Can the outputs of AI systems qualify as artworks?
Anna Linne (2021-12)

What is an artwork?

What is an artwork? Philosopher Monroe Beardsley provides one of the most widely accepted definitions in the philosophy of art thus far. He says that an artwork is “either an arrangement of conditions intended to be capable of affording an experience with marked aesthetic character or (incidentally) an arrangement belonging to a class or type of arrangements that is typically intended to have this capacity” (Beardsley, 1982). Yet, our understanding of what an artwork is, including its necessary or sufficient conditions, cannot be satisfied by this vague definition. It is impossible to fully define the objective properties of aesthetic objects because when we make an aesthetic judgment, we do not rely on the knowledge of the presentations of the object; rather, we imagine a subject's feeling of pleasure or displeasure as to the presentations of the object. (Kant, 1790) Although some objective standards for recognizing artworks may be reflected in a certain cultural ethos of the period, avant-garde artists within the period would deliberately neglect such standards in favor of new emphasis which, if successful, would initiate a new period with new aesthetic ethos and standards. (Aldrich, 1963)

We are in an age where artificial intelligence (AI) can produce outputs appearing as artworks shown in art exhibits. AI systems can create images we have never seen before. Therefore, these images supposedly have originality. But nonsense can also have originality. Are there some good reasons for judging certain AI system outputs as artworks and not nonsense? If there is creativity in AI art, how is AI art creativity different from traditional art? Is the artist behind AI art the human designers, the machine algorithms, or both? If AI system outputs are avant-garde art reflecting the cultural ethos of our period, how should we understand them? This essay attempts to provide an understanding of how AI system outputs can qualify as artworks and answer these questions.

License: Creative Commons License, Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY-4.0)

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