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AI art: Will it kill off the creative sector or save it?

Since the introduction of AI-generated artwork and the widespread use of programmes like Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E, many have been left wondering.

Will this phase pass quickly? Or, alternatively, a potentially vital method of expressive expression?

To see the eerie uniformity of capitalist society, one need only flip through any magazine. Perhaps marketers have grown accustomed to riffing off their own work. If the business world is to continue its relentless pursuit of innovation, it needs to hone its capacity for global perspective. Creatives may find that AI art engines, with their access to visual data far beyond the walled Jericho garden of advertising sameness, provide the catalyst they need to generate novel ideas, lines of reasoning, and narrative threads.

It’s not always easy to express oneself creatively. It can also be very boring, since it is typically carried out for specific consumer profiles who experience life in linear phases. But it also has the potential to move and inspire: Designed for complex human beings whose emotional, spontaneous lives defy tidy categorization into predetermined psychological categories.

Add to that the fact that everyone here is used to cutting corners. We live in a time when everything can be automatically corrected, ordered, and done. Perhaps, then, we’re looking at AI art engines the same way they’re looking at us. In the same vein as some sort of eerie ‘creative autofill.

Inspiring with Generative AI

Auto-generated images in service of auto-defined psycho-graphic profiles can be disconcerting, especially in a field that promotes creativity and originality.

To better frame the discussion, perhaps think of these AI art tools as ‘visual search engines’ or ‘concept connectors. The output of an AI art engine cannot be predicted in advance, in contrast to the nearly mathematical mapping of a programmed media buy. Advertising artists may find value in AI art if they can harness its unpredictable nature and the surprising connections its art engines can glean from creative sources far removed from the known, self-referential cheat codes of the advertising game.

“Science states meanings; art expresses them,” writes American philosopher John Dewey. By doing so, Dewey defines distinct functions for both in the imaginative process. But could the tables be turned in the ongoing discussion about the value of art generated by AI systems? Is it possible for art to articulate meanings and then open the door for science to express those meanings, resulting in something novel and reflective?

Much debate and discussion has followed the launch of campaigns and the awarding of art prizes. However, up to this point, attention has been directed solely toward the products of AI art engines. Its potential and how it might be explored are under-explored. Therein lies the next step in the development of AI art’s application: moving beyond the stage of creative auto fill to the stage where all ideas are available instantly.