You may have read last month that an AI created print sold for $432,500 at Christie's in NY, far exceeding the estimated $10,000 it was expected to fetch. Obvious Art in Paris produced the work using an adversarial generative network, an AI technique that is being used for creative experiments. I have to say that I didn't care for the piece much, though I recognized the accomplishment.
Yesterday, I saw a Ken Weiner blog posting in Scientific American that showed more AI created stuff, some of which I quite liked. Actually, to be more accurate, the stuff shown was a collaboration between AI and human artists, though I'm not entirely clear on what the process involved.
The article raises a number of questions that don't have easy answers. Some are philosophical: if it's created by an emotionless machine, can it really be called art? Some are legal: who is entitled to the copyright? The Edmond de Belamy portrait sold at Christie's had this whimsical signature:
This is one of the formulas used in generating the piece. So does the work belong to the programmer? The program itself? To nobody? Then there are social questions: are human artists going to become as endangered as truck drivers?
My personal view is that yes, a machine can create art. Any artistic creation should be judged on its own inherent merits, not on its history or the merits of its creator. I have absolutely no idea how we should deal with rights management. I suppose that until an AI can sue its programmer or producer, it's probably a moot question. As for artists themselves, I find it hard to believe that they will ever be displaced. But perhaps some of them will end up as editors, sorting through masses of AI produced stuff, throwing out the garbage and selecting whatever is worthwhile. Maybe in art, as in other areas, what we will eventually see is a collaboration between AI and humans with AI enhancing human activities but not replacing them.