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Could Artificial Intelligence Harm Human Creativity? - An Overview

Updated: Jul 10

Where does human Creativity and imagination stem from? And is it a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly for optimal use? And if that is the case, is AI preventing you from exercising that muscle properly?

Going on walks and regularly observing nature, fauna and flora, fellow human beings is a great way of exercising that creative muscle. Going to museum, looking at art, standing 1mm away from a painting, when allowed to, wondering how does that brush stroke work and create such a wonderful and realistic painting work, or wanting to touch every curve of a perfectly sculpted marble statue! I am also partial to a smooth wooden sculpture like those by Barbara Hepworth or Antoni Gaudi.

For me, that feeds my soul and my creative practice.

casa battlo bench chair antoni gaudi spain spanish artist
Casa Batllo bench and chair by Antoni Gaudi

Now it is up to artists to stand against the grain and protect the humanity in humans (redundant, I know), and keep creating art using human imagination. Yes, photography has helped us capture wonderful human moments faster than someone painting it, but it is, in itself, it's own form of art. It captures an instant in our humanity, that instance that happens faster than the blink of an eye, but perfectly captured. It can be that glance, or that subtle movement that if you weren't paying attention to, you missed, but the constantly snapping camera captures things we would normally miss. With the advent of photo editing software and digital art software, the artist can still apply their own mark to apply their own style to an artwork, or even a photo.

Although, of course there is also magazine editorials who remove every aspect of the model's humanity by erasing their personality because they're not the product, the handbag, watch, clothing, make-up, plastic surgery, diet, rejuvenating laser, and mental health issues accompanied by therapy and pharmaceutical solutions... is the product.

In the realm of TV and cinema, cameras have done their best at capturing the foibles of our humanity and letting the imagination run free allowing viewers to escape into a realm of possibilities.

Creative people use the tools at their disposal to link together moments and make a perfect connection that allows us to identify something of our humanity. Whether it makes you laugh, cry, sigh, want to hug another human, or a pet. Or makes you want to explore the world and everything it has to offer because your know our time on this Earth is limited. We were, after all, born with a countdown timer. All of this is thanks to humans using their creative muscle. That fertile imagination many of us have whether we use it for art, or economics, for example. But there is one fundamental difference between the type of creativity used, and how AI can help. And the key word here is help.

In Economics, or any job that requires research, can be busy work, reading through hundreds of books, compiling information to come up with a theory, or a formula, AI can be of great help. It frees the individual to do what they truly enjoy, coming up with theories. Maybe they remember reading something about an economic event and they can ask AI. Very helpful. Now this Economist can go home and spend their free time on a hobby because they didn't have to find that information by going through an entire library of books. I am not going to go on about the knowledge this Economist has acquired over the years to be able to sift through AI generated results, separating what is right from wrong, because AI doesn't fact check, it simply collects all data available online and dumps that info at an individual's request.

Now generative AI used to generate images.... That is not help. That is hijacking creativity. It is also theft. It is trained on the creative output of  photographers, artists, movie makers, and people's lives which they chose to put out there. All that at the tippy tap of a keyboard. The people using that call themselves AI Artists, but they cannot copyright their creations as ruled by the US Court in August 2023.

A work of art created by artificial intelligence without any human input cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law, a U.S. court in Washington, D.C..

Some artists, and a lot on non-artists, defending generative AI tend to argue that artists copy and steal ideas from one another. Master copies are done when artists are learning new techniques, or have something they're aiming at, for example,some artists want to be able to replicate the style, or technique, of the Great Masters. They will sit in Museums replicating a painting, but what they will never do is sign their name and then sell it. It is a study and they will either keep it for future reference, or paint over it - especially during those times where they can't afford to buy new canvases. In the future, as they develop their own style, they might use a similar colour palette, or brush stroke (you will find that this is quite particular to each artist).

Then there is the case where Swiss artist Jeff Dieschburg copied Jingna Zhang's Harper Bazaar Vietnam 2017 photo. Although claiming it to be transformative because he turned it into a painting and flipped it, those minor alterations were still considered plagiarism.

copyright infringement harper bazaar chinese
Left: Jeff Dieschburg Copy, Right: Jingna Zhang Original Source: Jingna Zhang

This case sets precedence and shows that the argument AI artists use, saying that artists steal, is invalid. Even if an artist uses a photo as inspiration, and it is blatantly a copy, there are consequences as copyright infringement has clearly occurred. To read more about the case, you can visit this link.

Some might say it is not the same because they are collating several images, but the style is many times obvious when the individual generating the images is trying to copy another artist's style. And of course, the software was trained on stolen artwork and photography without the artist's permission.

How can you tell when an image has been generated by AI? Well, they are usually too sparkly, have lots or too few fingers, gravity defying elements, and they are soulless.... there is always something about them that is off. So when an artist creates an image using artificial intelligence and paints it, without not altering a single thing, it is rather obvious that his "original oil painting" is not that original. I have noticed some rather disappointing trend where artists I have followed for a while for creating absolutely wonderful and creative work suddenly switches to generating their artwork using AI because it is obvious. Their style suddenly changes and there are more.... sparkly elements to their work. I am not against artists using AI to assist with their work, I am against artists using AI to do their work for them and they claim that they did not use AI in their process.

Now if an image is an exact copy of the AI generated image, it cannot be copyrighted. Anyone can make a print of it and sell it. According to David Grenville, Head of the Legal department at Superside:

As mentioned before, the only way to protect AI-generated art is for a human to change it enough so that the final result is a derivative work capable of independent copyright protection. Or, at the very least, the human may claim partial copyright on the parts of the image that they created.

Which probably explains why some artists won't admit to using AI, because they didn't alter it or change it in anyway. And lets not go on about the so called AI artists...

But I am not here to discuss whether or not an artist is using AI, I am here speculating whether or not artificial intelligence could harm human creativity. More specifically, artists and would be artists. Art says more about the artist than if they had spoken. The use of generative AI by an artist also says a lot - that they are cutting corners and value speed above their own, perhaps slower, personal creative output, they are more interested in generating quick art for profit....cutting costs not paying models... It all boils down to Profit! AI has become their money making machine.

Many artists I know do some research before starting on a piece. They want their art to mean something. They will sketch out different ideas, do small painting studies, see what works before starting on their main piece. The artists' imagination is working full time coming up with ideas, looking both outward and inward and trying to outdo themselves, learning from past mistakes and always moving forward, trying to improve themselves and their art practice. They are able to come with creative solutions and are quick on their feet when it comes to client feedback. I am surrounded by artists and sometimes they are just talking about the hoops they had to jump to please a client. They are successful at this because they are able to make quick changes and don't require that a computer do the thinking for them. They can sit in a meeting and outline hundreds of ideas and solutions. This is human creativity, the brain making millions of instant connections and the more it is used, the better it becomes at it.

So to outsource your creativity, your soul, and the meaning of your art to AI, seems preposterous. The soullessness is easily perceived by people - have you seen those paintings where people, especially women have zero wrinkles or facial expressions?!? It reminds me of models being airbrushed to death that that being the supposedly feminine ideal. Women as objects. It is as if some artists have decided that their art practice has to be fast and streamlined, they don't want to take time with what is essentially the fun stuff, the soul searching, the researching, the getting to know yourself and the personal growth that comes with it. This is all done at the cost of the artwork's essence, and basically, their humanity. Even if some of the old Masters had apprentices and had their work on a sort of production line, it still had a human touch. And many times you will find that Donatello taught Verrocchio who taught Da Vinci. Masters teaching future Masters. Future creatives who made a name for themselves and painted their soul and depicted what it was and is like to be human.

mona lisa leonardo da vinci human creativity
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Source: Wikipedia

I believe that if you let a machine decide what your soul looks like, you will lose yourself. Typing in prompts that you think will look cool and everyone will love this and it will be amazing, is not using your creativity. It is using someone else's creativity to do your work for you so that you can reap the praises, and those will eventually feel like nothing because you didn't actually create anything. You used a machine, entered prompts, and stole from the true creatives. Those people who dared expose their thoughts, their humanity and their soul.


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