Art generated by artificial intelligence won an award. Artists are not happy.

This year, the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition awarded prizes in all the usual categories: painting, quilting, and sculpture.

But one participant, Jason M. Allen of Pueblo West, Colorado, did not enter with a brush or a piece of clay. He created it with Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program that turns lines of text into super-realistic graphics.

Mr. Allen’s work, “Théåtre D’opéra Spatial”, took the blue ribbon in the exhibition competition for emerging digital artists – making it one of the first pieces created by artificial intelligence to win such an award, and starting a backlash from artists who accused it, essentially , cheated.

After being contacted by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Allen defended his work. He said he made it clear that his work – which was filed under the name “Jason M. Allen via Midjourney” – was created using artificial intelligence, and that he hadn’t deceived anyone about its origins.

“I won’t apologize for that,” he said. “I won, and I didn’t break any rules.”

Art created by artificial intelligence existed for years. But the tools released this year — with names like DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion — have make it possible For amateur arrangement to create complex, abstract or realistic works simply by typing a few words in a text box.

These apps have understandably caused many human artists to worry about their future – so why would anyone pay for art, they wonder, when they could create it themselves? They’ve also generated fierce debates about the ethics of AI-generated art, opposing people who claim these apps are primarily a high-tech form of plagiarism.

Mr. Allen, 39, began experimenting with art created by artificial intelligence this year. He runs a studio, Incarnate Games, which makes tabletop games, and was curious about how the new generation of AI image generators compare to the human artists he commissioned their work.

This summer, he was invited to a Discord chat server where people were testing Midjourney, which uses a complex process known as “posting” to convert text into custom images. Users write a series of words in a letter to Midjourney; The robot spits out an image after seconds.

Mr. Allen became obsessed, creating hundreds of images and was amazed at how realistic these images were. No matter what he wrote, Midjourney seemed to be able to do it.

He said, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” “It felt like it was inspired by the devil – like sharing a power from another world.”

Eventually, Mr. Allen’s idea to present one of his Midjourney creations came to the Colorado State Fair, which has a “digitally manipulated art/photography” section. He had a local shop print the picture on canvas and present it to the judges.

He said, “The exhibition was coming up, and I thought: How cool would it be to show people how amazing this art is?”

Several weeks later, while walking the fairgrounds in Pueblo, Mr. Allen saw a blue ribbon hanging next to his lot. He won the section, along with a $300 prize.

He said, “I couldn’t believe it.” “I felt like: This is exactly what I set out to achieve.”

(Mr. Allen declined to share the specific script prompt he gave Midjourney to create ‘Théåtre D’opéra Spatial’. But he said the French translation – ‘Space Opera Theatre’ – provided evidence.)

After his victory, Mr. Allen posted a photo of his award-winning work to his Midjourney Discord chat. He made his way to Twitter, where he was Effects angry backlash.

One Twitter user wrote: “We’re watching the death of art unfold before our eyes.”

Another wrote, “This is so disgusting.” “I can see how useful AI art can be, but do you pretend to be an artist by creating one? Of course not.”

Some artists have defended Mr. Allen, saying that using artificial intelligence to create a piece is no different than using Photoshop or other digital image manipulation tools, and that human creativity is still required to come up with the right claims to create an award-winning piece.

Olga Roebuck, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which oversees the state fair, said Mr. Allen adequately disclosed Medjourney’s involvement when presenting his article; Category rules allow any “artistic practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process”. She said the class judges didn’t know Midjourney was an AI program, but both later told her that they would have given Mr. Allen the top prize even if they owned it.

The debate over new art-making techniques is nothing new. The sentiments of many painters receded over the invention of the camera, which they considered a wreck of human art. (Charles Baudelaire, nineteenth-century French poet and art critic, It’s called photography “Art’s staunch enemies.”) In the twentieth century, digital editing tools and computer-aided design software were similarly dismissed by purists because they required so little skill from human collaborators.

Some critics believe that what makes the new breed of AI different is not just that it can produce beautiful works of art with minimal effort. It’s how they work. Apps like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney are built by extracting millions of images from the open web, then teaching algorithms to recognize patterns and relationships in those images and creating new ones in the same style. This means that artists who upload their work to the Internet may inadvertently help train their competitors’ algorithms.

“What makes this AI different is that it is explicitly trained on existing working artists,” said RJ Palmer, a digital artist, Tweet last month. “This thing wants our jobs, it’s actively anti-artist.”

Even some who admire the art created by AI have concerns about how it is made. Andy Baio, a technologist and writer, wrote in recent article That DALL-E 2, perhaps the busiest AI image generator on the market, was “a frontier magic in what it can conjure up, but it raises so many ethical questions, and it’s hard to keep track of them all.”

Mr. Allen, the winner of the blue ribbon, said he sympathizes with artists who fear artificial intelligence tools will disrupt their work. But he said their anger should not be directed at individuals who use DALL-E 2 or Midjourney to make art but at companies that choose to replace human artists with AI tools.

“It should not be an indictment of technology itself,” he said. “Morality is not in technology. It is in people.”

He urged artists to overcome their objections to artificial intelligence, even if only as an adaptation strategy.

“It won’t stop,” said Mr. Allen. “Art is dead, dude. It’s over. Artificial intelligence won. Humans lost.”

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