Why AI art is bad...
Disclaimer: this feels a complex topic but this is a first attempt at addressing it in a very specific way. My principle argument is that AI art programs attempt to strip humanity from the participant.
AI Art is essentially evil.
Elements of technological advancement are also essentially evil.
These two statements are true and yet the reasons for why differ. Technological progress and its evils are pretty well documented, go read Ted K or Penitti Linkola or the first luddites. Technology displaces and disrupts - it eradicates skills and through efficiency puts people out of work. A craftsman is no longer needed instead a factory line worker does one repetitive task, which eventually a robot does.
This is well trod ground and it is varying degrees of argument to discuss how technological innovation can be bad for the soul of man but to equate technological displacement of skilled craftsmen with what AI art hopes to achieve is misguided and does not deal strongly with the end goal of the AI art crowd.
When technology replaces skills it is not equivalent to an attempt to replace what lies at the heart of artistic creation. AI art generation is an attempt to use algorithmic models to emulate human creativity it is still constrained by what it is fed and it can be tweaked by its creators but the intent is fundamentally different by the nature of what is being consumed.
Consumption one element to understanding why AI art is evil. It has the potential to serve no purpose beyond existence for existences sake. To never be seen or engaged with by another human. A thought experiment is necessary to demonstrate this.
Consider that we have developed rather capable chat bots. Chat bots generate prompts based on input - we could set two chat bots talking to each other. AI art programs are essentially ‘fed’ information and the defenders of AI art always assume it will be humans to feed these prompts in, yet why should that be the case? Could not a roving machine learning chat bot encounter an AI art system and generate images through input totally devoid of human intent? These images would be to some degree an organic generation, a simulacrum of life. Still machine learning and machine derived but without purpose or control. Purpose and intent are critical components of humanity. Are you more horrified by the man who killed his wife for cheating on him or the man who stabbed to death a stranger in the street for no reason? The absence of intent or reason is far more haunting to us, most of the time. We can rationalize, even relate to the crime of passion, but to the random it leaves us uncomfortable. This is a void of meaning in the same way that the images generated by our hypothetical chat bot and the AI art system would be meaningless. The chat bot is not true AI, it is just a simulacrum of intelligence with a degree of randomness built in. The AI art program is even more removed.
In my gut when I imagine such a scenario: a chat bot feeding an AI art bot words which in turn generates our images that the chat bot can’t have an opinion it is faintly ridiculous but also deeply uncomfortable. It is production for the sake of production in an endless loop, in theory with enough power it could continue forever but the real constraints would eventually be met. It would run up against limits eventually and the fakeness would be revealed. It would be revealed for its limits, no originality, no creative forces, just an endless variation upon existing works that become more hollow over time. With nothing actually substantive around it it would crumble and have no meaning.
A human feeding an AI art bot will eventually run into the same thing. The constraint is artificial. The human feeding the bot is not creating anything in actuality he is engaged in an empty game of novelty that will eventually expire. For all the humans creative prompts sooner or later the output would be indistinguishable from the chat bots. In essence the technology removes the humanity of the participant. Once humanity is removed there is a void, nothingness. The erasure of the soul is to me evil. (It could be also argued that technology that furthers the erasure of the human soul is also evil but that would be a separate topic)
AI art seeks to emulate and ultimately replace the creative nature of man that allows the generation of art. It offers a lie and an illusion of creation when it can’t it is a false God. Creating false idols is a disastrous thing. Only God and his granting of gifts of free will to mankind can allow real organic creation of art.
Addendum on Skills and Crafts
Dave Martel prompted me to think of this because he was arguing that AI art was no different than ebooks. Book binding as not a skill or profession but as a form of art. I understand where this originates from but think it is misguided for the following reasons.
People often look at skill or a craft that they themselves are not competent in and use the phrase “there is an art to it” or perhaps they even go further and claim that the skill or craft IS an art. When traditional skills fade away we often hear “it is a dying art”. In such instances art is being used as a synonym for skill, but more romantic.
This is lazy language use. Art after all invokes a sense of the magical and mystical, the unknowable. It connects us with the immaterial world of beauty. Art has many definitions and without defining it we can’t point out how lazy this use is. Art is the attempt to tell a story about reality in a creative fashion. When people are lazy and use the term ‘art’ in this way they are relating to the unknowable and skillful that they do not possess but this does not make the activity in question art.
A basket weaver may be very skilled but the majority of the baskets they weave will not be art. They will be just baskets. Their skill we can appreciate but their artistic intentions are only revealed on some occasions. The basket weaver who makes a beautiful basket that is no longer just utilitarian is telling a story about reality in a creative fashion. That basket might be an example of art but the skill and craft of the basket weaver is not art automatically.
This example scales across many disciplines, skills, and crafts. From sailors working with knots to book binders. People still get confused about the relationship between skill and generation though. The raw skill of an artist or craftsman informs their ability to create art but it is not necessarily unlock generative ideation. Generative ideation is the organic creative process unique to humans. This of course all leads towards judgment. Perfect skill does not mean one likes the painting.