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AI-Generated Art: Paradox of capturing humanity

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From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AI generated Art, Latest developments in AI

Mains level : AI generated Art, controversies and the question of ethics

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Context

  • Around the end of last year, social media spaces were trending with Lensa-generated images of online users. A subscription app, Lensa, makes graphic portraits, called “Magic Avatar” images, using selfies uploaded by its users. As AI takes a strong foothold over the realm of art, are we equipped with mechanisms to define what is right and what is wrong in this domain in the first place?

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The case of Lensa app

  • A subscription app, Lensa, makes graphic portraits, called Magic Avatar images, using selfies uploaded by its users.
  • Celebrities worldwide stepped in to show how they looked so perfect in their avatars in a Lensa world.
  • However, a few days later, hundreds of women netizens worldwide started flagging issues with their avatars. They pointed out how their avatar images had their waists snatched and showed sultry poses.
  • Even after these women uploaded different pictures, Lensa generated hyper-sexualised, semi-pornographic images.

How art is generated using Artificial Intelligence?

  • Uses algorithms based on textual prompts: AI art is any art form generated using Artificial Intelligence. It uses algorithms that learn a specific aesthetic based on textual prompts and, after that, go through vast amounts of data in the form of available images as the first step.
  • Algorithms generate new images: In the next step, the algorithm tries to generate new images that tally with the kind of aesthetics that it has learnt.
  • Role of artists with right keystrokes: The artist becomes more like a curator who inputs the right prompt to develop an aesthetically-fulfilling output. While artists use brush strokes in other digital platforms like Adobe Photoshop, in programmess like Dall-E and Midjourney, all it takes are keystrokes.
  • For example: The generation of an artwork like Starry Night in the digital era. While Van Gogh would have taken days of effort to conceptualise and get the correct strokes and paint, in the AI art era, it is just a matter of the right textual prompts.

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Can it truly capture the essence of humanity?

  • The impact of AI-generation on the masses’ experience of art: Art is one of the few pursuits that makes life meaningful. It remains to be seen if AI-generated art will alienate the experience of art from the masses.
  • AI takes away the satisfaction of creating artworks: AI-generated art dehumanises artworks. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of generating an artwork lies in making it.
  • The questions over the capability of AI to capture subtle human emotions: It is also doubtful whether AI art will capture the most subtle of human emotions. How much humour is “humorous” for AI? Can AI express grief and pain in the most profound ways as described by our poets? Can AI capture the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa that makes one believe that she is shrouded in mystery?

Have you heard about Midjourney?

  • Midjourney is an AI based art generator that has been created to explore new mediums of thought.
  • It is an interactive bot, which uses machine learning (ML) to create images based on texts. This AI system utilises the concepts and tries to convert them into visual reality.
  • It is quite similar to other technologies such as DALL-E 2.

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Arguments in favor of such art

  • Thatre D opera Spatial generated by Midjourney: The question of whether AI art is causing “a death of artistry” was raised, last year, when an entry called “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” generated from Midjourney (an artificial intelligence programme) by Jason M Allen won the Blue Ribbon at the Colorado State Fair.
  • Finding suitable prompts is no less than a genius art: AI artists like Allen think finding suitable prompts to create an artwork amounts to creativity and qualifies AI art as genuine or authentic.
  • AI could democratise art world: Some artists believe AI art could democratise the art world by removing gatekeepers.

Concerns over the biases in data

  • There is bias in this data available for AI inputs due to a lack of representation of the less privileged communities’ women, people of colour and other marginalised groups.
  • Most of the training data for AI art currently emerges in the Global North and is often mired by the stereotypes of ableism, racism and sexism.
  • Historically, art has performed a political function as a venue for dissent. Can AI art overcome these inherent biases in data to bring out meaningful political engagement?

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Conclusion

  • AI-generated art can bring new ideas and possibilities to the art world, but it is important to think about how it might change people’s experience of art and if it takes away the human touch. It is also important to question if AI can truly capture the emotions that make art so special. It’s best to approach AI-generated art with an open mind and consider both the good and bad.

Mains question

Q. AI generated art is recently in headlines. What is AI generated art? Discuss arguments in favor and against the AI generated artworks.

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