Have you heard of the legend of 19th century man, John Henry, who supposedly battled against a steam-powered rock drilling machine in a race to dig holes, with only a hammer in his hands?
It is said that in the end – he won, but just as he did, he died of heart failure.
In popular culture he has become a symbol of physical strength and human dignity against the degradations of machine age but also a symbol of a man who is unable to halt progress.
The story reminded me of the general feeling I get about innovation – that it is always not very well accepted at first. Be it due to fear of change more than critically reasoning why the invention is “not good”, probably is to stay determined to each individual themselves.
If the world was all black and white, we could probably say that there are two types of people – those who wish for the things to stay the way they are and those who embrace readily when change is coming.
As with all things, there is always a part of population which just doesn’t care, but we're not in that department right now.
It was morning of 25th October, 2018, and it was supposed to be a regular auction day at Christie’s New York. They were introducing a first ever AI-generated portrait of a fictional man called Edmond de Belamy, and it was expected to go for somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000.
It is not far-fetched to say that everyone was startled when the art piece, made by Paris-based collective Obvious, was hammered down for $432,500.
Art community was perplexed.
It was August 2022, when artist Genel Jumalon tweeted “Yeah, that’s pretty fucking shitty”, after one owner of tabletop gaming company won at art competition with AI-generated art, amongst other non AI-art works. Comments did not stop coming: “We’re watching the death of artistry unfold before our eyes”.
The winner's name was Jason Allen and the art was called “Théâtre D'opéra Spatial”. Allen responded: “What if we looked at it from the other extreme, what if an artist
made a wildly difficult and complicated series of restraints in order to create a piece, say, they made their art while hanging upside-down and being whipped while painting,” “Should this artist’s work be evaluated differently than another artist that created the same piece ‘normally’?”
Art community was pissed.
It was just the day before yesterday that followers of Thesis & Dysmorphia twitter channel were responding to a question: “What do you think of creating NFT collection with AI-generated art?”
The winning answer got 43.5% of the votes, stating that they find it a great use of the tool.
The second place though was just inches away with 37.7% for unfair to “real artists”.
Art community is wondering, is the line between art and technology becoming nonexistent?
At certain moment in history the invention of camera meant that you could capture a moment in time with a short click, rather than having a painter sit and paint it for hours.
It must have felt like the death of artistry is imminent.
Yet, here we are, 200 years later, people still do use brushes, but photography is widely accepted as a legitimate form of art.
Would we say that Canva is a cheating mechanism, because it makes regular people decent flyer creators themselves and they don’t need a Photoshop designer for it anymore?
Is Photoshop a witchcraft which makes things which are impossible to draw by hand possible to make with a single mouse click?
Is Adobe Premiere a tool that should be banished because it’s too easy to make movie clips with it, compared to manually cranking 17 meters long Lumiere films through a projector to get a 50 seconds lasting scene?
Don’t even want to start about smartphones, those bloody SF products.
But – certainly, will some jobs be lost? Yes.
Though, here’s one comforting information: “According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2020, 85 million jobs may be displaced by the shift in labor between humans and machines by 2025, while 97 million new roles may emerge.”
Guess we’ll just have to choose the right side of the timeline.
Obviously, I’m all in.
I like technology, I like doing things faster. I like tools which let you be creative in new ways. I like AI.
Of course, I’m biased, since I’m no artist by vocation, at least not in any traditional sense of the word.
Of course, I’m biased, because this new technology means that it is possible for Thesis & Dysmorphia NFT project to exist.
Of course I’m biased to progress.
Being biased is a part of human nature. It’s also one of the things we are studying in this project.
It’s similar to what one of our OGs (@anaximanderCNFT) said about CNFT space:
We’ll fight for what’s ours.
Though fear not, John Henry, we still need hammers to drive some nails to the walls at home.
1. John Henry (folkore), Wikipedia (2022), retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_(folklore)
2. The First AI-Generated Portrait Ever Sold at Auction Shatters Expectations, Fetching $432,500—43 Times Its Estimate, Artnet News, (2018), retrieved from: https://news.artnet.com/market/first-ever-artificial-intelligence-portrait-painting-sells-at-christies-1379902
3. An AI-Generated Artwork Won First Place at a State Fair Fine Arts Competition, and Artists Are Pissed, Vice (2022), retrieved from: https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvmvqm/an-ai-generated-artwork-won-first-place-at-a-state-fair-fine-arts-competition-and-artists-are-pissed
4. Why Robots Won’t Steal Your Job, SHRM (2021), retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/executive/resources/articles/pages/humanoid-robot-pepper-fired.aspx