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A Division of Provenonce Inc. and NFT Oasis

What Is the Point of Art?

Creativity in the Age of AI

This is an audio reading of this article staged in the immersive web.

Are we about to enter an era where almost all artistic output is AI generated? With only so much human attention to go around, will we have to create AI to experience the “art” that we've created? If so, what’s the point of it all?

Some AI experts have suggested that with the proliferation of AI-generated content, the amount of media on the internet could be majority AI generated within 10-20 years. These estimates vary widely, and depend on how you define “AI generated.” All generative AI processes, from image generation in Midjourney to writing with Chat GPT, require human input, curation, and editing.

For the sake of nuance, it’s probably more productive to think of these processes as “collaborating with AI.” But even so, AI makes the ability to generate massive amounts of content much easier and surely adds to the supply problem that already exists in the creative industries. The music industry, for example, has long suffered from a seemingly endless abundance of people who would love to make a career in music, even if they lack the skills.

Technological developments like Garageband and the creation of large sample libraries ushered in a culture of amateurism, whereby novices could “create” music that sounded competitive with artists who honed their skills for years. The result is there are at least 40,000 songs uploaded to Spotify every day, and 4 million songs on Spotify have not even a single listen.

Artists who have cultivated the ability to perform their music live now have to compete for online attention not only with artists who don’t but also with attention gaming algorithms serving up whatever niche distractions might keep users swiping and scrolling.

My feed is often saturated with oceanic life. Apparently, I love fishing videos….

So we all love to create. That’s clear. The new trend of describing all human beings online as “creators,” regardless of industry is probably a healthy one, in my view. But it does merit some examination.

Art: is it for the Creator or the Audience?

Plato once suggested that art is the imitation of nature, a reflection of the world we inhabit. From his perspective, the creator is a mere conduit of the world's beauty, a vessel through which it can be communicated to the audience. This concept suggests a necessary duality between the creator and the audience. The creator imbues their perception of reality into the work, and the audience finds meaning in it based on their interpretation.

The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre took a slightly different approach. In his view, the purpose of art lies in the act of creation itself. He posits that the artist creates not for the audience but for the pure joy of self-expression, thereby making art fundamentally a self-referential endeavor.

Wherever you land on this issue, it cannot be ignored that the creative industries developed over the centuries into a place where artists could build a decent middle-class living. Painters who couldn’t find a market for their fine art could always find a living on the side making greeting cards or doing graphic design for corporations. And some lucky few artists achieve the holy grail: Aligning their creativity with their economic goals and getting well paid for the art that they find most personally meaningful.

I still think both paths are a noble goal. And it’s totally reasonable for artists to feel concerned about their livelihoods given the seismic shift that generative AI represents.

Immersive: The solution?

One obvious solution I often hear is that artists should embrace AI as a tool, and use it to accelerate their workflows and output. At this point that seems obvious. While there are outstanding legal and ethical questions about AI models being trained on artists’ work without consent, it’s clear that the technology is here to stay. Adobe already has generative AI that’s trained only on legally obtained images.

But this suggestion that artists “embrace ai.” Still doesn’t resolve the demand side of the equation. Since we as artists have gotten used to sharing our work with the public and building audiences, how do we continue to do that?

I think that immersive technology holds the answer to that question. Artists need to be building their own communities brick by brick, using the tools currently available. Personality has become the most valuable asset in the arts, especially on social platforms. But in addition to building a social following, artists need to find ways to create new and engaging experiences for their audiences. The metaverse, or the immersive web, holds a lot of potential for this purpose.

Building global communities in immersive environments appears to be the next evolution for building audiences, in a way that can hold attention and increase true engagement with an artist’s work. Artists will gradually move into the role of “world-building” where the aesthetic and philosophy of the artist seek to engage all the senses of the audience.

However artists continue to find their creative edge, we must continue to place great artists at the center of our culture. AI can help us sharpen our tools and enhance our imaginative capabilities, but the soul of the artistic experience takes place at the moment the work is gifted from the creator to the audience.

Friedrich Nietzsche said. "We have our arts so we won't die of truth." Art is our shield against the harsh realities of existence, our celebration of the joy and pain of the human experience. It’s valuable and should be treated as such.

If any artists are interested in building a community on the immersive web, please contact Provenonce about joining our creator program. Thank You.

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