AI, a new artist for the 21st century

June, 15 2019 | Author: Patricia Morén /

Artificial intelligence is a human creation that already has the capacity to co-create and even create its own works of art, a faculty that until now was believed to be exclusive to man. There are robots that paint and robots that compose music. The news about these technological wonders have pleasantly surprised us in 2019, while they have opened Pandora's Box on the various ethical challenges that they pose.


The acronym of artificial intelligence (AI) could now correspond to another concept: Artistic intelligence. This year 2019 there have been some examples of AI systems with the ability to complete unfinished artistic works or to create new works autonomously. In February, the Chinese technology company Huawei surprised the world by announcing that an AI algorithm had been able to complete the last two movements of Symphony No. 8 in itself, D-759, known as the “unfinished”, by the Austrian composer Franz Schubert.

For this reason, the company created an AI learning model to teach one of its smartphones to analyze the first two movements of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and, from this analysis, create the melody for the third and fourth movements of this incomplete work. The company's engineers collaborated with the composer Lucas Cantor, awarded an Emmy, to fill in the gaps left by this system and reviewed the precise details to produce a composition that respected the original spirit of the work. In this case, the function of the AI was to act as a collaborator of the human being to complete an unfinished work, but in others the AI has already shown that it can go further and act as an autonomous agents.

Example of a humanoid robot painting

Example of a humanoid robot painting

This is the case of the humanoid robot, Ai-Da, developed by the University of Oxford, and protagonist of one of this year's news. On June the 12th it was announced that her works of art were going to be exhibited, including paintings and sculptures, in a gallery of London. Provided with a camera in one eye to capture the images of the surrounding environment, an AI system and a robotic arm to catch what she sees, Ai-Da is able to draw and sculpt her own works of art. It is, therefore, an android with the ability to create them autonomously.

Both examples of 2019 creative AI follow other artistic milestones achieved by AI previously. There is no doubt that AI is capable of creating its own works of art autonomously, to the point that there are already communities of creators who explore the impact of pioneer artists in AI art, such as; that defines itself as the first information exchange center on the impact of AI on art and culture.

However, the less cheerful counterpart of this range of possibilities generated by technology is that it also opens the thunder box and poses numerous ethical dilemmas. To this respect, in an interview with neuromimeTICs, Dafna Feinholz, head of the Bioethics and Ethics Section of the Science Section (SHS / BIO) of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), pointed out that “a very important and interesting topic is the relationship between AI and creativity. For example, we must ask ourselves what happens to the rights of artists? And philosophically creativity has always been conceived as an exclusively human feature, but what happens when a machine is capable of creating, of writing a story?”

How far can the functions of AI systems and abuses or excesses by collaborating or competing with the human being as creative artists go? Will this new profile of "intelligent artist" be able to gain ground to the art produced by human creators?

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Copyright, the man will always be responsible

The scientific community has analyzed in various works to whom the authorship, co-authorship, intellectual property rights and legal liability of the works generated by AI systems correspond. A review of several of these studies, published in the International Journal of Humanities and Applied Sciences, provides some considerations on each of these aspects that constitute a good guide. The authors of this review explain that machines are a product of the human industry and that, therefore, they should always be under the custody or tutelage of a human being directly (a natural person) or indirectly (a company).

These authors, Guilherme F. Nobre and Artur Matuck, from the School of Communications and Arts of the University of Sao Paulo, point out that theoretically the authorship of their work could be recognized to the machines, since they are able to work as an autonomous entity and to produce their own works of art, as well as co-authorship, which is less doubtful, because in these cases they participate as an assistant tool of the human being, and that it would even seem logical that they could claim intellectual or patent property rights over their creations. However, the latter has no future, according to Nobre and Matuck, because no machine could achieve the status of an independent personhood to be able to gain these benefits, but should always have behind the custody or tutelage of a human in one of the two ways prior mentioned (direct or indirect).

Thus, although the payment of this copyright or patent could be useful to pay the electricity costs, the maintenance and the resources that a machine uses to produce its works, it would benefit nobody, when the copyright and the patent rights were established not only to remunerate the creators but to promote that society to be more creative, productive and innovative. And for the worst, there should always be someone responsible behind the machines, that is, in case a machine violates the law. Hence, there should always be a person or a company that charges these intellectual or patent property rights to keep the interests of the society firstly and never those of the machines, according to Norbe and Matuck.

At the moment, it seems that in the field of artistic creations, the carbon unit (the man) will be the beneficiary and manager of the silicon artist (the machine).