There are times when you can only sit back and shake your head at the antics of members of the human race. Yesterday was one of those times for me. What really made me want to jump into the fray with both feet was the idiocy began with the promotion of a friend’s book about using AI programs in art. (It’s an excellent book and I will link to it below.)
The book, An Illustrated Guide to AI Prompt Mastery: for MidJourney, DALL-E, NightCafe, Deep Dream Generator, and More by Jack Wylder, is excellent. I, along with Cedar and others, have written about our adventures with Midjourney and some of the other AI art programs. They are fun and, if you know how to refine your prompts properly, wonderful tools for creating art.
But they are tools. Something Jack makes clear from the beginning of his book.
So flashforward to yesterday. In one of the posts on FB promoting Jack’s book, someone popped in and in full professorial tone announced that anything made using an AI wasn’t art. He ignored the comments pointing out that Jack wasn’t advocating using the programs alone. He moved the goal posts every time someone noted Jack said these programs are tools. He turned his nose up, closed his eyes and put his fingers in his ears, singing “lalalalalala” whenever pointed to the examples of how Jack used elements created by the AI programs to create a unique book cover.
You see, he was an artiste (my impression) and knew all.
But what he ignored until it was shoved down his throat was that art and the tools utilized to make it have changed over the years. (A part of me wants to say “Duh!”) He grudgingly admitted digital art is now a thing. But even then, you could almost see him sneering as he looked down his nose at digital artists.
Gee, what does that mean for those museum exhibits that consist of only a toilet bowl or a blank canvas? What makes those things “art” and yet AI created elements not art?
The entire thread put me in mind of book covers. Once upon a time in the not to very distant past, book covers were actually created by artists. Some still are. But, especially with books first released as mmpb or tpb, all too often now, you find covers created from stock images or–gasp–elements created by AI programs.
The latter are often more difficult to identify than those created from stock images. Why? Because the vast majority of indie authors use stock images in whole or as elements for their own covers and we tend to see the similarities.
And that brought up the question, in my mind and (I’m sure) in others’ as well: is it only art when someone creates a book cover from an empty canvas and totally out of their imagination without using any of the tools available to them?
Or is it also art when the creator uses these tools, creates elements and manages to merge them into a whole?
I don’t know about you, but I believe both are artists in their own right.
And that was something the person in the thread yesterday simply refused to see.
So what does this have to do with writing? A lot from the end game aspect of creating or choosing book covers. But it also comes into play with regard to the rise of AI writing programs. Then, there are the older forms of “assistance” that have been on the market for years. If you search, you can find generic book plots for sale. Basically a fill in the blank sort of thing where you add names and places to the outline and run with it.
Would using something like that make someone less of a writer than someone who simply sits down and writes a story or novel on their own?
There is no “right” answer to the question posed because so much of it depends on what the person using the AI or other “tool” puts into the creation of the art or the story. At least that’s the way I see it.
Oh, go buy Jack’s book. It is well worth the price.
Featured image created by me using Midjourney AI.