What is art? Does AI enhance or hinder human creativity?

NOW: What is art? Does AI enhance or hinder human creativity?

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- What is art? And is art created by artificial intelligence still considered art?

"We long for those moments to like put something in the world and put our stamp on it," said Gerry Canavan, English Department Chair at Marquette University.

Art in its various forms and styles is known to transcend language and evoke all sorts of emotions.

CBS 58 News asked artists--both traditional and so-called 'modern' ones, to define art.

"Art is me, art is them art is us art is a way of expressing yourself as a person if you do have that ability or desire," said Multidisciplinary Artist Anamarie Edwards.

"Art is an exploration of what it means to be human, art is a way to share collectively, to try to grapple with our situation," said AI Artist Pepin LaChance.

"I say it's (an) expression from one degree to another...people deciding to create something," added Julien Roberson, a Milwaukee-area illustrator.

Every answer mentioned the word "people" and "human" -- something artificial intelligence, clearly, is not.

Canavan said he's done lots of research on AI and is fascinated by science fiction turning into reality.

"It doesn’t think, what it does is produce something that looks like an answer and so it doesn’t particularly care whether that answer is true or false, it just cares if it looks like an answer," he explained.

CBS 58 News came up with a task to compare a human's response from that of a robot's.

About 25 minutes later, Roberson and Edwards explained their drafted work.

"I think that love is hard, I think it also breaks a lot of boundaries, so a lot of, like, me trying to put out the solar system, I think love can be humorous, it can be, like, very intimate," Edwards said.

"A little heart monster guy," explained Roberson. "I think, you know, love, you kind of carry it with you, it's all around you."

On the other hand, LaChance didn't even take five minutes to come up with a design on his phone.

"I'm thinking 'dynamic love,'" he said, as he typed out keywords.

"It's a person who has a heart for an eye, oh, see now that's getting more abstract, that's very cool, 'cause that's the thing, love is an emotion right? it's not really a person, so sometimes I'll take the image and I won't even mean to use that final image but I wanted it as an input because I want that variation or colors in there," he added.

Though AI can mimic human activity, it still needs the human component to literally draw ideas from.

"We make these robots," said Roberson. "I think at the end of the day they should always be designed to work for us and not be working against us, you know."

A reasonable fear Roberson said he's had since artificial intelligence became a hot topic.

"It's going to confuse people with, like, who's making what and like just create more clutter in our already very cluttered social media world and that kind of infuriates me," he said.

So, is AI-generated or assisted art....well, art?

Edwards says she feels like AI art lacks authenticity and hinders human creativity.

"I think AI is making this expectation for artists to have to over-create and match that," she said.

LaChance said he's been manipulating images for years now and sees artificial intelligence as a remarkable tool that can instead enhance human creativity.

"Well, what is creativity? You know, where does that come from? Right? Aren’t we all just remixing with things in a way? We all stand in the shoulders of giants, you know, but I can understand their perspective on that," he said.

LaChance said, "this world needs more art, and this world needs more people who give themselves permission to be artists."

Especially for those who, like him, are disabled.

"There were times I just could not get out of bed and it was my only window; it was a world I could explore," he said.

LaChance suffers from long COVID. AI art has been a coping mechanism he shares with his kids and serves as an escape from reality.

"When I was feeling panicky 'cause I couldn’t breathe, it gave me something to focus on, you know, it allowed me to express that anger and the sadness and to connect with others on Twitter," he added.

LaChance said he's made more than 30,000 pieces of art with AI apps.

Roberson, though, now second-guesses what he shares online.

"You just don’t want to put too much work out there just in case they can take something from you," he said.

Even Edwards got a bit emotional when we asked if she felt that a robot could devalue her profession.

"Our work will always be more expensive, it'll always take more time and it's like, I'm not a computer, so I can't do that and that's frustrating because how am I supposed to continue my career as an artist in its traditional form?" Edwards asked.

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