Art/Design, News & Events

Apparently it’s really hard to distinguish AI Art from Human Art

What will happen to artists’ careers?

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Apr 5, 2021

A new study has revealed that most people can’t really distinguish between AI generated art and human made art. Recently, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of AI reporting, reading so much about this beast that we’ve unleashed years ago, and that seems to be taking over the world slowly but surely. I mean, this has always been a topic of conversation: artificial intelligence may be able to replace some people’s jobs, using automated machines and robots that can perform tasks making human intervention obsolete. But, we never thought the day would come when art, of all fields, would be overrun by AI.


After an AI-generated portrait, “Edmond de Belamy,” by the creative studio Obvious, sold for $432,500, this new study measured how we, as humans, perceive artworks that are generated by artificial intelligence, against works created by humans. The majority of the people who participated in the study could not tell the difference. Written by researcher Harsha Gangadharbatla and published in the journal of >Empirical Studies in the Arts, the study reveals that this sale and the hype around AI-generated art was not an isolated incident. They asked several people to compare actual artworks from Art Basel with a selection of AI-generated artworks, and most people preferred (and couldn’t tell the difference between the two types) the art created by machines.


Maybe that’s because art is subjective, and over the years, artists have been able to utilize new technologies and tools to create abstract art. So it may make sense to not be able to distinguish between the two. But this leaves us with a huge conundrum. Will we be automating art moving forward? And what could we lose with this transition?


Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the technology of the future, and wholeheartedly support our advancement as a species through the creation of new forms of interactions. After all, technology made it all the much easier for us to live in isolation due to the pandemic. But I do draw the line at turning art into a machine-generated activity, turning artists—whose careers are already suffering—obsolete.


In an interview, Gangadharbatla shares “I always assumed there was a soul that the human pours into the work. When a machine creates the work, how do people interpret it? Are they still moved? What role does the knowledge of who produced the artwork play in how it is perceived?”


These are questions we have to start asking ourselves before this new branch of AI develops worrisomely further.


Photo via Obvious