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EDITORIAL: Artificial intelligence will not replace artists

As the use of artificial intelligence increases, algorithms begin to encroach in artistic fields, but the role of artists will not disappear

The use of artificial intelligence in art is not a threat to existing artists, but rather another creative tool for them to work with. – Photo by Pixabay

Take a minute and Google "artificial intelligence art." You might be surprised with your search results, some of which will resemble fine art portraits. Do these pieces of synthetic art belong in a museum? Maybe.

The increased use of artificial intelligence in art is leading people to question what qualifies and what does not. Artificial intelligence art is not just limited to visuals — computers have been able to generate poetry, book chapters (albeit nonsensical) and Spotify playlists too.  

The question is what effect artificial intelligence will have on the art community and on art itself. Will the nature of art change? What role will artists have if their work can be replicated by a machine? 

We should begin to answer by talking about what art actually is. Save the pretentious few, most people agree that art is highly subjective. A complicated play in any given sport could qualify as art. The years of practice, theory and circumstances that lead a player to execute a certain combination of moves arguably require the same technique and creativity as any piece of fine art.

The point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often times beauty being labeled as art really just depends on the skill and thought that went into the piece.

Let us not discount the hard sciences from art. The creation of algorithms, coding and machine language is absolutely a form of art, even if it cannot hang on a wall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Coding to solve complex problems requires the same amount of ingenuity as directing a movie — there are a lot of moving parts, detail-orientated work and the final product comes together as something like a masterpiece.

Just because the final product is not aesthetically pleasing does not mean that it is precluded from the art world. 

Our subconscious collective has drawn a line between the fine arts and everything else, but really anything that requires some level of originality, creativity and skill can be considered an art. Creating the code behind artificial intelligence that paint, sculpt or write requires an incredible amount of skill and creativity. After all you cannot spell "artificial intelligence" without "art."

The intersection of computer science and art does not stop with Python or C#. In fact, computers have been used in the production of art for years, either as engines that power Disney animation, as tools that allow advanced photography and more. The difference between Adobe Photoshop and artificial intelligence is how much perceived control the artist has. 

When we hear the phrase “artificial intelligence” we seem to forget that computers do not actually have a mind of their own. Humans are behind the computer, directing it and using it as a tool. The art created by artificial intelligence still has a human element involved even if we cannot see it as clearly. 

Moreover, the defining quality of a work of art is not just the artist’s skill but that artwork's ability to communicate something. Art bottles a feeling, an emotion or experience in a fixed medium. Movies capture moments in our lives and common human experiences. Novels and writing take a snapshot of our thoughts and values.

If art is communication between two parties, then artificial intelligence cannot usurp the role of artists. Rather, artificial intelligence is another medium to be used by artists, like gauche or animation software like Blender. It facilitates another mode of artistic communication. 

To say that artificial intelligence can replace artists is to relegate artists to the position of servants for museum visitors, readers or spectators. The truth is art holds the most value for the artist. The need to be understood, to translate our feelings and thoughts into something external transcends artificial intelligence. The role of art in the life of the artists can never be replaced. 

You know the feeling. Every time you create something, learn a song or write about something that matters to you, you grow as an individual and know yourself better by the end of the artistic process. 

Enjoy the art created by artificial intelligence as a new and exciting medium, but do not forget the artists behind the piece, and certainly do not discount the role of art in your own life.

The means we use to express ourselves change and evolve over time from paintings on cave walls to computer algorithms, but the process, the feeling and the human experience stay the same. Art is beautiful due to its humanity, and that is something we will never lose. 

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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