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Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence makes room for authentic art in Olin

The Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence is currently displaying collected artwork submissions on the first floor of the F. W. Olin Science Center. The call for submissions asked anyone interested to make something with an AI platform relating to the upcoming theme of AI and Creativity or the current theme of the Lived Environment. 

Out of thirty-eight submissions, ten were chosen to remain on display all year, as an exemplary exhibit of evolving studies and discussions combining AI and art. 

Amy Poulin, Assistant Director of  the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence, explained, “The idea of this exhibit came about over the summer when my summer students introduced me to Dall-E mini and we started messing around to create a mascot for the Davis Institute for AI.”

Creative projects will continue, and the Davis Institute will hold another round of submissions in the fall based on next year’s theme AI and Creativity. In addition to community-wide art collections, Poulin said, “The Davis Institute is here to provide the tools for faculty to get knowledge and tools to use AI in classes, including how to use it, and important discussions about the ethics behind it.”

The Davis Institute has provided course development grants to faculty looking to incorporate AI into their course work and will fund a Jan Plan course taught by 2022–23 Lunder Institute Fellow Oscar Santillán on the intersections between ecology, humanity, and AI. 

Interest in the crossover between AI and creativity applies to many areas of study, as does the Institute’s current theme of the Lived Environment. 

In partnership with the Lunder Institute, the Davis Institute is also sponsoring a talk on Thursday, Nov. 10 about Santillán’s work in AI (see announcement below).  

An important topic of discussion in all of these academic opportunities is the amount of artistry involved. Poulin supports the idea that media made with AI is the product of an individual’s creativity because someone writes the code to get an output from the computer, which was set up and coded in the first place by a person’s creativity. 

The revision cycle of reflecting on artwork is part of the natural creative process, and this cycle is part of projects made with artificial intelligence.

“In these submissions,” Poulin said, “we were looking for people to make decisions. It is a third type of creativity, that is revising your own piece of art. The computer can’t do that for you.” 

AI-generated art is an opening to bridge gaps between this artificial intelligence format and preexisting art forms, or at least to get those conversations started.  

AI generation is a tool for art, just like a canvas. Any time a new art style is generated, there’s a conflict about what the tools can do, and it is an opportunity to open up creative expression to more people through AI platforms. 

Thinking about the artist as a concept, this exhibit starts to address mainstream media discourse about AI-generated art. 

Whether it qualifies as art, especially with potential ethical questions of style, plagiarizing, and permission to generate, will be topics in future discussions relating to AI and art and links the subjects beyond the limits of a display of data or digital art studies. 

In addition to extracurricular programming, several spring courses will incorporate artificial intelligence studies, including AY265 AI and Inequality. The work of the Davis Institute for AI will involve adapting courses and incorporating material as AI becomes a mainstream topic in cross-disciplinary studies. 

~ Molly George `23

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