AI threat to human artists is very small

A robot is on display at an AI conference in Shanghai, on July 10, 2020. [Photo/IC]

It has been claimed that an artistic computer could soon be drawing your ideas out for you.

Text-to-image AI illustrators are rapidly improving in sophistication and are exciting many as a way to produce high-quality images instantaneously from text prompts.

Using a computer to draw images instead of a human illustrator may, however, cause artists to wonder about their job security.

It takes a lifetime to perfect 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, with the technology still in its infantry.

Illustrative programs, such as Imagen by Google and DALL-E 2 from Open AI, use neural networks to organize images into categories. These images coincide with specific text prompts and amalgamate ideas visually into the final product, which hopefully reflects what the human user imagines as accurately as possible. This is a learning process, with programs allegedly getting more accurate by the day.

Huge amounts of computing power are required to train AI illustrators on enormous data sets. This acts as a limiting factor, allowing only the largest technology conglomerates with deep pockets in the race to develop the technology.

Unfortunately, these programs are not available to the public, and so skeptics claim that the technology simply is not there yet to navigate the nuances of art.

Technology companies have hit back, claiming that 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 is developing a list of harmful images and concepts that are to be blacklisted, allowing the technology to then be distributed. Whether this is just a stalling tactic to allow 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 such as Adobe have slowly been adding AI features to their products. Speeding up workflows by using programs to automatically crop shape outlines, or find specific video frames, frees up time for artists to truly experiment and display their creative flair.

By cutting out repetitive tasks, human ingenuity can take firm control, something that AI stands no chance of replacing in its current form.

No sector stands to 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 drawing frame-by-frame and that automatically color scenes are a huge deal.

Auto-coloring programs are now being 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 further developed sophisticated coloring programs, such as Style2Paints, that are openly accessible on the internet.

The AI ​​revolution is far from automating the job of an artist. If anything, it contributes to their productivity, freeing up time to explore original ideas. The creative industry will, nevertheless, be affected by these developments. The quantity of work and timescale deadlines set by clients will shift, 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.

New Technology Era

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