It was inevitable.
Not long after new Artificial Intelligence software began producing images based on users’ text input, someone has now used it to win an art prize.
Digital Artist James Allen recently won First Place at the Colorado State Fair digital art category, with this painting titled Théåtre D’opéra Spatial.
You have to admit, the painting, printed on canvas, is gorgeous.
It was also not produced directly by Allen.
Instead, he input a few hundred text prompts into the AI image generator Midjourney. He then began selecting generated images which were going in the direction he wanted, and refining the text prompts to make them more like what he was looking for.
Eventually, he found an image he liked (the one above with the round space opera stage), imported it into Photoshop to fix a few “errors” which Midjourney left in (such as one of the women not having a head), and then used a different AI system to increase the resolution of the image before printing it on canvas.
The result is the image above, which was awarded first place by the fine art judges at the Colorado State Fair.
However, the judges did not know that the painting was produced by an AI. They thought Allen had created it himself from scratch, like the other artists who entered the competition.
And these other artists are now furious that the AI generated image won. Partially because they had to work so much harder than the AI (and the artist Allen who used it), but also because of what this new technology represents.
“We’re watching the death of artistry unfold before our eyes,” a Twitter user going by OmniMorpho said in a reply that gained over 2,000 likes.
“If creative jobs aren’t safe from machines, then even high-skilled jobs are in danger of becoming obsolete. What will we have then?”
Another Twitter user noted: “This sucks for the exact same reason we don’t let robots participate in the Olympics,”
Nonetheless, Allen claimed afterwards that he still had a large human element in producing the final submitted work:
“I knew this would be controversial,” Allen said in the Midjourney Discord server on Tuesday. “How interesting is it to see how all these people on Twitter who are against AI generated art are the first ones to throw the human under the bus by discrediting the human element! Does this seem hypocritical to you guys?”
We have previously spoken about Artificial Creativity.
Just to give you an idea of how fast, easy and powerful Midjourney is, here is an image I myself created, just by telling the system to generate an image based on “Lion Skydiving over Paris” (and which took in total 2 minutes):
I repeat, I did not draw a single brush stroke of that image. It was all completed automatically by an Artificial Intelligence, in about 2 minutes of work.
I am blown away by not only the output, but also the logic behind it. For example, the lion has his goggles over his eyes, showing the AI must have a basic understanding of dressing, even in combinations it has never experienced before.
And this comes to the core question of whether these new AI image generation systems will replace human creatives in the future, like the previous Twitter artists feared.
After all, creativity has recently been seen as one of the core skills which cannot be automated, and creative work was previously in the domain of “creative professionals” which could only be humans.
Now, systems like these image generators, as well as text generators and music generators, may replace the composition, drafting and generation of options which previously would have been done by graphic designers, composers, musicians, writers and journalists.
But not every creative professional is now at risk of losing their job. It is a question of how they react to the new technology.
These are only tools after all, and throughout time tools have made the work of creatives easier, but this has often angered the existing creatives who ironically would prefer the status quo where their skills in execution were the valuable part of their profession.
Think about how printers affected painting, or recordings affected orchestras.
Or smartphones affected professional photographers.
These systems will probably begin replacing some parts of the drafting process in fields like Marketing, Advertising or Journalism.
Some artists and creative professionals who embrace the new tools will be able to be significantly more productive than before.
And some artists and creative professionals who yearn for the “good old days” may be left behind.
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