AI-aesthetics and the anthropocentric myth of creativity

Emanuele Arielli and Lev Manovich
in NODES 19-20 →
2022
Since the beginning of the 21st century, technologies like neural networks, deep learning and “artificial intelligence” (AI) have gradually entered the artistic realm. We witness the development of systems that aim to assess, evaluate and appreciate artifacts according to artistic and aesthetic criteria or by observing people’s preferences. In addition to that, AI is now used to generate new synthetic artifacts. When a machine paints a Rembrandt, composes a Bach sonata, or completes a Beethoven symphony, we say that this is neither original nor real art, but simply the complex imitation and reproduction of existing products of human culture. We face the old question concerning the nature of creativity: what kind of recombination of ideas, unusual analogies, and conceptual connections are considered the mark of originality? Can AI produce artworks? Could machines reach a point at which we consider them genuinely creative? We also need to investigate the challenges posed by AI-art to the notion of authoriality: Who is the author of an artificially generated artifact? An artificial system could be considered just an artist’s and a programmer’s tool. However, we are also fascinated by the idea of autonomous artificial creativity in the aesthetic domain, as a manifestation of highly intelligent behavior. This paper will try to define some key questions around what could it mean to consider a machine creative or even equipped with artistic intentionality.