Art/ificial “Intelligence”

I respect and sympathize with those who find the AI “art” boom horrifying, especially artists — already undervalued — who perceive a potentially slippery slope looming. But I’d like to add my own two cents, arguing that the threat to real art is a lot less than it may appear.

Let me preface my thoughts with context. As a writer and comics publisher, I collaborate with and hire dozens of illustrators each year. I also spend a couple of thousand dollars a year supporting visual artists (through Patreon and art purchases). All three of my children are artists, by the way.

What those wonderful people do is unlikely to be replaced in my lifetime, and I would imagine not for centuries to come.

An “AI” (terrible term, as they’re not actually intelligent) cannot create sequential art from a script, chatting occasionally with a writer for clarity. An “AI” can’t receive notes from an art director to subtly adjust nuances of a cover image. Hell, it can’t create a wholly original image after reading a synopsis and sample chapters, pulling from an illustrator’s lived experience and its intersection with the writer’s vision.

The ability to intelligently, empathically, creatively COLLABORATE with other human beings is beyond “AI” and will be for a very, very long time. Because, again, they DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR THOUGHT. What they do is brute force. Massive computational power.

As you may know, I’m a translator. When “AI” machine translation came along (a la Google Translate), there were some folks who got very worried that we would be replaced.

They shouldn’t’ve worried. DECADES later, machine translations are still — total crap. Have to be edited. You’ll notice the market hasn’t been flooded with thousands of cheap translations of popular books.

Why? Because it’s freaking impossible without thousands of translators being paid thousands of dollars each.

Machines CANNOT THINK. Don’t be fooled. We’re not there yet.

I still remember the first time I heard my daughter fiddling with a vocaloid, fifteen years ago. Just as artists today, there were singers worried about how voice synthesis might just replace real human voices.

Well, there have been a handful of “virtual” singers, but beyond that — nope. Humans like human voices. We can tell the difference. And it is MUCH MORE DIFFICULT to program in multiple takes of a melodic line than for a human to just sing them. Because, again, THE SYNTHETIC VOICE ISN’T CONNECTED TO A THINKING BEING. Can’t hear or understand nuances.

Another example is synthetic / sampled instruments.

I’ve composed and produced a lot of music in my study. Me and Logic Pro and a midi keyboard, mostly. But my ability to trigger sampled violin sounds for a song doesn’t eliminate the need for human violinists. Not at all.

In 2005, Garageband arrived free on Apple computers, heralding a huge proliferation of loop-constructed “music” by non-musicians.

It was a thing for a minute, but unsustainable.

Music is something made by musicians. When it’s not, we notice. The music industry hasn’t crumbled into millions of cheap, empty files constructed out of rehashed music.

We’re going to be okay.

Yes, it sucks that some “AI” systems produce “art” by brute force copying and blending actual art into images that are often stunning at first glance (though wonky at the edges and in the details).

But the need for real art continues. Human artists aren’t going anywhere. Programs like Photoshop have allowed artists and non-artists alike to take shortcuts. So have filters on Instagram and the like.

None of the myriad of robust art editing / creation tools has obviated the need for actual human artists.

“AI” systems won’t either.

There are legal issues cropping up (with the unauthorized use of copyrighted art and images from personal files), but those will be fought in court. In the meantime, I will keep working with human artists, as will most publishers and writers.

As for quality? Yeah, if a human artist were to submit any of the following images to me, I’d suggest they see a doctor … and then redo the art.



A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.

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David Bowles

Book Author

A Mexican American author & translator from South Texas. Teaches literature & Nahuatl at UTRGV. VP of the Texas Institute of Letters.