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  • Writer's pictureCajvanean C. Alexandru

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Artists and Creative Process



The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Artists and Creative Process




My identity and my sense of purpose are tied up with my profession. How could it not be? I spend most of my days therefore most of my life doing some form of work. Work, which most of the time is in the service of others with the purpose of sustaining a living. After doing it for more than a decade now, I now have an emotional connection with my activity. It gives meaning to my own life. Not only do I not see myself doing something else but I’m actually quite scared to be forced into doing something totally unrelated.

colorfull illustration of a cat by cajva

Most of us have relatives, parents, and even grandparents who are now retired of old age and who have worked for thirty, forty, and sometimes fifty years in the same field. That’s how we shaped our own vision about the profession and work field and how we expected ourselves to experience it in our adult years. But our perception is now challenged and we ask ourselves if artificial intelligence will take our place. As in most of the relations, including the relation we have with our craft, breaking the sensitive connection will inevitably lead us into a crisis. A crisis of meaning of purpose and ever wider income inequality.


In history, we experienced a similar scenario with the rise of industrialization. Welcome to the machine! Sure, this change brought good to the world such as increased production which led to more goods which in turn led to lower prices and accessibility. One might think that industrialization made labor cheap and sometimes obsolete but it had the opposite effect. Population migrated from rural areas to urban in order to search for jobs, they worked longer hours, and they were more stressed and diseased due to overcrowding.


Having no regulation over industrialization brought us one of the biggest problems we are facing in modern times which is pollution and human exploitation. So there’s that but at least we have nice shiny things we can play with. However in time governments started to pass laws and some regulations, even more so in the last years, but it seems like most of the harm has been done already.


If you read Marx or Engel, they predicted that workers would rise and take control of systems that exploited them and made their lives miserable. Even Plato, in The Republic, wrote that humanity is like a human organism, you can’t have a hand (government) thriving and living la Vida while the rest of the body is rotting (people). The argument for this class difference was that those in power had to be happy to pass good laws and improve their lives. The counterargument was that the ruling class should be the most balanced in their living and those who are providing us with the resources (the farmers in their case) should be well taken care of. If we see the more recent events from around the world, the picture is that we failed totally to have a balanced living or a balanced world. Also, the workers never rose and took control of the system, if anything corruption is in full bloom, and slavery is now nicely rebranded as Debt Bondage.


Amid all the misery, our lives improved anyway. How could it not, generations before us, were working their ass off. Our generation is working a bit less compared to those before but still, we work one-third of a lifetime. But is all good, we work one-third, we sleep one-third, we do the chores and the life maintenance on another one-third. For the rest of the five-thirds, we get to spend our lives in joy, abundance, and connection with our peers and nature. Isn’t that the dream? Depending on which part of the world you are living in, “the dream” might be better or worse.


Whatever, I don’t care about all that, I want to know, will AI take our jobs?


Yes and no. Technology has helped us tremendously, transportation, production, medicine, communication, knowledge, education, entertainment, arts, and last but not least, the holy economy. Superb! It’s only natural for a species as curious and as inventive as ours to try and produce a clone of themselves. I don’t like to peel potatoes, let me try and see if I can make some sort of potato peeler. I don’t like to spend my energy walking, let me see if I can come up with some sort of machine that can take me from one spot to another. What about a small robot that can pass butter? If you know, you know.


So yes, we will want new technologies to be doing some of our jobs in the future. No, your life won’t become meaningless. We adapt. Sure, we go through crises but we adapt nonetheless. Never waste a good crisis. What about work? What if I remain without a job? You may find yourself jobless with or without AI. This is not the problem, the problem is what will we do at large. If most of us become useless, impractical, or futile to the system some sort of resource distribution might be in place. Maybe we will live to see a new era of socialism.


Bypassing the morality of “should we do this” or “can we do this”, I would love for this form of intelligence to be free of restraints just so I can see what happens, you know, just like a child watches ants go wild. I believe that AI technology is delayed by regulations. Regulations that are an immediate response to something we don’t quite understand. At this exact moment, AI can’t take a person’s job but another person using AI can definitely take it. It’s a matter of time until AI can do it entirely. And who knows, maybe then and only then we will be free enough to allocate attention to our loved ones and our deep personal problems or we can just simmer in our soup of anxiety and existential angst. I can only dream, right?


Art and Design in the Age of Artificial Intelligence


Do not despair. If all the other industries are affected and people lose their jobs due to the advancement of artificial intelligence, the creative industries remain unaffected, meaning that the creative people are still unemployed.


When I was in the College of Arts, some people still hated digital software when it came to creating art or design. Paintbrush versus Photoshop was a continuous discussion, but not in the sense that created fights, but each of the users, even if it was a pencil or mouse, was feeling superior to the other. And that was thirteen years ago. I adopted both pencil and mouse and nowadays I find myself adopting artificial intelligence in order to produce work. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest, and if these tools were made to simplify our lives, it feels like it keeps on adding up. Learning to draw by hand, and then learning to use image editing software up to this point where not do I need to write good prompts but I must learn how this artificial mind is thinking. Wasn’t supposed to be the other way around?


Doesn’t matter the tool, it’s just another form of aesthetic expression. Art within itself is a transformative process where we take the banal and turn it into phenomenal. While it’s early to say that generative intelligence is not vigilant enough in picking the best ideas, we can assume that people will still use paintbrushes, digital software, and AI to fulfill their purpose. If a pencil was an extension of our personality, the same exact principle applies to artificial intelligence. We created it, it is us just as much as a canvas is. If you think about it, there is nothing artificial to this, it’s all organic in the way we think and evolve using tools, technology, and resources in order to fulfill our purpose. See? Purpose, we build it for a purpose, not to take away our meaning, we created it to help us get there.


Working as an artist and as a designer means also working with people. Someone comes at you with a brief the same way it might come with a prompt. A lot of designers fear that the customer might skip hiring and could go directly to the artificial intelligence with a nicely written prompt but that implies something deeper, something that I deem impossible and that is “knowing what you want”. In our form of expression, when we talk with our peers, language is a big barrier as it is. In trying to understand those around us, we use a rational brain and an emotional bladder. Intuition, feelings, and experience enable us to understand what others are saying.


Is hard to express what we feel and what we want, it is for a reason why small interrogatory verbal decorations such as “Do you know what I’m saying?” or “You know?” or even better “Do you know what I mean?“ are added in a conversation with the sole meaning of expressing insecurity when we are trying to communicate a message. Say, if one customer comes at me and asks me with this exact brief and prompt: “Can you make me one of those logos, you know, I saw a logo that I liked in a bar a few years ago, I don’t have a photo but I remember it was blue and red, and had all these crazy lines, know what I mean? Yeah, yeah, make me one of those”. Might sound nuts, but I know exactly what he means and I might get the right result because I had this little gut instinct. I’m flattered to be approached with “Hell yeah, this is exactly what I meant, this is perfect.” and I don’t even know how I did it or how I even thought of the right thing.


Unfortunately, we don’t know what we want but at least we are trying to make better and better tools which in time will understand us better. We are chaotic and inconsistent, our brains are wacky and there are too many voices that echo inside the chamber of confusion. As artists and designers, we must be in touch with our human side at all times because our desire for creation comes from within, the act of creation serves ourselves but the art serves the world. We see and assimilate the world around us through all the senses not just by words and that adds multidimensionality to our knowledge.


The exhaustion of being a creative person is omnipresent because we have to think, we have to execute, put it out there, deal with bad ideas, bad results, and criticism, and at times we might’ve wished we were told what to do with the perfect accuracy. Won’t happen though. It saddens me profoundly when I see articles such as “AI will kill the creative industry” I mean, people who wrote those articles should know better, they are writers themselves, are they not? Writers, visual artists, designers, animators, filmmakers, photographers, singers, and creative people in general, are marginalized enough and it’s hard as it is to make a living doing creative work. There are a few on top, which everyone sees but the big majority are deep down like a bunch of maggots eating a rotten corpse and suffering from incurable desire for the act of creation. We are creating our meaning, we are the masters of our fate, and we are the captains of our souls.


And so it goes . . .


Meanwhile, there is another problem which is as human as it gets and that is greed and power. Companies creating this type of technology are backed up by investors, corporations, and greedy minds. Say, you the reader, would be one of the investors, which I’m sure you would love to be one, you would hope for this tech to be making lots of money. And it does, and it will, and that will create an even bigger gap between the wealthiest and the poorest of the population. Just as it did in the industrial age, as it did when the internet came around, and so on. We already see the big companies in a race to arm themselves up to the teeth with AI technology. They buy pretty much everything that has a form of digital intel as they always did.


While our governments don’t have much say anymore in how things are done, decisions are left to the big party of business which have no ethical interest in the bigger picture. It's important to understand what we are dealing with and what are the negative impacts of this sort of pattern change because we might come to our senses in about ten years and we will need to deal with the next “pollution”. We are already dealing with a bunch of misinformation.


So it’s safe to say that I do not fear technology nor robots nor artificial intelligence, I fear people who are using these tools in the wrong way and making the choices for us. I fear the human unpredictability, not the digital certainty.


Besides all the terminator premonitions, there is no real reason to be conservative when it comes to new technology, if anything, play with it, and find your way around it. If one day we blow ourselves up, it is what it is, blowing ourselves up is as human as it gets, just read history of the last few hundred years, it is what we do best, we invented the atomic bomb for fuck’s sake, what else do you want?

 

I want to close this entry with a poem called Invictus writen by William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.


_____________________


Send me your ideas or start a conversation.


I write on this blog almost weekly and you can find details about my graphic design work and get in touch on this website.


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