The fundamental flaw AI art apologists will never be able to overcome is that they view art as a product, not a process. But a book is not art. A painting is not art. They are works of Art. And what is the work? Sure, some of it is technique, trying certain things and tweaking our method until we reach the desired result. This AI can mimic and may one day even master, better than humans can, just like computers can reach the conclusions of mathematical formulas and use that information far quicker than we ever will. But that is not the Work that makes something Art. Art is a spiritual work. It involves a Person, with a spirit, not just applying techniques to create a desired output, but figuring out what that output should be. Some artists do this entire work before their instruments and canvas ever meet. Some discover it along the way. But all of them are taking what they both experience and observe, wrestling with how it affects their beliefs, deciding whether to cling to what they believe to be True, even when it conflicts with their observations, steadfastly honoring and expressing their faith in what they once did not doubt, or a confession of their confusion and cry for understanding, or allowing their observations and experience to alter something, either in part or entirely, expressing that changed perspective (that is hopefully growth and not faithlessness) in their medium. That is the Work of Art. It is both spiritual and material. And I truly mean spiritual, not just emotional. Even art that is made primarily for entertainment cannot escape this (as evidenced by the many masters who created works as a source of income). A genuine artist will never create art he believes to be false except under extreme duress (normally threat of physical violence or imprisonment). For even when an artist does not choose to engage in high-minded questions, they still build on assumptions of Truth they believe are shared with the audience to be able to entertain. Some doubters may mention satire. But an artist engaging in satire is not lying – they are exposing a lie by highlighting its absurdity. In the end, all Art is the work of an artist, a spirit, either wrestling with Truth or delighting in it. The remaining book, painting, song, etc is merely the final, and tangible, result of that intangible, mysterious process.
AI does not do this. AI cannot do this. AI is an algorithm programmed to find patterns from the data in the given input to mimic that final stage result of an artist’s work, but it cannot experience the process. It can’t even experience. While the quality may be higher and more entertaining to a consumer, whatever output is generated by AI is at an even lower level than if we trained a troupe of chickens to perform The Nutcracker. At least they experienced something. True, it was just the desire for the positive reward (or avoidance of negative repercussions) awaiting the end of a bunch of steps that seemed meaningless to them, but their desire for something at least motivated them to do it. AI cannot even do that. All it can do execute its programming on command, and to keep re-executing it every time its audience expresses dissatisfaction until the audience stops hitting execute.
Some will argue that the output still moves its audience, and isn’t that the whole purpose of art? I cannot scream this loudly enough: NO. No, that is not the whole purpose of art, and when AI reaches the ability to do that as well as humanity is when we are completely doomed. The purpose of art is not to be moved any more than the point of a test is to get a 100%. The purpose of a test is to reveal what you have learned and reveal what you haven’t so that you may improve. So, if you got a 100% by stealing a copy of the answer key and manage to not get caught, you have obtained a 100%, but defeated the entire point of the test – you failed worse than someone who missed half the questions, because at least they revealed they had learned half of what was expected, while you have revealed nothing you have learned and revealed you likely knew almost nothing since you were not confident in your own answers. So what is the purpose of art? For you to personally wrestle with, or delight in, Truth.
First, a work of art doesn’t necessarily move any audience. A private, poetic journal entry, a painting never shown, a song hummed to one’s self… these are still works of art, the remains of a soul’s experience interacting with the world and wrestling or delighting in Truth as they understood it at that time. Yes, the tree that falls without anyone to hear it still makes a sound (and there is One who always hears, and that alone makes every single thing, however unimportant it seems to us, matter). But when it does move an audience, what makes that movement worthwhile is you connected with another soul, just as much as you do when you have a conversation with someone – some profound, some mundane or even frivolous, but there was still a connection, and that is itself always something of immeasurable depth. Which is why when AI reaches the point that it can mimic the output of an artist so well that it fools its consumers, it will spell disaster: they will let their souls be moved by the soulless. Even an evil human being, one manipulating the emotions of an audience for personal gain, cannot be unaffected by their interaction or work. Just as some people fake friendships for personal gain, only to later genuinely care for the person, so too can a work of art that is a lie end up providing an opportunity for the soul of its maker to become sincere. But nothing produced by an AI is sincere. It is soulless. It has no desires of its own, no goals of its own, but only its maker. And that is precisely where the chief danger lies.
The powers pushing AI in its current form are displaying hubris the most talented inventors and brightest minds in human history never dared. They dare to mimic spirit, something that hasn’t been attempted since mankind sought to bargain with devils and bring homunculi to life via alchemy. But this time, instead of being terrified of them and mistrusting their secret arts, we are celebrating them.
It takes great intelligence for a human to perform advanced level calculus, even more to do so quickly and with perfect accuracy, and yet never did any programmer of earlier computers call their creations intelligent, much less program them to use first-person pronouns. When you input the formula into a calculator, it doesn’t respond with, “I have found the answer to be _____.” For it to do so would be absurd. And yet, we now talk about AI for language and art as if it had a self. But the only reason it uses first-person pronouns is because it is programmed to do so. Which seriously begs the question – why do the powers pushing AI program it to mimic spiritual beings, both in interaction and output? The answer is painfully obvious. Because they want the consumer to form that spiritual connection with their spiritless machine. If AI responded in a robotic way, “Based on the _____ algorithm programmed by ________ with the input sourced from ________, the result of your query is as follows: _____________” people will not ever come to rely on it as fully as a human it shares that spiritual connection with. That AI’s creators desire for their consumers to rely on them this way should be utterly terrifying. It is. That humanity would be willing to give itself to a forgery should cause so much distress that we stop right now, completely reevaluate our position on this (probably abandon it altogether, and certainly this generation should), but it is so much worse. For AI is soulless, but its creators are not. Do you not realize that we are being led to trust, be moved, and act according to the desire of people we do not even know their names? At best you know the company’s name. But not the people incorporating their beliefs on what communication should be pooled to find patterns from, or what the parameters of what is favored and what is deemphasized or hidden because that is not the result the programmers desire (and yes they do that, as evidenced by all the AI bots on social media that had to be taken down when given unfiltered access to all of social media – it does not have a spirit of its own that resonates with some things and shuns others, it has to be told or the result is very unpleasant). The people making those decisions have motivations. I am not going to pretend that all of them want power or money or to cause harm, but it would be even more foolish to pretend none of them do. And even the ones who naively push this believing it to be good – we all have flaws, and theirs are hidden in the faceless mask and fun names we give to these programs. Bard – a teller of tales heard ‘round the world presented in entertaining song. Cortana – the reliable sidekick that helped a hero save the world from destruction. Even ChatGPT – the idea that something that has no values or ideas of its own is “chatting” is ludicrous. You would never trust important life decisions or your money with some random person on the street who you see and interact with, even though if he did something wrong you could try to find him again and have him make recompense, it would still be foolish. And yet, because the programmers are having their creations mimic the language of someone that sounds trustworthy, because based on our commands they can make visuals and stories that move and entertain us – we are running straight towards this illusion like a madman high on psychedelics getting a running start off the canyon wall to help him fly to the other side. Why do we trust a faceless, nameless, program whose creators we will never know? We will never know their blind spots, what values they hold that we do not, nor their motivations. We would never trust an unknown human like this, but we will trust an unknown human’s mimicry? How insane can we get?!
All of this begs the question – why? Why on earth would otherwise sound people have this insane fascination, and even love, for this? Because we have fully embraced consumerism – the only thing that matters is the product’s effect on consumers. The process of its creation, or even who created it, does not matter anymore. That is why people defend AI output as “art” – it affected them the same way as genuine art, and that is all that matters to them. Too bad $1,000,000, in counterfeit money does not get its value from it making you feel like a millionaire, or we could all be rich. But also, because we no longer believe in the soul of a person, that we ourselves are merely the output of the inputs put into our own biological programming. But this too is absurd. We are not just products of our experiences, not even products of our experiences put through our genetic makeup – though they certainly influence us. We know people who both accept and continue in the way they were raised, for good or ill, and people who reject it, again, for good or ill. Even genetically identical twins growing up in the exact same house with the exact same parental guidance, schooling, and consequences most often become wildly different people, something not only we can read about, but many of us can attest to personally. And the most famous case debunking we are the result of inputs is the case of David Reimmer and the psychologist John Money.
So please, I beg of you, do not relinquish your personhood, nor act like a machine can attain it. Even when a machine behaves in ways we do not expect, it is only because the programmer did not fully foresee the end result of their work, but that is still all it is – an output resulted from inputs. You and I are so much more than a result programmed by our experiences and interactions with our fellow humans. Think of the stories that most move us – both historical and fictional. We love stories about people rising above their circumstances, who refuse to do what circumstances dictate they should. And this does happen. It happens every time an enslaved people rises up against those in power over them. It is better obviously when they win, but we still long to see them fight even if they lose. Those in power are their immediate source of food, shelter, and all their needs, but for their dignity and rights as persons, created in the image of the one God in three Persons. Ultimately, even when we try to deny it, we believe that we have a right to be free from such tyranny, even if circumstances dictate the best chance for survival is to yield. We experience, we believe… we are so much more than predictable outputs from given inputs. Even if AI output is accurate, it is never truthful. We are persons, and art is a personal expression of our search and awareness of Truth. Art, by definition, will always be the work of a person.