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Artificial Intelligence in the Art World

Where does artificial intelligence belong in the arts — or does it belong at all?
Mary Allen
(Design by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Of the long list of recent global issues, one of the most controversial is that of artificial intelligence. Of course, the concept of AI has been around for decades, a classic depiction being the devious program HAL 9000 from the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Hopefully, that reality will remain fiction for the foreseeable future. However, AI has come a long way with programs like ChatGPT, Midjourney and Jasper Chat becoming readily accessible. AI has become a heated subject, especially in the art world. Certain uses of AI programs have threatened the jobs and creative licenses of artists. While fears of being replaced are completely valid, artificial intelligence also has some benefits in this environment.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

“AI means a lot of different things to a bunch of different people,” said Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera, an assistant professor and founding faculty of the University of Utah’s Division of Games.

“Historically, the science and the scholarship behind AI has focused on either modeling or replicating behaviors that we see in people in software,” Cardona-Rivera said.

Despite how popular media has portrayed artificial intelligence, the creation of it has never been to produce new, completely unique entities. Like a hammer or a phone, artificial intelligence is just a tool.

As Cardona-Rivera put it, “it’s fancy software.” Whether it is a device that autonomously operates one action or a program that auto-generates school essays, AI is far from the personified individual mind of HAL 9000. Once that is understood, we can dig deeper into the effects AI is having on the art world.

Viewing AI as a tool is essential in moving forward with it, especially when it comes to its use in art. The software is still made, used and controlled by people. Instead of viewing AI as the enemy, we have to view the people who abuse AI as the real threat.

“Most technology can be for good and for evil in the wrong hands or wrong deployment,” said Cardona-Rivera, comparing AI to the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of the assembly line. At the time, many argued that assembly lines would take jobs and change the industrial landscape. That’s the same argument we hear today about advancing AI technology in the name of innovation.

Though, there’s a core difference that cannot be ignored.

“What’s interesting is that this AI revolution seems to depend on access to other people’s data,” Cardona-Rivera said.

AI technology is software that gathers information made by humans to create a product. Without access to human data, it’s essentially useless. This becomes particularly interesting with art given that — thus far — all art is the product of human creativity. AI will never be able to replace artists because it doesn’t have the ability to create something completely fresh or imaginative. 

The Real Effects

AI use has the most harmful effects with users who will irresponsibly and indiscriminately steal work from creators. It is especially harmful as there is no promise of security or compensation.

“The writers strike is an example of this,” said Cardona-Rivera. “One of the core, fundamental reasons behind the writer’s strike is the refusal to guarantee protections to the content creators whose data is being mined against their will.”  The primary danger with AI comes from those unwilling to innovate responsibly and creatively in exchange for saving a few bucks.

AI can have its benefits in the art world when it is used in moderation to aid the artistic process. A recent issue that has appeared in the news is that of VFX artists, blockbuster animators and video game developers being forced to “crunch” to meet studio deadlines.

Cardona-Rivera suggested using AI to help in the painstaking, time-stealing aspects of endeavors that require little to no creative input. With control in the hands of the creatives, they can edit AI-generated material to better accomplish goals.

“That takes some of the creative burden off the developers and help people create the content they care about,” said Cardona-Rivera.

Artificial intelligence is our creation to build, theorize and play with. Unfortunately, there are always those who seek to abuse the newest technology for their own gain. This abuse will always hurt others in the process. As long as we remember to recognize and appreciate the humans behind the real art that builds who we are, AI can be used for good.  


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About the Contributors
Graham Jones, Arts Writer, News For U Producer
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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