Code Replaces Paintbrushes as AI-Generated Art Goes Online
August 24, 2022
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by Stephen Kanyi

The term ‘revolutionary technology’ is thrown around so often these days that it has nearly lost all meaning. It is supposed to describe technology that is so awesome, that it causes complete and/or drastic change to an industry. Only a few ever come close to doing this.

I have however no qualms in describing AI systems DALL-E and Midjourney as ‘revolutionary’. They are completely changing the game, turning the entire creative arts industry on its head.

DALL-E and Midjourney are one of the very first systems to be able to create actual design and art. In a couple of minutes, no less. And, of course, as with almost all machines, are far less costly than human labour.

Now I know most people will scoff at the idea of machines creating art and design. Convention has always been that computers cannot be creative. But I assure you this is real. And if you expect the images to be blurry and of low quality then you will surely be disappointed. These systems are actually proper competition for human creativity.

Open AI’s and MidJourney’s systems are giving users, most of whom will undoubtedly have little to no skill and experience in graphic art, the chance to be creative without actually drawing anything, on paper or on screen.

How this works we will discuss later on, but for now, much of the conversation has been centred around their growing popularity and potential implications on the creative industry. As pointed out earlier DALL-E and Midjourney are not just an experiment, they are actually good. With every passing day, the abilities of AI systems seem to be growing almost exponentially, not only in power but also in scope.

Proper AI research and development has only been geared up for the last five years or so and in that short time we have developed; machines that can play games like chess better than human champions, write code like any average programmer, carry out scientific research, create stories and now, even draw. At this rate, there will be nothing left for humans to do other than to play and reproduce by the turn of the century.

However, before I get ahead of myself, there is still a lot to do in terms of research and development. Despite recent claims of AI achieving sentience, we are not quite there yet. Today’s systems are created for very specific functions and not much else.

For now, this limitation will work for the benefit of people working in these fields. However, it is a matter of when and not if, these machines will be fully capable of replacing humans in many of the things we do.

That aside, let us delve a little into the workings of these incredible systems; DALL-E and MidJourney.

How it Works

Now I would like to state beforehand that I have not been able to try out either of these systems because of budgetary restrictions also combined with the fact I tend to be a laggard when it comes to new technology.

I did however take a look at some of the images posted by some users who have already tried out either of these systems. Of course, I should also mention that the only thing you need to generate an image using either of these machines is a simple prompt.

For instance, take a look at an image generated by TechCrunch’s Haje Jan Kamps who fed Midjournery’s algorithm the prompt “A man dances as if Prozac was a cloud of laughter”

A ludicrous prompt I know but look at the images generated!

Look at what he gets with the even more ludicrous prompt “Batman and Dwight Schrute are in a fistfight”.

I would say from the pictures that Dwight has a better chance of winning that brawl. The machine takes only a few minutes to generate some very visually striking images. This is a worry for graphic illustrators who will normally take hours to create just one of these images.

If, however, we wanted to create something more serious (and useful), I found that Midjourney does a better job at producing more realistic art.

Check out some of the images Paul Tassi got from Midjourney.

For the above, he entered the prompt, “destiny traveler orb fighting floating black pyramids over a dead world”

Here is “destiny uldren standing in front of a ruined city apocalypse”.

As you can see Midjourney is a bit more refined in its output. This is perhaps the greatest difference between the two systems. For now, it seems that Midjourney is leading the race in terms of quality with DALL-E largely being relegated to creating memes on social media.

Will these systems make graphic illustrators obsolete?

I would say yes. Though a little slower than expected.

Much as we want to appreciate the value of human ingenuity and creativity there is simply no competing with a system that can create such vivid images in minutes and at a fraction of the cost.

Technology wins in the end.

Moreover, these systems are not just restricted to commercial art but I am pretty sure they will auto-generate catalogues, posters, brochures, book covers and everything else a designer currently makes a living from.

If you are a designer or an artist working in these fields you might want to make yourself conversant with them because like it or not this is what the gig is going to look like in a few short years.

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One response to “Code Replaces Paintbrushes as AI-Generated Art Goes Online”

  1. […] exciting for AI. For six months now there has been a lot of buzz surrounding DALL-E and Midjourney, AI programs that generate images from mere text. And if you think that was impressive wait until you hear what AI programs can do […]

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