The threat of AI to human artists is very low
It has been claimed that an artistic computer could soon draw your ideas for you.
Text-to-image AI illustrators are rapidly gaining sophistication and exciting many as a way to instantly produce high-quality images from text prompts.
Using a computer to draw images instead of a human illustrator, however, can make artists question their job security.
It takes a lifetime to hone and hone the fine motor coordination and creativity required to be a professional artist, and the prospect of being replaced by a neural network will leave a bad taste in many mouths. However, this problem could still be many years away, as the technology is still in its infancy.
Illustrative programs, such as Google’s Imagen and Open AI’s DALL-E 2, use neural networks to organize images into categories. These images coincide with specific text prompts and visually merge ideas into the final product, which hopefully reflects what the human user imagines as accurately as possible. This is a learning process, with programs allegedly becoming more accurate day by day.
Huge amounts of computing power are required to train AI illustrators on huge datasets. This acts as a limiting factor, allowing only the biggest tech conglomerates with deep pockets in the race to develop the technology.
Unfortunately, these programs aren’t available to the public, and skeptics argue that the technology just isn’t there yet to navigate the nuances of the art.
Tech companies have hit back, saying the risk of their software being abused to create harmful images and content is too great to allow open access.
However, steps are being taken to address this. Google compiles a list of harmful images and concepts to blacklist, then allowing the technology to spread. Whether this is merely a delaying tactic to give programs more time to develop is up for debate.
Human artists, on the other hand, can welcome AI in its current form, especially those working with digital tools. Companies like Adobe have been slowly adding AI features to their products. Speeding up workflows by using programs to automatically crop the outlines of shapes or find specific video frames frees up time for artists to truly experiment and display their creativity.
By removing repetitive tasks, human ingenuity can take firm control, which AI has no chance of replacing in its current form.
No sector will benefit more from this development than animation. In Asia, where anime is a revered international cultural export, AI tools that can reduce the need for frame-by-frame drawing and automatically colorize scenes are very important.
Automatic coloring programs are now used by the production studio OLM, which is responsible for bringing the Pokemon franchise to life. Developers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have developed sophisticated coloring programs, such as Style2Paints, which are freely available on the Internet.
The AI revolution is far from automating the work of an artist. On the contrary, it contributes to their productivity, freeing up time to explore original ideas. The creative industry will nevertheless be affected by these developments. The amount of work and deadlines set by clients will change as the artistic process becomes more efficient.
But expecting a machine, instead of a human, to create a bespoke masterpiece is still a long way off.