Today in the spring of 2023, it feels almost impossible to escape news, rumors, debates, think pieces, open letters, diatribes, scandals, lawsuits, or almost any other form of human exchange about artificial intelligence.
Whether the specific focus is on large language models like Chat-GPT or text-to-image generators like DALL-E and Midjourney, the discourse around A.I. technology has only gotten more expansive, more heated, and more perplexing since last fall. That was when a genuinely surreal series of events on the live streaming platform Twitch helped surface the escalating tensions between A.I.-powered image generators and human artists. While the story in question hinged on an accusation of plagiarism, it also served as a launchpad into an in-progress existential crisis in the art world—an existential crisis that keeps intensifying as the influence, accessibility, and aesthetic quality of algorithmic image generators keeps leveling up.
In October, Artnet News business editor Tim Schneider interviewed contributor and friend of the pod Zachary Small about the Twitch controversy and the larger questions facing visual culture in the era of big A.I. In many ways, that conversation is even more relevant now than it was back then. If you missed it the first time, or if you just want to review the state of play in the increasingly wild landscape of art and tech, here’s your second chance…
In the borderlands between art and technology, no single development has sucked up more oxygen this year than the rise of image generators powered by artificial intelligence. Not so long ago, such projects were fringe experiments with results that were usually more intriguing for what they got wrong than for what they got right.
But in 2022, A.I.-driven image generators have made a quantum leap in quality, speed, and affordability. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, thanks to these tools, never in the history of civilization has it been easier, faster, or cheaper to produce professional-looking visuals of anything a person could dream up, with or without artistic training whatsoever.
This is both extremely cool, and extremely concerning, especially if you happen to be a human who makes a living as a commercial illustrator. This October, a strange saga that played out on the live-streaming platform Twitch showed how the tension between flesh-and-blood image-makers and A.I. is getting stronger and weirder by the day, with serious consequences for age-old debates about plagiarism, ownership, and the value of making art in the first place.
Thankfully, the knowledgeable and intrepid Zachary Small has been following the saga, and joined art business editor Tim Schneider today to walk through the initial scandal and the murky future of commercial art in the age of A.I. Buckle up, because this is going to get a little surreal…
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