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Is it really "art" what Artificial Intelligence creates?

Cambridge Dictionary defines art as "the making of objects, images, music, etc. that are beautiful or that express feelings". However, defining the boundaries of art has always been controversial.

In the early years of photography, many art experts argued that it shouldn't be considered an art form since photography involved mechanical and chemical procedures instead of human hand and spirit. Photographers that attempted to have their images included in the fine arts sections of the exhibitions were responded with criticism in the press and eventual repudiation.

Nowadays, photography is considered an art form as valid as any other, with thousands of galleries around the world specialized in fine art photography.

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Something similar might be happening now with AI Art. In 2018, an image created by Artificial Intelligence was sold for $432500 in an auction at Christie's. The announcement generated a heated debate on press and social media arguing that it should not be considered art since it was created by a machine and, as a consequence, it could not express any emotions.

However, AI Art is actually the result of a collaboration between humans and machines in three different phases:

  1. Dataset curation. The machine learns the painting techniques from human artists. Selecting the artworks to learn from is a critical task performed by art experts that will significantly impact on the final results.
  2. Learning process. Implementing the algorithm and optimizing the image generation process requires hundreds of hours of work by AI engineers to achieve the best perceived quality.
  3. Results curation. Once the machine has learned the painting techniques, it is able to produce thousands of brand new images. Selecting the most visually-appealing images and giving feedback to the machine is done by art experts.

Through this collaboration, Artificial Intelligence is pushing the boundaries of art and opening a new world of possibilities for the creative industries.