Is DALL-E 2 the future of art?
If you haven’t heard about it, DALL-E 2 is an AI system that creates an original image from a descriptive prompt given by a user. Its creators, OpenAI, hope that “DALL-E 2 will empower people to express themselves creatively”. For my skills share, I gave our team a walk-through of the system and posed the question “Is Dall-E a threat to artists?”
What’s so interesting about how it works is that DALL-E doesn’t create a composite image (putting together parts of images pulled from Google, say). It creates a new, original image with AI, starting with random dots and shaping the image to the prompt. It has processed a vast bank of images and has learned the relationship between an image and description of that image.
Trying our hand at DALL-E
After discussing how DALL-E can combine concepts, attributes, and styles (the system can handle a lot!), we crowd-sourced a prompt together and ran it through DALL-E. For each prompt, the system generates four options, which you can then refine.
Behold, our first offering: “a mosaic of the Easter bunny made of beds from over the shoulder of a person in the foreground at dawn in the style of Matisse”
Yes, we piled it on thick and the result is less than considered. We had a good laugh and moved on to “a polar bear sitting on a lamp looking at a fireman holding an e-cigarette. In the foreground are palm trees and in the background is a cityscape.”
Here, we got to see more of how the system made interpretive choices. We also wanted to see how it would handle a really obscure prompt like “a Victorian drawing room inside the mouth of an orca as digital art”. The answer is this:
If you’d like to try your hand at some image generation, it’s free to sign up with DALL-E and you get 15 credits (or ‘generations’) per month.
Having played around, it was time to ask some bigger questions, like who is behind the software, and how is it going to impact artists?
Who is OpenAI?
OpenAI’s mission is to “ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI)—by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work—benefits all of humanity”.
This well-meaning intention is threaded through their content policy. The system won’t generate images which constitute hate, harassment, violence, self-harm, sexual, shocking, illegal activity, deception, political, public or personal health or spam. The system also won’t use real individuals’ faces, including those of public figures (can you imagine the fake news if it could?).
The impact of AI on art
Given our careening joyride with DALL-E, we didn’t feel that this tool is a risk to artists (particularly in our hands!). But, like any tool, an artist can learn to work with it and AI art may well become a mainstream artform. Since art has been perceived as valuable, there have been tools deemed threats, from the Old Masters using assistants, to Photoshop, and I see this as just another one.
Will it make creating art and design more accessible? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Depends.
Will it make us appreciate artistic talent in all its forms more? Absolutely.