While there are many aspects of this latest generation of AIs and LLMs that are as empowering as they are humbling, their incursion in the realm of creative arts is, in my opinion, more troubling than they are empowering.
Consider me, for example, I could quite literally not be able to draw a good set of stick figures if my life depended on it. Life-long frustration of not being able to express in visual arts whatever I have in mind. And if I were to pay an artist for commissioned work, I would first need to find an artist that knows many artistic styles, media and be able to give me enough drafts until I see what I’m asking for, and this would probably be a rather expensive and time consuming process.
But now, I can just ask DALL-E to make something for me and if I explain it reasonably well I get what I want. And if I don’t, I tweak the query until I do. It’s fast, cheap and fun.
But that’s good, you say. Well, good for me, sure, not good for art and decidedly not good for the artists whose livelihoods depend on commissioned work.
Another aspect is this: many craftspeople have spent years honing their skills, developing their style, developing their niche and business and in one fell swoop AIs are set to displace them. For example: my daughter has been tirelessly practicing for nearly a year to perfect her style and skill on anime fox girls (that’s literally her thing) and she has made remarkable progress and she continues to work on shading and coloring which according to her are the hardest parts. Like her I imagine there are tens of thousands of youths putting their hearts and souls on improving their skill, only so that ham-fisted clutz like me writes a query and immediately gets almost exactly what I was thinking of:
Sorry daughter, while I dearly love all the drawings and colorings you’ve made and the progress you made for the last year, professionally speaking, you were just replaced by an AI.
How about those people who make a buck on city sidewalks selling their beautiful aerial beach watercolors? Yeah, so, about that:
Or, just because we’re exploring the capabilities here, how about a “busy beach in Cote d’ Azure, France, in the style of monet”
Hmmm, colors — check. Light — check. Brush style — check. Texture — check. Impressionism — check.
And all of this with just today’s capabilities. Give it a year or two of fine tuning and the need for visual artists will be only for very specific asks as well for the “fine arts” and those who buy it.
But ok, you say, not every visual artist does drawing or painting. Alright, let’s assume I wanted a monogram of my initials burned on wood — because let’s assume I’m gonna open a steakhouse. I could pay a graphic designer a few hundred bucks or I could just write a query and get what I want?
Let’s assume I wanted a graphic for my hypothetical podcast. Again, I could hire a graphics designer, or I could buy and learn photoshop and illustrator … or … I could just write the query until I get what I want?
I could go on and on, but that would get tiresome. So, the visual arts (and arts in general, frankly) is one of the aspects where I’m failing to see the potential net-positive change for society of AI. I don’t think we can control it, even if we wanted, and I’m not sure society is ready for this shock.