💡 Optimist's Edge: You can also be an artist – with the help of an AI

💡 Optimist's Edge: You can also be an artist – with the help of an AI

💡 AI painting upends creative boundaries by empowering anyone to create art that previously required the skill of professional artists.

Ulrika Gerth
Ulrika Gerth

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📉 What people think

60 percent believe the left image is made by AI. Almost as many, 58 percent, also believe that the right image is made by an AI.

The left image is made by an AI, for the cover of Cosmopolitan's June issue. The one on the right, however, was made by a human several years ago.

📈 Here are the facts

The creation of that Cosmo image required no paint, brushes, or days of Photoshop tinkering. Instead, it was the result of a single language prompt typed into DALL-E by OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company founded by Sam Altman (Elon Musk — who else? — was part of the founding team). Twenty seconds later the AI had drawn upon its knowledge of hundreds of millions of images to produce its first-ever magazine cover.

In simple terms, many AI art generators work like a kid memorizing flash cards. Exposed to captioned pictures of — let’s say — cars, dogs, beaches, and Monet, the AI learns not only what the objects are but how they relate to one other. Then, with the help of algorithms modeled on the human brain, it interprets what you type to create that image you always wanted: an impressionist-style painting of a dog driving a car on the beach.

DALL-E: A happy robot painting a picture, in the background a city with flying cars, futuristic style

In more complex terms, it was the invention in 2014 of the generative adversarial network (GAN), a class of machine learning that pits two neural networks against each other in a zero-sum game, that powered AI painting to take off. This year, users finally turned on the fire hose, flooding Twitter threads and Discord forums with their works. Google is the latest major player to join the race with the beta release this fall of its own text-to-image model called Imagen.

And, as the judges in a Colorado fine arts competition recently learned, the finished product is often indistinguishable from human-made art. They unknowingly handed the top award to a piece created using Midjourney, an AI platform. A critic called the work “mezmerizing.” Others grumbled.

💡 Optimist's Edge

💡 AI painting upends creative boundaries by empowering anyone to create art that previously required the skill of professional artists.

Consider the concept of centaur chess. Introduced by grandmaster Garry Kasparov, it brings human and computer skills together to elevate the game to unseen heights. The same thing happens when artists, creative directors, fashion designers, chefs, architects, and average Joes and Janes join forces with AI art tools.

Karen X. Cheng, the digital artist behind the AI Cosmo cover, put it like this in an Los Angeles Times interview:

“I am now able to create different kinds of art that I never was before.”

Another artist, XR Creator Don Allen, said that after only four months of use, AI has expanded his artistic practice beyond what he could ever imagine. He’s now able to generate images for shoe designs in seconds.

“The journey into AI has been a tool that expedites and streamlines every one of my creative processes so much that I lean on it more and more every day,” Allen said.

Midjourney founder David Holz likens his image-generating AI system to the invention of the engine. While other modes of transportation are always an option, if you want to reach your destination faster, you hop in a car.

DALL·E An ai painting a picture

Aside from supercharging the creative process and automating simple repetitive tasks (think landscaping for open-world games), some technology analysts say AI’s ability to “generate new content from content, at zero marginal cost” offers even greater promise. They see it as the final piece to realizing the metaverse. Only AI has the capacity to create the vast virtual worlds at speed.

“This is how the economics of the metaverse will ultimately make sense: virtual worlds needs virtual content created at virtually zero cost, fully customizable to the individual,” writes Ben Thompson at the Stratechery. “DALL-E is an example of how imaginative humans and clever systems can work together to make new things, amplifying our creative potential.”

👇 How to get the Optimist's Edge

All movements in art have, at some point, shocked people. In 1911, the New York Times questioned cubism, “Is it art or madness? Who knows?” We all know the current status of Picasso, Braque, and Metzinger who the NYT feared  had lost their senses. Now, you have a chance to leave today’s pessimists behind and greet AI art with open arms.

Become a “prompt engineer”: “AI art isn’t just an experiment. It’s a side hustle.” So begins an article in Verge on the emerging market of prompts, the text descriptions that the AI tools translate into art. Do you have a special talent for creating elaborate prompts that yield stunning results? PromptBase, launched earlier this year, allows the new profession of prompt writers to sell their work.

Get creative: In late September, DALL-E shared some welcome news: the waitlist had been removed, letting anyone use the popular AI art generator (More than 1.5 million users now make 2 million images a day). You can also try Midjourney (you need to start a Discord account), and other applications like VQGAN+CLIP, Wombo AI, The Night Cafe, Deep Dream Generator, and Craiyon.

Sell you art: AI-generated art offers market potential. Both traditional auctions and NFT marketplaces like Open Sea have showed growing interest in the abstract AI art. Domestika, an online community for creatives, suggests combining AI with your past creations to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of unique artworks, which can then be curated into NFT collections.

Dive in: Do you want a quick, affordable introduction to anything AI? Udemy, an online learning marketplace, offers countless courses on the topic. These four courses on AI basics also come highly recommended.

What will be your first prompt?

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The race that gets more people into machine learning

This is what you need to know about AI development in 2022

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