Recently, I stumbled across a video on Instagram of Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki being asked about artificial intelligence. He was utterly shocked and disgusted at the technological advancements and said that “he would never wish to incorporate this technology into [his work] at all.” In essence, Miyazaki commented on how artists cannot be disconnected from their work, and that the ‘aura’ – to use Walter Benjamin’s term – has to somehow be injected into art for it to be satisfactory. Essentially there is no soul with AI art and, according to him, it is an “insult to life itself.” He went on to ask them what their goal is and they said “we’d like to build machines that can draw pictures like humans do.” To which Miyazaki replied “I feel like we are nearing to the end of times. We humans are losing faith in ourselves.”
Miyazaki is not the only artist who has reacted like this. Hordes of artists over Twitter are disgusted at how these AI programs build their images from stolen art and even created illustrations as an ironic response to this as can be seen below.
Others beg to differ. Some philosophical theorists say that the point of art is to elicit a reaction and as Kurt said “AI art is real art because it makes people mad.” AI art has resulted in a lot of philosophical queries and ethical qualms. Companies can use an artist’s idea and develop their art using an AI image generator and not give the artist any credit or compensation. This was the case with Penny when Adobe stole her entire concept and developed it further with generative AI without giving her credit. Due to this, artists will have to legally protect themselves under copyright law and make it clear to clients that they will only divulge concepts once a contract or retainer is in hand.
Even though it all seems quite daunting, not all artists are opposed to AI image generators. Lev Monovich has been dabbling with AI in art for some years now and has linked AI to culture automation and diversity. With AI applications like DALL-E, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, artists all over the world can use these tools to develop their ideas further. David Holz; founder of Midjourney said that “the world needs more imagination” and by using these tools as inspiration for future projects, they’ll help us not replace us.
With this in mind, we decided to approach the Faculty of Digital Arts at the University of Malta to comment on how AI apps like DALL-E will affect art and artists in years to come. Professor Vince Briffa said:
“In my opinion such technologies should be seen as tools to aid the creative and not to replace her. The technology has a lot of potential, I see it as an assistant to art practice, just like the Internet, the library, YouTube etc are, helping the creative to know the limits of the field that is being looked into… any other uses which are currently grabbing the limelight due to their wow factor are possibly short-lived.
This technology needs the user to be highly articulate in the use of the right terminology to establish context… a quick chat about the context surrounding a work (done through AI or not) with the student/creator will quickly establish if a digital artwork is created by the student/creator or by AI.
I therefore feel that such technology should become part of the artist’s toolbox.”
We then asked some students studying at the Faculty of Digital Arts for their opinion on the matter. At first they seemed to be hesitant about these disruptive technologies but soon became optimistic once they started using them. They said that “new technology tends to be far more disarming at first than it is empowering.” By using it as a tool to enhance their own art, they can push the boundaries of what can be created when pressured by tight deadlines.
I then asked Chat GPT this question and received the following response:
“No, AI apps are unlikely to replace artists. While AI technology has made significant progress in generating visual and audio content, it still lacks the creativity and human touch that is intrinsic to art. Moreover, artists bring their own unique perspectives and emotions to their work, which AI apps cannot replicate. Ultimately, the role of artists will continue to be important in society, as they bring beauty, meaning, and emotional depth to the world.”
We don’t think these AI image generators will replace artists in the long-term and the Oxford Internet Institute agrees with this. Once they become more widely available and affordable, more artists will use these tools to offer both traditional and digital art to their customers. Digital art might be commodified into NFTs which will support artists through contracts on the blockchain and cryptocurrency. We hope that laws will come into place which will protect artists, their ideas, concepts and work and so that they won’t be taken advantage of in the long run.