I have many strident opinions and some of those are on the subject of art, one of these opinions holds to the idea that art is solely defined as a person’s attempt at expressing themselves. It could be bad but it would still be bad art. What makes art ‘art’ is the person trying to express themselves, and this is true of all art – music, film and paintings. It would be possible to blindfold a person and have them throw paint at a canvas, or have a robot arm strike at a canvas and create something that approached the style of a Jackson Pollack. But would it be art? Artificial Intelligence is making leaps and bounds into areas once thought entirely beyond its capabilities and recently more services are offering AI “art”. There has been quite a backlash to AI art. Many websites which feature user-generated art have banned AI art, trying to prevent the sites from being overrun by it.
There seem to be two main objections concerning AI art: First, it’s not art, art requires creativity and AI is simply not capable of it. The second is that AI art typically seems to create art by analysing existing art made by humans, scanning through hundreds, sometimes thousands of images. There is nothing truly new that is being created. Usually, this happens without permission or attribution of the artist in question and to many, this is simply theft.
What can AI do? To me, it would seem short-sighted to think of any creative endeavour as forever beyond the scope of AI when considering how far it has come in a short period of time. An AI could be used to write a screenplay and indeed Netflix has produced a film, Mr Puzzles Wants You To Be Less Alive, written by an AI bot that watched thousands of horror films. If AI can generate art by analysing existing art, can a film not be made the same way? If a producer wants a gangster film could an AI run through dozens of gangster movies and make footage of gangsters? Probably. Can it make an actual film? Probably not, and certainly not a good one. If we’re talking about AI in the sense of these canny bots that study thousands of examples and then create a mashup of that – no, I can’t see how they’ll ever produce a good film. If we’re talking about AI like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Ava from Ex Machina, both genuine thinking and intelligent creatures (not simply a clever bot) then potentially they could create art.
There are some aspects of filmmaking that do perhaps lend themselves more to AI than others. Or rather that the limitations of AI would be less obvious than writing dialogue. One of the things people point out about AI art is that the edges of parts of it don’t look right and fine detail can seem lacking or just wrong and anything with a narrative this will stand out a lot more.
Is It Inevitable?
Considering that some scientists consider the destruction of the human race by AI only a matter of time it might be hard to imagine how the film industry can avoid a takeover of every aspect of what it does. But if we put aside the apocalypse the key element of whether it is inevitable is if it makes money. If AI-created films make a lot of money they will be embraced by enough people in the industry to gain a strong presence. If they continually lose money then people in the industry won’t want to use it. There are brilliant films that make little money and terrible films that make a lot of money, and it’s the latter that gets five sequels.
Perhaps AI films will be like 3D, something that periodically comes along, enjoys a brief burst of popularity due to the novelty and then vanishes again.