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AI, may I?

Everyone seems to have their two cents to share on the matter. I have not made up my mind on the subject. I recently found out that an AI generated art piece (a self-portrait no less) was sold for over $90,000. There is no denying the market demand, the popular interest and cultural phenomenon in the value. Artistically, I can’t say it’s bad. It’s definitely not uninteresting. Do I struggle with the fact that it was created by prompted text without ever touching a brush? A little.

Then, I try to remember the early days of EDM (ElectroDance Music). I was there for it. I danced my butt off at raves in Ibiza, I eagerly waited in line to see Llorca ‘play’ at a club in Paris. And I enjoyed it all. I also recall having virulent discussions in its defense, debating whether or not it should be called music. My argument was that it does not take away from other musicians, it simply is a new type of instrument much like the controversial electric guitar when it first claimed its artistry.

However, the argument was easier then. I felt no threat, nor did it feel personal. I was not (and still am not) a musician. Today, my own domain is - dare I say - under attack. My perspective has selfishly pivoted.

Should I accept AI as a new tool that can create a new form of art, the way I did for computerized music? As long as the art is human led, maybe. I can still position myself in the 'old-school' category. I proudly reside in the Black and White bastion, with the life, the feels and the flaws that aim to render vibrancy. That’s where you’ll find me. So if I’m ok with the fact that there are other creative fields than my own, why shouldn’t be open to AI generated creations? Logically, I should.

A few years ago, I heard Jack Ma, the Chinese entrepreneur and billionaire, discuss the fact that humans will always have creativity and art over machines (and I’m paraphrasing since I was unable to find the exact source). I felt reassured that we were irreplaceable. Is it still the case? More recently, Ma has warned against the overuse and dangers of AI. He does consider AI a solid human partner, but believes it shouldn’t be developed to replace us. Does he still think humans the art edge or did we lose it? What does it mean for us creatives? Machines could replace us even in art, but we shouldn’t allow them too?

I want to believe the determining factor is an emotional one. Were there any feelings involved in the creative process or in its perception? I certainly put emotions in mine, and I feel plenty looking at others. I do fear that audiences won’t value that human element. I do hope, once the wave has passed and the water has settled again, that eventually the viewers will see and appreciate the difference.

Being a writer, I follow the publishing industry closely. There are now contract clauses within deals that specify whether a work is human generated. Leica (the camera company) just came out with a camera that has an embedded function certifying that an image has been human-created. We are bracing ourselves in front of this gapping unknown we just opened the door to.

'And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon God they made.' (Simon and Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence, 1964.)

With a shoulder shrug, I will leave others to decide where this road goes. Crossing my fingers that it won't be a creative sound of silence. But one thing is for certain, whether my own work reaches the masses or remains a private affair, I will always feel the joy of creating. Sorry AI, you can't replace that.

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