Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY THE ETHICS OF SCIENCE discussed naming the James Webb Space Telescope. Today in Part 2, the word “Space” is involved too, but in a much different context. At the heart of the matter is human creativity and the creativity of artificial intelligence.

A.I. Smarts. In their machine learning, computers are fed zillions of examples of human endeavor which are then analyzed by algorithms identifying probabilistic relationships among these bits.

There’s nothing particularly odd about this process; it’s akin to the human brain’s neural networks. Dwelling in its digital domain, though, A.I. has the benefits of dogged persistence and incredible speed in dealing with these analyses.

In a sense, it’s “monkeys typing all the world’s great works,” but smart enough to identify Hamlet from G#a0kL. Or Mona Lisa from smears of oil paint.

A.I. Gets Arty. Recent A.I. developments have got downright artistic. DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion each is fed scads of captioned images, with algorithms identifying linguistic and graphical relationships. Loosely, describe it in words and A.I. draws it. 

CLIP Narrows It Down. Another A.I. tool described in MIT Technology Review, January 5, 2021, is CLIP (Contrastive Language-Image Pre-training).

MIT Technology Review writes, “CLIP learns to link a wide variety of objects with their names and the words that describe them. This then lets it identify objects in images outside its training set…. It is also less likely than other state-of-the-art image recognition models to be led astray by adversarial examples, which have been subtly altered in ways that typically confuse algorithms even though humans might not notice a difference.” 

See SimanaitisSays for the famed cat/guacamole quandary of earlier A.I. 

Daikon Walking a Dog. MIT Technology Review displays the results of asking DALL-E 2 to illustrate “a baby daikon radish in a tutu walking a dog.”

Here are several of DALL-E 2’s images, selected by CLIP. 

Of course, if a human artist had already created such a captioned image and uploaded it to the Internet, DALL-E 2 would likely stumble on it and CLIP would recognize a good match. 

IoE Feedstock. Ay, there’s the rub (Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1, part of “To be, or not to be…). Anything uploaded to the IoE, the Internet of Everything, is A.I. feedstock. This, despite the fact that down here in the realm of reality we have traditional ideas of ownership and copyright. 

Zeynep Tufekci has already discussed this here at SimanaitisSays, especially in the matter of student essay generation. 

A.I. Collaborative Art. “An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy” describes an interesting aspect in The New York Times, September 2, 2022. Kevin Roose writes, “This year, the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition gave out prizes in all the usual categories: painting, quilting, sculpture. But one entrant, Jason M. Allen of Pueblo West, Colo., didn’t make his entry with a brush or a lump of clay. He created it with Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that turns lines of text into hyper-realistic graphics.”

Jason Allen’s A.I.-generated Théatre D’Opera Spatial. 

Countering the gripes, Allen had submitted the work under the name “Jason M. Allen via Midjourney.” It was entered in the category for “digital art/digitally manipulated photography.”

Roose notes, “Mr. Allen declined to share the exact text prompt he had submitted to Midjourney to create “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial.” But he said the French translation—“Space Opera Theater”—provided a clue.” 

A New Medium. “It shouldn’t be an indictment of the technology itself,” Allen says. “The ethics isn’t in the technology. It’s in the people.” 

Jason Allen. Image by Saeed Rahbaran for The New York Times. 

“This isn’t going to stop,” Allen said, “Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.” 

Yet Roose observes, “Controversy over new art-making technologies is nothing new. Many painters recoiled at the invention of the camera, which they saw as a debasement of human artistry. (Charles Baudelaire, the 19th-century French poet and art critic, called photography “art’s most mor­tal enemy.”) In the 20th century, digital editing tools and computer-assisted design programs were similarly dismissed by purists for requiring too little skill of their human collaborators.”

And, recall, Zeynep Tuffekci cited Plato as objecting to that new thing called “written” language.

On the Other Hand. See also “The Alt-Right Manipulated My Comic, Then A.I. Claimed It,” The New York Times, December 31, 2022.

A sobering thought indeed. ds

 © Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023


  1. Jack Albrecht
    January 7, 2023

    It’s true that AI will make music, paintings, and sculptures as good or better than humans very soon. That does not mean “art is dead.” Art is changing, just like everything else.

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