Tech UPTechnologyThis is the artificial intelligence that paints pictures just...

This is the artificial intelligence that paints pictures just like Rembrandt or Van Gogh

In 2019, a painting created by artificial intelligence , inspired by thousands of portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries, sold for nearly $500,000 at auction. A few months earlier, students at a prestigious music conservatory had great difficulty differentiating the musical notes of Johann Sebastian Bach from those created by an algorithm called Kulitta, which had been programmed to mimic the famous composer’s style. Even multinational company IBM got in on the fun and tasked its Watson artificial intelligence system with analyzing 9,000 recipes to devise its own culinary ideas.

An algorithm without the creativity of humans

But many experts, as well as ordinary people, wonder if these artificial intelligences really are creativity. Although sophisticated in their mimicry, these creative artificial intelligences are unable to create something new from scratch, as they lack the ability to incorporate new influences from their environment.

This is what happens to DeepArt, an algorithm that is capable of reproducing works of art by renowned painters such as Rembrandt or Van Gogh with pinpoint accuracy. DeepArt has been programmed to imitate the style of these giants of pictorial art by simply storing a huge amount of data that ranges from color to the depth of each brushstroke. The result is paintings that could fool even an expert, as the style is virtually indistinguishable.

It’s not art, just imitation

True creativity is a search for originality. It is a recombination of disparate ideas in new ways. They are unexpected solutions. It can be music, painting or dance, but also the flash of inspiration that helps to invent things like light bulbs, airplanes or the periodic table.

In just the last few years, creative AIs have expanded into the invention of style, authorship that is individualized rather than imitative and that projects meaning and intentionality even if it doesn’t exist. However, it is not enough to create something that imitates an original work, but when something is created it must have meaning and authenticity, something that a machine can never do. That an algorithm paints imitating Picasso is not art , since the work lacks intention, everything is robotic.

If an artificial intelligence lacks the self-awareness to reflect on its actions and experiences, and to communicate its creative intent, is it really creative? Or is the creativity only in the author who fed the machine with data?

Ultimately, despite the fact that there are more and more machines that imitate human procedures, none have yet been able to think for themselves. Seventy years ago, Alan Turing, sometimes described as the father of artificial intelligence, was already thinking of self-aware robots, but for now that is still science fiction.


University of London / College Research Centre Massachussets.

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