Artificial Intelligence mimics human learning through algorithms and data analysis, with applications to visual art. Recent advances in AI art generators have raised concerns that these models may replace human artists one day. This paper considers various evidence on artistic quality, public reception, and economic impact to investigate this possibility. I reject the extreme position that AI art will completely replace human artists by highlighting the preference for human art both from important gatekeepers and the public. However, the opposite extreme is equally unlikely due to existing uses and investment in AI art. I conclude that AI and human artists can coexist and even complement one another.
In recent times, artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced explosive growth, with the researchers calculating the compound annual growth rate of the AI market to be 37.7% from 2023 – 20301. Generative AI, or AI algorithms that can produce unique digital content, such as texts and images, have prompted significant debates over its usage in the field of art. As AI becomes more advanced, artists, art-buyers, and policymakers it has the potential to alter the landscape of the art industry. Many discussions have speculated on the long-term impacts of AI technology: some have brought up the concern that AI art can cause severe damage to the traditional art market as they are produced way cheaper and more efficiently2, while others proposed the idea of human artists collaborating with AI, a partnership that could enhance creativity3. However, the scarcity of empirical data and the rapidly changing AI technology have created a research gap for a more evidence-based and up-to-date investigation. The question this paper attempts to answer is how will the introduction of AI art impact the existing art industry and what will be the roles of human artists in this new age. Aside from the selective review of various public perspectives and investor reports, this paper also incorporates few unique sources such as Google Trends and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. My research suggests that rather than homogenizing the art creation process, introducing AI can instead aid the industry’s continuous growth.
AI is a multidisciplinary field aiming to create systems that can imitate human’s ability to learn and carry out tasks, such as making decisions and solving complex problems Within the field, machine learning algorithms analyze and learn from inputted data. It improves through training on large datasets and adjusting its internal parameters. This learning enables it to perform tasks, make predictions, and automate processes, mimicking human-like intelligence. Computer scientists are responsible for fine-tuning the models and guiding their development. Still, over time, AI also refines its own performance through continuous feedback and iterative improvement, enhancing its ability to handle complex tasks and make informed choices. AI can accomplish difficult tasks because programmers train the AI models on collected data related to specific functions to recognize patterns and increase their effectiveness at doing them.
Scientists can also apply this same concept to the production of art. Since AI was in its early developmental stages, scientists have been experimenting with its ability to generate visual graphics and images. Max Bense, a German philosopher and mathematician, was partly responsible for applying computer algorithms to art. In the 1950s, he developed the concept of “information aesthetics,” which delves into how information, such as mathematical principles and patterns, can be manipulated to create artistic compositions. Another key figure in the development of this field was Harold Cohen, who created the famous program “AARON,” an AI system that can generate images using algorithms4. As time has passed and technological advances continue to accelerate, so do AI art generators. Some of the widely available and most popular AI art generators, including Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DALL-E-2, were all released in 2022. These models all use text prompts to generate intended art pieces. Users enter textual descriptions or keywords into the generators, which will associate the prompts with pre-existing images in its database and morph specific datasets into the final product. These recent models are not without their limitations. In the earlier stages of development, many art generators suffered from obvious errors in the produced artwork, notably their inaccurate depictions of human hands5. However, most believe these blatant failures are only temporary, and ensuing updates of art generators may resolve many of them without the need for radically new technology. For example, a software update in March of 2023 has significantly improved Midjourney’s ability to generate human hands6. Other limitations of art generators, such as general public’s concern for their potential plagiarisms or their supposedly lack of emotional values, are addressed in the competing perspective section.
In recent times, especially since 2022, art created using artificial intelligence software has seen immense popularity. Social media platforms are flooded with discussions and posts regarding AI-generated images. Social media activity is a good indicator of widespread interest. For example, #aiart has over 8.5 million posts on Instagram as of July 2023. It is important to note that while this is not a tiny number, #drawing (287M posts) and #painting (165M posts) still outnumber #aiart by a large margin, partly due to the recentness of AI art’s popularity. Although this may not translate into important shifts in the market behavior of art consumers, it has been enough to concern many in the art world. This paper will discuss trends in interest in AI more in the competing perspective section.
While many of the posts on social media were made by hobbyists, AI art is already used in prominent commercial applications. Netflix released an animated short film in early February 2023 titled “The Dog and the Boy,” incorporating AI-generated background art. Regardless of the film’s low popularity due to issues regarding artists’ payments, it has created some fears of a revolution in the art industry, in which AI replaces existing human artists. In the most recent strike by Hollywood screenwriters, workers sought protection against job loss from generative . This indicates that the film industry’s traditional gatekeepers have already acted against incursion from generative AI technology. This topic is discussed more in parts b and c of the competing perspective sections.AI art has also generated a lot of controversy concerning intellectual property rights. Many advocates for artists’ rights are upset that most AI models are trained on data and art without the artists’ consent or remuneration.. Kim Leutwyler, a famous painter, has expressed dismay over what they claim is AI’s immoral usage of their art: “It was very upsetting to see so many great Australian artists and emerging artists having their work used without their consent and then replicated in some form or another”7. They characterize AI as stealing artist’s creative capital, while also supplanting their labor. Legal actions that are coordinated by potential gatekeepers will be important to consider in predictions about the future of AI in art.
Competing Perspectives on the Future of AI Art
Painting a complete picture of the future of AI art can be challenging. It depends on many unforeseeable changes in the future, such as the public perception of AI art or the invention of a radically more effective technology. Instead of pretending at certainty, we propose that the future of the art industry could lead down three different paths: AI could be just a disappointment in the field of art and become a plaything; AI could dominate the industry and ultimately drive out human artists and creators; lastly, AI could provide substantial benefits to current artists but will not be powerful enough to cause total replacement. We can analyze each scenario using prior research and relevant statistics to determine their plausibility.
a. AI Art will never approximate human artist
This first section will analyze one of three scenarios: AI art will be unsuccessful in its implementation, and we will not see widespread usage within the art industry. This might happen because technology never elicits as positive a response as humans, or producers and consumers of art reject AI as intrinsically worse.
There is some evidence that backs up this outcome. Researchers used thirty AI-generated images that they considered high quality and labeled half as “human-created” and the other half as “AI-created.” The study’s participants were asked to rate them across different criteria, such as beauty and profundity. Still, the results were staggering: the participants rated the “human-created” artworks higher across all requirements8. Even though AI created all images, simply labeling the artwork as created by AI will reduce their ratings. In a similar study conducted using AI music quality as the independent variable, participants perceived music created by AI to be of lower quality than regular music, highlighting the cognitive bias against AI art9. Companies need to be wary about using AI art if this bias is reflected across the general public. They will need to analyze the pros and cons: does the benefit gained from cutting costs using AI outweigh the loss of consumers due to their negative viewpoint towards AI products? If the answer is no, AI art might not be particularly successful in the art industry.
Conversely, if this bias is because AI is new and unfamiliar, then this obstacle may soon be overcome. There are some evidence that suggests that the bias against AI art might not be inherent. In a study with 2000 adults weighted to be representative of the US adult population as a whole, only 27% of them viewed AI artwork. However, 56% of viewers enjoyed AI art, while only 19% did not. When asked for their preferences for AI art compared to human art, 34% actually stated they liked AI artwork more, while 29% valued human art more. The remaining 31% found them to be roughly equal10. In addition, if art is something created to evoke emotions by stimulating the senses, then even current AI technology meets that definition. Study participants asked to describe abstract AI art found pieces to be meaningful and perceived some intended emotions that are either positive or negative11. The study’s findings support artistic theories that state intended emotions can be interpreted by the human viewers with or without an artist, and abstract computer-generated art pieces also could evoke emotions. This shows that, even with the inherent bias towards artworks created by machines, the emotional value of the images is not zero. Suppose we account for all the additional improvements that will be added to these generative AI models in the future. In that case, they will surely be able to evoke more significant emotions inside the viewers. As such, the argument that AI cannot compete against human artists due to their inability to evoke emotions is not entirely valid.
We now understand that AI art could evoke emotions of the same magnitude as human art. However, it still can be underwhelming: what if not enough workers within the art industry want to use it? Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli, considered one of the greatest animation directors who ever lived, did not hold back his criticisms towards a team of presenters after they showed him an AI-generated animation demo in 2016. In the NHK documentary titled “10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki”, he stated that “I am utterly disgusted. If you want to make creepy stuff, you can go ahead and do it.” He also goes on to say that AI art is “an insult to life itself” and that the creation of AI art means “we humans are losing faith in ourselves”12. British Author and Illustrator Rob Biddulph is also dismissive, saying AI art “is the exact opposite of what I believe art to be, … And simply pressing a button to generate an image is not a creative process”13. Many other artists share a similar sentiment. For example, on the popular platform Art Station, many artists have banded together and started posting the same image consisting of a prohibition sign over the word “AI” and a caption that says “NO TO AI GENERATED IMAGES.” Not only is AI art a potential replacement for current artists, but the method by which AI creates art is questionable. If most artists continue to either give AI art the cold shoulder or are actively fighting against it, AI art might not be widely used within the industry and ultimately die out.
To counter the previous point, many workers within the art and design industry are already exploring different ways to incorporate generative AI into their fields. According to a New York Times article, many digital artists are already checking the new technologies out for themselves14. Whether an interior designer is using AI to create a mock-up for a client or a filmmaker making early concept art, AI is a helpful tool that can boost productivity through novel approaches and reduce the number of time-consuming tasks artists must deal with. If artists cooperating with AI art models start to gain a competitive advantage against others within the same field, refusing to resort to the models due to the increased efficiency, then the remaining artists may be forced to use AI due to company expectations. More discussion related to implementation of AI technologies can be found in part c.
One last indication that AI art will not outright fail is the massive investment that developers of AI art generators are receiving: If AI art generators receive many investments from venture capitalists, it is a sign that these investors, at least, expect it to be valuable in the future. Stability AI, the leading open-source generative AI company and the creator of the renowned Stable Diffusion, received $101 million in funding that values the company at around $1 billion back in October of 202215. Coatue, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and O’Shaughnessy led the funding. OpenAI, the creator of the famous Dall-E 2 and ChatGPT received an even greater investment. Microsoft put around $10 billion into the company this January, a monumental deal that gave OpenAI limitless potential. They also received $300 million from VC (venture capitalists) firms, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive, and K2 Global. The company was valued at an incredible $27 – $29 billion when the funding had occurred, and it may very well still be growing today16. All of these investments mean that, according to venture capitalists, AI art generators have a very high potential to be successful in the industry.
Although based on the current situation, AI art is most likely going to be significant in the future of the art industry, several factors may make AI’s future impacts minimal. Pending legal actions against AI art generators for issues such as copyright infringement could potentially limit AI’s role within the artistic community. Additionally, intellectual movements that intensifies public’s apprehension regarding AI technology. Much like the depictions within Samuel Butler’s article “Darwin Among the Machines”17 in which Butler raised the possibility that machines may overtake humans as the dominant species, many current policy makers may reflect the same perspective and purposefully hinders the implementation of AI art in order to prevent human artists from being taken over. There’s already existing support for limiting the fast-paced technological development, and such viewpoints may become even more popular, leading to a consumer demand favoring purely human art. These evolving legal and ideological shifts could act as barriers to the legitimacy of AI-generated art, making them less likely to be realized.
b. AI art will replace human-generated art
This section discusses the possibility that are feared by many artists: AI art will one day
overtake human art as the most prevalent art form. According to a New York Times article, AI art is already winning art competitions. In 2022, an entrant to the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition won a prize by submitting his work, which was created through Midjourney18. This news may seem somewhat irrelevant, but it marks one of the first instances where human creation lost against AI. As AI art continues to absorb data of art readily available on the web, it grows and improves to the point where it is more than capable of competing against human art.
AI has now arrived at the advanced stage where it is able to be widely implemented in the workforce, and data shows that companies are learning effective ways to use AI to boost workers’ work rate. The McKinsey Global Survey offers a general outlook of AI as a whole. While these data do not go into details regarding AI generative art’s usage rate, the information does show that companies are more open to investing and incorporating AI into their companies. The results indicated that companies are slowly but surely finding ways to use different artificial intelligence capabilities in their line of business, with the average number of used AI capabilities reported being 3.8 in 202219. That is not all. The survey notion that AI leaders, or companies that excel at adapting to AI usage, are rapidly pulling ahead of their competitors. As such, more and more companies are joining the AI movement. In 2018, 40% of the respondents to the survey said their companies “reported more than 5% of their digital budgets went to AI,” and now, in 2022, 52% of respondents “reported that level of investment.” 63% of companies also replied that they would be increasing their investment in AI within the next three years. This may reflect the perspective of companies specializing in graphic design and other visual art-related industries, who may utilize generative AI to a greater extent. If this trend continues and more companies rely on AI, human artists may be forced to use AI technology to keep up with competitors.
While it is possible for artistic companies or free-lance artists to adopt the usage of AI into their work, the exact effects this adoption will have on the numbers of human artists is still murky. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts no significant changes within the current employment rates of the various occupations within the Arts and Design industry. Within it, the job outlook of art directors (4%), crafts and fine artists (6%) are growing at a standard pace, while the job outlook of Fashion Designers (3%), Graphic Designers (3%), and interior designers (3%) is growing slower than usual, but still growing all the same20. According to these projections, the industry is not facing significant changes related to the number of workers in the upcoming years. However, it is important to note that these results are made with data collected from 2021, when most AI art generators are not officially published. The projection may change by adding this factor into the equation.
AI art also may not be as popular as people are making it out to be. The influx of AI art into social media feeds often slowly diminishes with time. We used Google Trends to analyze the search volume and relative interest in specific topics over time. While it may not provide comprehensive data on the concrete usage data of AI applications, it can offer a directional understanding of public interest and trends. Google Trends displays a graph that shows the interest in a search term over time, and the y-axis represents the interest relative to the highest point in that time interval, which is chosen to be the last 12 months. “AI art” was first inputted, and Trends displayed that the term peaked during the week of December 4th, 2022. Before that, the average relative interest to the peak from June to December was around 20%, and after that, the average relative interest rate slowly dwindled back to 20% till this day21. After the initial boom, people showed less interest due to the lack of significant updates. While newer versions for AI models such as Midjourney are being released periodically and are enhancing their performance to a certain degree, a more sweeping update is required to draw back the attention of the public. Additionally, I compared “AI art” to regular art topics such as “drawing” and “painting,” all of which received significantly more interest. Currently, the interest in “AI art” is roughly equal to “watercolor” within the past 90 days (from July 3, 2023). When we entered generative AI models by name, “Midjourney” was at a 40% interest rate, DALL-E was 18%, and Stable Diffusion was 75%. None of these models are near their most popular state, and this decrease in renown could very well hinder their ability to compete with traditional art forms with a stable popularity. With the current trends, another innovative generative feature is needed to bring AI art back into the spotlight. Overall, while AI art can be a threat to the art industry with additional capabilities, it is not likely that the change will occur with its current rate of progression.
One last obstacle that may stop the proliferation of AI art is its legal issues. Although the Hollywood strike was mainly concerned with the film industry, visual artists may soon follow suit and commence large scale operations resisting the increasing usage of AI in the visual art industry. Such movements may have already gained traction: some artists have filed lawsuits regarding AI’s incorporation of online art into its pile of data. Three artists sued Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, the developer of DreamUp, and claimed that these companies’ AI generators are trained on their copyrighted artworks without first obtaining their consent22. In a separate lawsuit, the stock image company named Getty Images is suing Stability AI for stealing their artwork and copying around 12 million of their copyrighted artwork23. There is little precedent that the Courts can look back on, as AI is a brand-new technology. Depending on the results of these cases that determine whether AI models can train off copyrighted materials, the freedom of AI art may be significantly restricted. Artists and other workers within the creative industry are also actively taking measures against the invasion of AI that may replace them: many artists are choosing to “opt out” of allowing AI developers to incorporate their artworks into the training data for the AI models24. Many websites and apps gatekeep their content so AI does not consume them. As such, not only will the models be unable to access data sources to train on, there will most likely be exclusive artworks that are illegal to recreate using an AI. This means that while AI artists may still become very powerful, human artists will have a few ways to capitalize within the industry.
Some dramatic alterations to the current situation could tip the scales in favor of AI over human artists, such as the extraordinary technological advancements in AI art generation. As the current leading AI art generators continue to receive updates, the advancements in neural network architectures and data processing capabilities might enable AI to generate art that are unprecedently complex and emotional. Coupled with this, shifts in consumer tastes may also contribute to this scenario. As the younger, more tech-savvy generations grow up exposed to AI-generated art, their preferences could evolve to favor the novel aesthetics that AI offers. This blend of advanced technology and changing consumer attitudes could create an environment where AI-generated art is able to fully compete or even outperforms human art, potentially becoming the primary artistic medium.
c. AI will be a useful complement to human art
This option is the most likely to be realized. The two previous paths are both on the extreme ends, and we went over why they might not be sensible. If AI is not a failure but will not wholly overtake the industry, its degree of helpfulness lies in the middle. In a research article that interviews scientists and artists to determine AI’s role in the creative process, interviewees recognized that AI could be a great aid in various steps of the creative process. Instead of AI being a fully functional replacement, the artists can utilize AI’s ability to produce “surprising and interesting results” and use that as inspiration for their work25. As such, some artists do not outright reject the future of co-creation with the help of AI and instead are open to exploring the possibilities that come with the nifty new tools. The Writers Guild of the Hollywood strike shares this sentiment. In their negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture, they agreed that AI can be a very useful tool if used in with ethical considerations in mind. The final deal agreed to protect the writers’ contracts involving AI, allowing them to use AI with permission from the company. However, they cannot be forced by their company to use AI in their work26.
The general public, while not experts by any means, expects AI technologies in the art field to be just a minor advancement, and not a revolutionizing invention. This viewpoint may be helpful because it is largely unbiased: it doesn’t belong to artists who feel their careers are at risk, and also doesn’t belong to businessmen who may benefit from the promotion of AI art models as their valuations are on the rise. A research survey held by Pew Research Center tries to grasp how big of an impact Americans believe AI will have in different applications. 31% of respondents believe AI image production is a significant advancement, 39% say it is a minor advancement, 19% say it is not an advancement at all, and the remaining 11% are not sure27. The same respondents instead think the development of AI in other fields, such as biology, agriculture, and weather prediction, is more valuable. For example, 59% of respondents view AI’s ability to predict protein structures within cells to be a significant advancement, 27% say it is a minor advancement, and only 4% think it is not an advancement. Essentially, the educated public believes that AI in the art industry is an advancement but its impacts are limited, and its effects won’t be as dramatic as some of the AI applications in other fields. This comparison shows that the public believes AI art is not poised to replace human workforce on the same scale as AI is impacting other sectors, and being merely a minor advancement allows for the existing method of creating art to still be relevant, even with the increasing usage of art generators. It seems that to them, collaboration between humans and AI is more plausible than AI outright replacing a section of the workforce.
The leading investment company Goldman Sachs performed a research study to break down the potential effects of artificial intelligence on the current workforce. Their analysis estimated how much specific industries in the US will be impacted by AI and automation. They predicted that one-fourth of the total current workforce is exposed to the threat of automation, and the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) Industry’s exposure is only slightly above average at 26%28. This means that 26% of the industry is at risk of being replaced by AI, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will for sure be replaced. If this same percentage applies to the art industry specifically as well, then most of the workers with art-related jobs are safe, as only a maximum of 26% of them could lose their jobs. The paper also indicates that less than 5% of the ADESM industry are jobs with above 50% of complex tasks that are exposed to AI automation. Around 20% of the industry is entirely unaffected, and the rest of the 75% will continue to work, only now will they be complemented by AI. Compared to the other industries, ADESM careers are less likely to be wholly replaced and more likely to be complemented by AI. It seems that generative AI will become a stable part of the art industry while not completely eradicating existing careers.
How exactly is this scenario of the visual art industry, now intermingled with AI technology, better in any way from the pre-AI era? There aren’t enough data from available research that studies AI’s large-scale effects the industry, but this paragraph proposes a few hypothetical effects through logic and reasoning. Firstly, as discussed above, AI can aid artists individually in various steps during their creative process. By utilizing AI’s fast generation speed, artists can likely rapidly journey through the trial-and-error stage by creating various drafts of their early ideas. This will give them a clear idea on what direction they want to take their art. Moreover, unexpected features within AI art pieces can serve as inspiration to artists to implement into their own work, allowing them to add layers that wouldn’t have existed before. This effect on the art-creation process will likely be very significant, as the previous paragraph suggests that an extremely low percentage of jobs in the ADESM industry are actually in danger of replacement by automation, meaning that most human artists that are capable of altering their creative process using AI and not be completely replaced are the majority.
Another potential effect is on the economy of the visual art industry, benefited from the concept of normal goods and inferior goods. Normal goods are products that consumers buy more of as their income rises, and inferior goods are the opposite: they are things that people stop buying once they are more well-off, such as junk food or used shoes. As such, normal goods are often associated more with a luxurious lifestyle, and inferior goods are things people buy to save costs. There aren’t many studies on the average number of art pieces per households based on income, therefore it’s up to debate whether or not they should be considered as non-essential normal goods. However, it’s reasonable to assume that wealthier people tend to have more art pieces due to various reasons: bigger estate provides them more rooms for art display, and higher income allows for the hobby of art collection. Following that assumption, AI can incentivize an increase in the purchasing rate of art pieces in two ways. Firstly, more efficient production of art pieces allows for a cheaper final price, allowing lower-income buyers to purchase more art. Secondly, research has predicted that implementation of AI technology increases productivity so much that it could add between $13.6 trillion to $22.1 trillion annually to the global economy29. If this benefit is applicable to the U.S. economy as well and our average standard of living increase, then this may allow the general population to purchase even more art as they move on from buying inferior goods to buying normal goods. Both of these options will incentivize the purchasing of more art pieces, leading to a more vibrant visual art economy.
Following up on the topic of economy, there is the concept of normal goods and inferior goods. Normal goods are products that consumers buy more of as their income rises, and inferior goods are the opposite: they are things that people stop buying once they are more well-off, such as junk food or used shoes. As such, normal goods are often associated more with a luxurious lifestyle, and inferior goods are things people buy to save costs. Following the phenomenon above, it makes sense why the introduction of digital art was not detrimental to the art industry: all it did was make the art and design process easier, which in turn allowed for cheaper production of art and graphic designs, leading to an increased rate of consumption from buyers. If we applied that same reasoning, wouldn’t AI art, which is much cheaper to make, incentivize people to purchase more art due to the price cut? Some may argue that AI-produced art’s inferior quality may negate this effect. However, it is reasonable to believe that once generative has advanced to a certain point, the art quality will no longer be a concern; all that matters is the composition and art style.
The art industry is currently approaching a potentially critical turning point. The introduction of AI technology may very well revolutionize the way it currently operates, and this paper serves to allow companies and artists to better prepare themselves for the new age. We predict that the future of the art industry will not lean towards either side of the extremes of X or Y but instead take the moderate paths. The new industrial ecosystem will likely consist of AI and humans learning to co-exist, with human and AI artists finding their respective audiences. For now, many career paths in the art industry should still be viable; only slight alterations will occur as artists begin to explore new realms with the assistance of generative AI. Furthermore, regular people will continue making art without being influenced by the changes in the art industry. After all, many artists enjoy the act of creating their pieces, and art creation will be preserved as a fun hobby for many years to come.
This study has several limitations that should be noted. Firstly, the scope of our research does not encompass all forms of art; theater and sound arts are notably excluded. Moreover, various subfields of visual arts like ceramics, architecture, and films and animation are not yet generated by AI, limiting our ability to make accurate predictions about these areas. Additionally, while the paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview, it does not claim to cover the art industry in its entirety, nor does it incorporate all available evidence. The predictions made are intentionally broad and lack specificity, reflecting the general nature of the paper. For more specialized discussions, such as legal aspects surrounding AI-generated art, further research is required in order to gain insight about these topics, which will ultimately contribute to mapping out the nuance of the art industry’s future.
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