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AI artist, Al Gahaku, will “paint” more in a second than an artist's lifetime but the depth of human to human experience is lost until AI becomes human.
(Left: painting by AI Artist “AI Gahaku”, Right: charcoal drawing by London/Hong Kong Artist Brendan Fitzpatrick.)
Being a tech entrepreneur, I had religiously followed the idea that digital upgrades were the superior way to achieve what one wanted. That it was the natural evolution of humankind. Why mail when you can send? Why travel when, one day, you may be able to transport?
This was until I was recently drawn by two artists. One, an up and coming, oil painter called Brenden Fitzpatrick and the other, an AI artist named “AI Gahaku'' who generates digital canvas Renaissance paintings from photos stored on your device. The experiences were illuminating in ways I would not have previously appreciated. There was something about the AI generated painting that made me disregard it. While the human drawn portrait had my emotional equity.
I arrived at Brenden Fitzpatrick’s art studio inconspicuously hidden in the factory buildings of Hong Kong. I had visited many artists watering holes in similar buildings, and it always fascinated me the world’s they built behind those loft doors. Brenden’s studio did not disappoint.
We chatted, viewed and discussed his works and shared stories. But when we began, it got deep. There was raw emotion shared. A cathartic expulsion of who one was at that moment between who was being drawn and the artist. As the session continued, I saw the process of paper and charcoal turn into art. A shared experience seemed to be transferred into something meaningful and while it took several hours to sketch to capture life onto canvas, there was a human connection captured in its rarity these days.
(Life to canvas)
To be “painted” by Al Gahaku was novelty at best. You can try it here. Almost like a well placed gift store at the end of a tourist attraction. AI Gahaku was a perfectly designed marketing engine which took advantage of human’s innate narcissism and produced results. It was sticky enough for people to share Al Gahaku’s creations of themselves online (which is how I came across it), it followed the “1-2-3 Click” design rule to make it easy for me to complete my goal of photo upload to be “painted”, enough presets to make AI Gahaku’s produced portrait feel unique, and then guided me to continue the loop.
(Uploaded photo = Self-Portrait N°348943 by AI Gahaku)
I perpetuated AI Gahaku’s feeding frenzy by promptly sharing Self-Portrait N°348943 on my socials and the cycle went on. Self-Portrait N°348943 now lives in the digital junkyard of my social media. Our exchange lasted 1 minute and now AI Gahaku has moved on to the next subject while my AI portrait gets pushed down my feed. I’ll probably never go out of my way to retrieve Self-Portrait N°348943 to show someone, but I would for my portrait by Brenden.
Al Gahaku will “paint” more in a second than an artist's lifetime but the depth of human to human experience is lost until AI becomes human.
Technology has a way of erasing the human experience, what makes us faulty yet uniquely human. Our species' knack for impatience has inspired efficiency over journey, but with the journey increasingly lost, humankind seems to be feeling lost too. In the context of AI Gahaku, experiencing its world of instant results, and good results at that, lacked meaning on a human level. It's this human level that the AI industry is solving for - that connection between human and machine where machine is no longer a tool but just like us, if not more ethereal, maybe even perfect.
Perfection is far but attainable at the rate of AI’s progress. AI artists are going through the same challenges of any organism, learning to crawl and walk before it starts contributing to the world. Unbeknown to AI, the pressures and expectations on its performance far outweighs other emerging technologies because it's made to mimic us. AI Gahaku is no exception to that.
Specifically when it comes to art, AI artists are going through the same challenges any artist's digital art experiences today - to be valued as highly as physical art. Scarcity is an important element in the marketplace. With digital art’s susceptibility to ctrl+copy, there is a cap on the value of digital pieces produced. This principle applies to AI art where there is little value within the mass production of paintings Al Gahaku created, however, it really isn’t the point.
The contribution of our images to create portraits like Self-Portrait N°348943 that allows AI Gahaku to learn, is the value source for Al Gahaku’s future valuations of its works. To us, AI Gahaku’s creations are digital junk, good content to make ourselves feel cool. To it we are a data source primed and ready to be mined to reach perfection.
Naturally humankind’s imperfections shows itself honestly in AI. AI’s propensity for bias, which is only as good as our own awareness, is plebeian at best. This can be portrayed more seriously in the works of Algorithmic Justice Warriors where technology bias has irrevocable consequences for humanity.
In the context of Self-Portrait N°348943, I was made ethnically more western which I can only assume comes down to the fact that the Renaissance dataset AI Gahaku learnt from is largely if not only European subjects. To apply this European artistic style to our ethnically diverse world has innocent but varying results. On the one hand, we see an ad hoc glimpse into if globalisation met the 1300’s Renaissance period, on the other, a future of compounded bias without reconciliation between how the world ought to be and as it exists now.
AI is at that ugly duckling stage but getting accustomed to it won’t take as long as you’d think. AI Gahaku is only one example of the millions of AI personas out there getting smarter and smarter as it’s fed more data. Just as AI Gahaku is fed more faces, the smarter it gets at understanding the meaning humans are looking for. For those raised in the internet era, the art of communication and written word has changed without our consciousness.
Much like it requires older generations to deliberately learn how to use the internet, our generation's cohesiveness with AI will require deliberate acceptance as it gets more advanced. Once AI reaches indistinguishably from humans, future generations will see equality between the journey of AI’s creation and that of humans where its creations will finally surpass impersonation.
When will our interaction with AI feel real?
When we see it, we’ll know.