Halvor William Sanden

AI’s superficial ripoff for consumption

Images, text, music and other artificial intelligence products (AI) will never be the artistic output it mimics because it’s not about creating; it’s just consumption.

In terms of process, there is little difference between putting on a movie or song that already exists and prompting AI for something of the same completeness.

Without process, without value #

Both artists and AI can produce something from any prompt.

  • A piece by Wagner in the style of Metallica.
  • Gollum as Mona Lisa in the style of Ted Nasmith.
  • A poem about a desolate carwash in the style of Elton John with a hint of Aretha Franklin.

There’s no chance the output will be the same, and nothing stops one from being preferred over the other. But none of that matters; only the artist has created something and done any work because there is an artistic process. The prompter has done no work or craft; the output is their only motivation.

There’s nothing wrong in wanting to see or hear something, but it’s widely agreed that the audience or people who commission artists are not the artists. Prompters fall somewhere in those categories. As long as we don’t make it ourselves, we are consumers.

The artistry lies not in what we want to consume but in what we want to say and especially the process that gets us there. Even in highly commercial work, there is value in the craft. Even if the artist finds little motivation in current tasks, there is often a drive in the craft itself. Artists understand their value beyond their output, as do those who continue to pay them. The rest think making art is payment in itself, and they ruthlessly take advantage of people or try replacing them with poor machine output.

Superficiality and craft #

AI-generated output always seems like something we’ve encountered before. It’s what we get when people with a superficial understanding of the world make advanced copy machines. Like the AI, the people behind it don’t understand what they see, hear or read. The lack of craft and general media ignorance is evident in the huge, but always limited, amount of stolen source material used for machine learning.

The lack of originality comes from the inability to combine experiences with experience, two factors that make humans unique and what we use to make something. Machines can perform limited acts of randomness but not chance and realistic layered human action. AI doesn’t know us and never will. It can’t synthesise even the most famous artist because it can only copy their output, not the factors that made that output.

Imitate me today; I’ll change tomorrow #

Ironically, the self-proclaimed people of tomorrow can only give the machine learning algorithm yesterday’s work and, by that, only produce yesterday’s news.

Imitation, inspiration or whatever you call it isn’t primarily about copying someone else’s style. Bits of others’ output influence humans directly; imitation is part of learning, part of the process. But at least just as significant are the indirect effects that evoke feelings and generate new ideas.

A machine learning model cannot self-motivated add a secondary medium as indirect input and let emotional and cognitive effects affect the process and work. It can’t process the impact of an artist’s surroundings, temperature, light, setting, view, weather, hours of sleep, mood and other variables that fuel the art and continuous evolution of the artist.

Ripoff exists in human-made art but has more dignity than machine-generated output because it involves actual work with the possibility of shaping the person. Saying what’s a ripoff or not can be tricky – which is what the people behind the AI are covering behind while revealing their ignorance once more. But in terms of AI, it’s clearly a ripoff because no other factors beyond other people’s work are involved. There is no mixing of styles, abilities, and unique thought processes.

Sixty years on a napkin #

Prompting for a product removes the process essential to originality and invention.

The artist’s eye, ear or brain doesn’t turn off. An artist continues to evolve and change, even after hours. Every piece is a result of their experience, even a scribble on a napkin. The process of making the current piece didn’t start when they started working today; it began when they started to make their very first piece.

The machine prompter gains no experience because there is no cognitive process. In sixty years, they have no skills to show. They have submitted entirely to the machine learning algorithms; if taken away from them, they are left empty-handed. Hopefully, also economically.

True grift #

People have different levels of need for artistic expression. People who do something about it have a high drive, no matter what they make, if the equipment is cheap or expensive, or whether they paint with their feet, mouth, hands or voice.

AI is not a shortcut for people seemingly without artistic skills to express themselves. It’s a shortcut to grift and consumption.

Go watch a movie. Or make one.