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Is AI prompt art just another tool? (Spoiler: it's not)

Aktualisiert: 9. Sept. 2023

Like many artists, I have been thinking about "AI art", the effects it has on our society, the job market as well as what it means for digital and analogue art. While these are important topics on their own, I want to write about what it fundamentally means to use AI prompt programs in ones artistic journey.


I've seen a lot people saying that AI is just another tool. It’s been argued that throughout history people have been complaining about new tools like the camera and photoshop as "cheating", as "not art". But just because something seems similar at first, it is not necessarily to be compared. All my life I have been a great advocate to consider all kinds of tools as legit to express oneself. I have a friend who has been coding his own AI tool for years to create a database of very interesting art that he had a specific kind of control over. And so I was very open-minded when AI imagery came along and I made sure to be very early with testing out DALL-E. I watched videos of people trying to find the perfect prompt for creating the perfect image. I was excited about the possibilities and it all looked cool and new and generally fun.


However, soon prompts got leaked on how to create a specific mood that seemed to work best with AI. These prompts became known and literally anyone could create somewhat cool looking pictures. There was zero skills involved except copying some prompts that already work and coming up with a half-baked concept. The internet basically got flooded by people with no artistic approach using other people's prompts to create images that looked somewhat aesthetic at first glance. What also became painfully clear is that you don't create anything original with AI. Everything is taken from artists who have already created it in the past and put it on the internet. I have seen a lot of people saying that artists have stolen, got inspired and borrowed from other artists since the very beginning. So how is that kind of stealing different? If you were the artist that consciously stole from another artist, you must have been inspired at some point and then had to figure out how you can bend the boundaries of stealing, getting inspired and creating something new with your own point of view. If in the end it didn't work out and people would simply call it "stealing" you would at least had to deal with it. You don't have any of these thought processes when you let AI steal for you. Many times you won't even know who the image or aesthetic gets stolen from and so you do not reflect it at all.



AI art is very new and there is always a bad taste to it when you claim something as "wrong art". For example I didn’t agree when people didn’t consider NFTs to be art and I found it closed-minded. So why do I still think that this is not just like when Photoshop and digital art came along and scared a lot of people with its simplicity and automated processes? Mostly because with Photoshop you still have to do the work yourself. Everything got a whole lot easier and more efficient than before but real life tools just got translated into the digital world. You still had to learn the program and the translated tools and there was no overnight success. Additionally, if you don't have an eye for design and art you would still not create anything aesthetic with it. You can ask any designer. So I believe that comparing the rise of AI programs with Photoshop is fundamentally wrong.


Instead, I would rather compare it with outsourcing: For me it is like calling a stranger with absolutely no morals, feelings or anything that makes someone human to draw something in a specific style. That stranger then researches on the internet, copies the elements that you requested with more or less technical skill and send it to you. You then write your name on it and post it as your own. In my opinion that is basically what it is. It doesn't matter how many hours you sit there and tell that stranger to change up the image and feed it different commands. It is still not your creation. I work as a freelance illustrator and if a client gives me a commission to illustrate something specific for them, I would be outraged if they publish it with the caption "Look at what I just created myself". They came up with the image idea and they paid me to do it but it was still ME who created it, no matter how many revisions they gave me. An artificial intelligence can not claim ownership so instead the person who gave the prompts claims to be the artist. But even if AI gets conscious at some point and claims all the art as their own, I think at the very least we should all agree that THE ONE ATTRIBUTE that art needs to have to be considered "art" is that it needs to be created by a human being.

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