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In the last few months, ChatGPT launched an artificial intelligence (AI) to the forefront of news outlets and while it may seem that it’s new, AI has been available for public use since at least the 1980s and was in development decades before that. Despite the mixed reviews, AI assists its users by making some tasks easier. In fact, AI-assisted the writer of this post by drafting an outline for her to use.

You’ll also find AI in healthcare, finance, the arts, and, perhaps most obviously, in everyday technology. You’ve probably made a few calls through Siri, Bixby, or Google, and have asked Alexa to add oranges and coffee pods to your grocery shopping list. ATMs, tablets, autocorrect, smart mirrors for working out at home, camera filters, music and the arts, and GPS- AI is far more prevalent than some of us may realize.

Ethical Consideration of AI in Art

The discussion between “real” and “fake” art is an age-old question.

Plagiarism, too, has long plagued art, forcing artists to walk the fine line between inspiration and mimicry.

Only days after the viral trend of AI portraits from the Lensa App, artists accused the app and its developers of sexualizing and racializing avatars and stealing from artists who have shared their art on the web. Additionally, there are issues of data collection, privacy, and security, not to mention the potential for security breaches, censorship, and the inherent bias built into it.

Then in 2022, an AI-generated picture won an award and the other contestants protested that this was cheating.

But, similar to innovation, nearly every form of art was at one point contested. For example, photography in the early 19th century received similar criticisms. The earliest criticism of photography was that it was not art because it was too mechanical to require the skill or creativity of an artist. Today, however, photography and photographers are well-respected artists.

While we cannot rush the acceptance of AI-generated art, it cannot be dismissed. Apps like Lensa and Procreate, and software like Midjourney and Adobe Photoshop create digital art—”painting” with an Apple Pen and digital brushes is no less art than painting with a real paintbrush and paints.

AI and Creative Collaboration

AI-generated art still needs human input in order to make art. 3D printing and smart routers perhaps require the most input. AI in 3D printing and smart routers requires coding in order to understand the material it’s using and consider its compatibility with the desired result.

Our founder, Dr. Evan Malone, started NextFab so that anyone from anywhere can make their dream a reality. Thanks to our Makerspace and RAPID Hardware Accelerator, some of our innovators have redefined prosthetics and created sound-based sculptures and installations. NextFab also offers classes from leatherworking to circuitry, which encourages students to make something from scratch. We teach students to use simple tools like hammers in addition to power tools, like table saws.

Students learn to make anything with their own hands and are assisted (not replaced) by AI.

There are also machines like Cricut and Silhouette that make it easier for small business owners to print their own paraphernalia for marketing, sell products they designed, or simply beautify their homes by adding personal touches.

Nothing may ever truly replace a handcrafted item (fun fact: crochet cannot be done by machine!) but it is still manual labor with or without the assistance of power tools. Art on a physical or digital canvas is still art. That hand-carving wood is an ancient (and often meditative) skill does not negate the need for a power sander. Each skill and tool fulfills different but equally important needs.

AI and the Future of Art

Artificial intelligence presents issues of data collection, privacy, and security, not to mention the potential for security breaches, censorship, and the inherent bias built into it. For better or worse, AI reflects the humans who make and need them and is therefore flawed. And still, these are not reasons to avoid or ignore the development of AI. If anything, these are reasons to improve it and ensure its accessibility and equity, just as the interplay between different art forms has driven creativity and innovation over time.

All forms of art influence and inspire each other. Songs have inspired books and books have inspired paintings and paintings have inspired poems and poems have inspired clothing. With this understanding in mind, many of the classes we offer at NextFab encourage cross-disciplines, practicing the students’ imagination and drawing nearer to the next innovation.

Yes, it’s dangerous to use a table saw and a sodering iron but people can be taught how to use them properly.

AI is another tool we can learn to use properly given enough consideration and experimentation.

In books, movies, and plays, across a variety of mediums, artificial intelligence strikes fear as much as a curiosity in artists and their audiences. Perhaps this mix of curiosity of fear makes AI so attractive. We’re only at the beginning of what AI can do and many are eager to explore and test the boundaries.

Inventions are not without their issues. The first automobiles did not have headlights or airbags or seatbelts but through trial and error and a lot of advocating to create and change laws, automobiles became safer. Newer cars even use artificial intelligence to improve driver safety like automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure warning systems.

AI has permeated our lives nearly imperceptibly but it’s important to recognize the incredible potential it holds for improving our lives.

And just like with automobiles, AI has the ability to make our lives safer and more efficient. It is essential that we continue to advocate for responsible and equitable development and use of AI so that it benefits everyone.

With this vision of limitless possibilities in mind, NextFab recognizes the importance of responsible innovation and is committed to promoting equitable access to the latest technologies, including AI, while fostering a culture of social responsibility and ethical use.

At NextFab, whatever you want to create, you can learn how to make it here. NextFab offers our community high-tech digital and traditional fabrication equipment, training, and classes to increase your skills and expand your capabilities, whether for your project, your business, or your personal life. Anything is possible, really.

In Partnership with FORMATION. Media