The year is 203X, and the latest AIrtists can now produce works indistinguishable from human artists. They can be trained on an individual creator's style and produce believable fakes. Mainstream TV animation now uses AI to create all scenes, needing only writers and Voice Actors to create content.

Is the age of the human artist over? What can professional artists do to keep making a living when any schmuck can train an AI to make imitations faster than the original artist can? Some can reskill as AI trainers, but what can the rest do?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There are very many kinds of artists, because there are very art forms. VTC as extraordinarily too broad. (For example, I don't see how "any schmuck" could possibly train an AI to imitate the Boshoi Ballet. I don't even understand what an imitation of the Bolshoi Ballet could be. Robotic ballerinas dancing to a rendering of a MIDI version of Chaikovsky?) (And, in general, art is an expression of the creativity of the artist. It might be the case that you are making a most regrettable confusion between arts and crafts.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 14 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, ballet, baking and balloon animals are all art, but in this context I mean the type that produces a 2d or 3d static design, such as a photo, painting or sculpture. If you know of a more concise way to phrase that for the question, I'd be happy to hear it. $\endgroup$
    – Kyyshak
    Aug 14 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ "Visual arts". And the question really needs to explain what the computers can actually do. "Imitating the style" is very vague. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 14 at 22:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This looks like a prompt for a general discussion rather than trying to solve a specific worldbuilding problem. Prompted by Scalzi's posts on this topic on Whatever over the last few days? $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 22:46

3 Answers 3


No, the age of the human artist is definitely not over, and likely never will.

As you write yourself, the ArtIsts (sorry, "AIrtists" is unpronounceable) can imitate works, copy styles, create in the same vein as. However:

  • Humans keep living the human experience, and are exclusively subject to la condition humaine.
    This alone will guarantee their (human) audience can relate more easily to the naturally more innovative artworks that their relatives create.
  • Humans make mistakes, and can choose to use them to their advantage.
  • Human artists have the power to invent new styles and signatures.
  • Humans are good at adapting, and will likely find ways to distinguish themselves from even the most advanced AIs.

(Note that I'm addressing this question more as a fine artist than a concept artist or designer, but the considerations still apply.)


Plagiarism machines meet lawsuit machines. May the best machine win.

The key to making a successful AI is...

  1. Snarf up everyone's creative output.
  2. Process it in a way that no one can understand, especially not the makers of the AI.
  3. Live on the fruits of the AI's successes.

I won't say the following is an example, because I have no idea how the AI works; this is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real persons or corporations is purely coincidental. But another AI, which we wouldn't be able to tell from this one, could do something that resembles a news story I saw. In any case, suppose Meta makes an AI that calls Zuckerberg "creepy and controlling" Where did that come from? We don't know. What are the odds that out there somewhere in the internet there is some nobody, followed by nobody, who once wrote just that phrase in a posting nobody read? And now the whole world can enjoy his lovely turn of speech, while (fictional) Meta can bask in the financially tangible adulation of all those eyeballs following their robot's way of putting things.

Now that's all well and good, but from the rest of practical industry we know what comes next: patent trolls, or in this case, copyright trolls. People make up the weirdest claims that Star Wars is really Dune, but we'll update it to the AI age. So there they are, trolling through a very expensive feed of all forum postings ever made, trying to pick out unsung pundits who once called Zuckerberg "creepy" or "conniving". The trolls need to pick good prospects they feel comfortable working with to file the lawsuit. That's a tough job, so they'll have to automate it, which means that authors looking for a copyright troll will have a lot of trouble getting a hearing. You see where I'm going with this...

Now we need the literary agents and PR/SEO specialists who can support the aspiring writer in his quest for creative recognition. The writer needs to create a fertile body of work that is prone to be plagiarized, or prone to look like what an AI might plagiarize. Then he needs to make his case to a copyright troll, much as a writer of a previous era might have made a case to a publisher. For the copyright troll to take on a case for someone is a big investment, but the major AIs receive a substantial portion of the total entertainment income of society. The payouts are unfathomable: even a small fraction of a settlement can make an author's career. That would leave the author all the time in the world to go back to doing what authors do - writing provocative statements and posting them to forums where no one will read them ... except perhaps copyright trolls, and the omniscient AIs who sit in judgment over us all.


In the context of paintings, sculptures and installations, the invention of these "AIrtists" wouldn't change anything to the current situation in my opinion. Currently there are already countless of people which are able to make very nice, beautiful, compelling paintings in the style of for example Rembrandt, van Gogh or Picasso. However the monetary value placed on those paintings is just a fraction of the value placed on the paintings painted by the original artist.

  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention that many of the famous artists taught students how to do their work and had the students do much of the work while the artist did the initial design and the finishing touches. In sculpture today, many an artist does the design and technicians do the actual stone carving. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Aug 15 at 13:44

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .