Will AI image creation render artists obsolete and destroy jobs?

A controversy ignited by AI image generation technologies has been going on for a while. The majority of the concerns point out one question: Will artificial intelligence leave artists and professionals unemployed despite all its benefits?

Artificial intelligence, and to be more precise, AI image generation, has been on the agenda recently. Besides discussions, boycotts, and controversies, the possibility of the destruction of some professions is also a concern. New technologies are often scary. They create anxiety in the general public. Artificial intelligence is such a technology, and besides the worries it causes, it has already been the subject of many controversial and notable events.

This article is mainly based on the context of producing images or “art” with artificial intelligence. However, these technologies are only one of many uses of artificial intelligence. Therefore, artificial intelligence may be used as an umbrella term when examining this subject.

AI image or art generation technologies

AI image generation technologies were covered in “Controversy over AI-generated imagery is growing and branching out”. Therefore, it will not be discussed in detail. To summarize, the art produced with artificial intelligence won awards in art competitions and was sold for very high prices in auctions. It crept into online platforms where visual artists could exhibit and sell their works.

There are also concerns that ill-intended people could use AI image generation to provoke and manipulate communities on certain issues. Considering that even people with no skills or experience can create digital images, digital art, or even write simple computer codes thanks to artificial intelligence, it seems normal that people in some professions react negatively to such technologies.

What can AI tools do?

AI image generators are the most renowned among free or paid AI technologies. But what an ordinary person can do with artificial intelligence technologies accessible to the public?

Thanks to Google’s artificial intelligence tool, Socratic, you can solve various math problems and formulas. You can write short texts and product descriptions with an application like CopyShark, or Copy.ai. You can create an image from scratch with an AI image generator like Dall-E, Nightcafe, Artbreeder, or DeepAI, or you can manipulate existing images. By asking questions to chatbots such as ChatGPT, you can create pieces of code and do many other things you lack knowledge of or training.

Another example from the game industry is Istanbul-based One Dot Games using artificial intelligence to prepare storyboards during game development. You can find the details here.

What are creative destruction and destructive creation?

To analyze how or if artificial intelligence technologies will destroy some professions, it is necessary to touch on creative destruction and destructive creation concepts. Joseph Schumpeter derived the concept from the work of Karl Marx. Although many books have been written about them, we can summarize these two concepts in a few sentences. Creative destruction is the dismantling of long-standing practices to make way for innovation.

Destructive creation refers to circumstances in which innovation damages the economy more than beneficial outcomes. Naturally, every innovation may be destructive to some at micro levels. However, these concepts refer to the total outcome for the society or the economy on a macro scale.

The most frequent examples of these concepts are the buggy and automobile industries. After the invention, mass production, and the proliferation of automobiles, buggy and buggy whip makers lost their jobs because there was no demand for these products. However, the automotive industry was born. Industrial branches that emerged for automobile production, maintenance, repair, spare parts, and fuel supply provided employment for millions of people. Likewise, cassettes have destroyed vinyl records, CDs have destroyed cassettes, and MP3 technology has destroyed CDs.

The invention and spread of the internet are responsible for destroying many professions or products. An example of this is newspapers. With the widespread use of the internet, social media, and instant news-sharing applications, the number of printed newspaper brands and printed paper has gradually decreased. However, it created many jobs that can be collected under content creation and enabled thousands of people to make a livelihood.

If humanity’s progress, especially the history of revolution, is examined, it will become evident that creative destruction is dominant but with positive outcomes for the general public. Despite all the professions they destroyed, they created many more jobs and employment opportunities.

Analysts and experts tend to describe the developments in the 2000s and later, called “the digital age” or “the internet age”, as destructive creations. Innovations in this age are said to leave millions of people unemployed or destroy jobs while creating so few or creating income opportunities for a lucky few.

These analysts usually compare an automobile factory, employing thousands and earning billions of dollars, with a software company generating roughly the same income with a handful of workers. But is this an accurate way to analyze such a matter? Many analysts think so, while so many others don’t. 

Will artificial intelligence put artists out of work?

The concept and use of artificial intelligence are not recent. It’s been in our lives for a while. People often use concepts such as machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence interchangeably or incorrectly. Regardless of terminological details, some type or level of artificial intelligence has been in our lives for a long time. They work as parts of software, infrastructures, and giant networks. They make our life easier or increase our efficiency.

The problem may be that they are made accessible to interact with the general public or perhaps because they have interfered with various arts. The reactions may have arisen from the fact that they interfere with something acquired by many years of restless, unrelenting practice and training, then giving that capability to someone else in mere seconds.

Remembering the buggy-the automobile, the newspaper-the internet, and hundreds of other examples, it becomes evident that this is not a linear and determined movement. The cycle of innovations, creations, and destructions in societies and economies is neverending and fluctuant.

The development of technology to produce artificial diamonds worried the diamond industry, but synthetic diamonds did not destroy the demand for natural diamonds. Instead, they found other uses or existed as a cheaper alternative to natural diamonds. The diamond industry has also started laser-tagging natural diamonds to adapt.

People have a desire for the authentic as well as the new. From this point on, banning or restricting AI image generation technologies cannot be the solution to anything. Technological development never stopped this way.

How can artists be protected from the destructiveness of artificial intelligence?

People are good at innovating or devising new jobs, arts, and sources of income. The biggest problem created by artificial intelligence must be the copyright issue. Someone, some community, or even companies will probably solve that problem too. NFTs are candidates to be the basis of such a solution. Examples of creative destructions in history have a pattern. Those who can transform, evolve, and adapt can continue conserving their art by transforming and adapting it.

Indeed, artists are the ones to determine and find out how to transform their art. Time will tell how AI image-generation technologies will affect the visual arts and artists. Technology and innovation, which look like threats to their art, also offer ways and opportunities for them to save it.

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