Is AI Created Material Really Art (or Real Writing)?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

It started out with someone I connected to on Facebook — and forgive me for saying so — who all of a sudden shared art that surprised me. Why did it surprise me? It was fantastic. And I didn't know her to be an artist (of course, it was possible she had this low-key amazing skill that she all of a sudden decided to reveal to others). 

Secretly, though, I wondered, where on earth did she get such talent and why has she waited to share it until now?

Finally, a few posts of hers later, I complimented her art, and asked: how did she do that? It looked so real and professional and creative. I had to know. What was her medium? How did she make these images?
She told me: an AI-art program.

AI (or artificial intelligence) art doesn't come without controversy. Recently, an AI artist won an art contest that left people feeling pretty mad about it. Other artists have become unhappy at the thought their style is being mimicked in AI programs. And some AI art has been sold at an auction for a hefty sum.

But I confess: the idea of creating AI art drew me in too.

I joined a program called Night Cafe and played around with it. It's not as easy as you might think, especially if you are trying to create something in particular. While I'm mostly trying to recreate images from stories I've written, it's been fun to simply play around and see what I could do. (If you are curious, here's what I have attempted so far).

Then a conversation at work made me wonder about this whole subject. My boss was talking about the 2023 Q1 budget and mentioned they were considering an AI-writing program. I wasn't too surprised, and considering the level of content we had to create as a department, it could be a helpful tool. However, I wondered, could it eventually AI-write me out of a job?

If we had a tool that could use Mary Shelley's writing voice to create a new novel about some other monster, is that real writing? If we used J.K. Rowling's writing voice to create a new Harry Potter novel in the Harry Potter world, is that a book that should be sold? If we had a program that could mimic the Hitchcock-style of moviemaking and create new film noirs and mysteries based on that style, should those films be released in theaters? 

This has become a morally ambiguous question that I'm not sure about the answer to anymore. We're all inspired by certain writers' voices, but we don't mimick them in our creations. Sure, certain styles may seem similar, even in published material from a real writer. You'll see certain books as being great fans of "fill in the blank" because of how similar they were in nature.

Movies can be that way too. If you're a fan of Lifetime movies (and I am) there's a certain formula to each one that makes it so wonderfully terrible and amazing at the same time. Outside viewers can criticize the films, sure, but fans like me love them.

As technology advances, it's getting harder to deny a computer's role in our creative world. Is it only art or creative writing if there's a real person behind it that has produced the material?

What do you think about AI-created art or writing?


Angela Mackintosh said...

Fascinating post, Nicole! I read an article that said by 2025 90% of news will be written by AI, which is insane. I can't believe your work is using AI writing! I know AI is already writing novels. In an article at The Verge, author Joanna Penn (who we've featured here at WOW many times) said that novelists can choose to use it or be left behind. She teaches an online class on AI writing to show writers how to use AI tools. She sees a future where writers become more like "creative directors."

Personally, I love getting to know authors through their words. The way an author constructs a sentence is like a fingerprint, and voice is something I look for on the page. If we have AI constructing our sentences it almost feels like we're losing the heart and soul of our writing. Same thing with art. So it depends on what you're going for. I write for personal growth and insight into my life, but others may write commercial fiction to make a living. For those authors, AI is probably a handy tool to help them churn out novels. I think there is a place for both, and I hope I'd be able to tell which is which! I loved your illustrations at Night Cafe, but I could tell they were AI created. When I create illustrations, I hand draw it, but then colorize and tweak it in Photoshop, so you could say I've been creating AI art in some form for a long time. That article you linked to about AI art being sold for 400k is crazy because I thought art collectors cared more about the artist. But humans had to create that algorithm that generated the image, and the same thing with these writing programs, so the robots haven't taken over the world yet! Lol.

Angela Mackintosh said...

PS. Okay, I just tried Sudowrite, one of the programs Joanna Penn suggested, and it's pretty dang amazing. I can see why writers would want to use AI! If I try my hand at autofiction this NaNoWriMo, I will definitely check it out:

Renee Roberson said...

This is a very interesting topic, Nicole! I could see using an AI art program for someone like myself, who has no artistic talent whatsoever (I use Canva to create my graphics!), but I can also see using it if you are looking to create a certain "tone" in the art. I'll have to ask my daughter what she thinks about this, since she dabbles in art and is also so wary of AI replacing important jobs such as writers!

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