it really makes it go down,” junior Maya Copeland said.

The companies and loyal supporters who market AI art say that it is the future and speak about how it will replace human artists with its ability to mass produce images and wide range of styles. Predictably, the way in which they have tried to push artists out of artistic spaces has garnered a lot of disapproval and condemnation.

Due to the negative interactions between human artists and AI artists, AI art is rejected within art spaces. There is both a negative and positive to both sides. The positive being that so many artists are willing to stand for their work and their livelihood against large companies and the negative being that they are missing out on what could be a fantastic tool.

Whether or not AI art is bad is up to the user. This technology could help many artists come up with, develop and flesh out their ideas. AI art does not have to hurt the artistic community, but something that could help it grow.

“Technology keeps getting better and more advanced, and we keep using it in our work. I don’t think AI anything is going anywhere, I think it’s going to keep developing. This is a bigger conversation about technology and how it takes over for humans. It’s always an important conversation to have about how much we pay our artists and how much we value their work. This conversation transcends just AI art,” Film/Digital Media teacher Meeka Fontaine said.

Inevitably, the chaos around AI art will go away and the controversy will gradually be forgotten, but the effects of the conversation will linger. Hopefully, this will lead to a better future for the artists of the world where their talent is properly valued and paid for.

“To me, it just feels like another Instagram filter, or another Tik Tok filter. I don’t see it a lot after the big craze, so I’m not as angry. It’s just another phase,” Fontaine said.

Despite what the companies pedaling AI art want people to believe, AI art will quickly fade to the background just as NFTs have. Unlike the works of real artists, these generated images will have no place in a classroom or any renowned museum.

“Nothing can replace human art. Something about it, all the imperfections that people make, it’s part of human nature, something special. People are not perfect and that’s what makes art interesting,” Doiguchi said.