Artificial intelligence: The very real threat posed to artists by AI technology

AI can mimic famous painters in a matter of seconds, but could they really put artists out of business? ITV News Health and Science Correspondent Martin Stew reports

"I've lost part of my career, I'm robbed from my experience, from my skill."

This is how Polish artist Greg Rutkowski feels about artificial intelligence (AI) in art. You may never have heard of him, but his name has been used 300,000 times as a prompt to make AI art - more than Picasso, Michelangelo and Da Vinci combined.

"It's not like AI copied bits of my work and just pasted it. It's more like it's following some movements similar to my works," he told ITV News.

Credit: Greg Rutkowski/Martin Stew

One of the above pictures was created by Mr Rutkowski, while the other three were made using his name as an AI prompt. Can you guess which one is his? Find out the answer at the end of this article.

In a matter of seconds we were able to get an AI tool to generate three images in Mr Rutkowski's style.

Put alongside his actual work, the majority of people we showed them to couldn't tell which work was the real one. Mr Rutkowski's response: "That's really a bummer. If someone else can't really tell if it's AI or human art, what's the purpose of evolving as an artist."

The quality of copies raises serious questions about intellectual property. If an algorithm has learnt from an artist's work, do they have the right to be compensated? In Chicago, money is now being raised to fund a legal battle to protect artists.

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"The copyright laws that we know were invented before AI and right now AI changes everything," Mr Rutkowski added.

"What's happening right now is AI taking our careers and destroying our years of work. I have to be ready to adapt or fight it more or find a way to live with that."

Humans are already losing out on work. In Japan, Netflix was criticised after the entire backdrop of an animated film was AI generated.

Proponents of AI say it is a tool which will free up artists time to be more creative. In the same way cameras empowered photographic art - perhaps there will be a new genre of artificial art?

One Company, called Oxia Palus, is even using algorithms to rediscover lost art. It's using x-rays of sketches hidden under paintings to artificially re-imagine masterpieces, which were never finished. You can also have a lot of fun making classic pictures of contemporary subjects.

AI technology only requires a prompt to create its own replica works. Credit: Martin Stew

Helen Hillyard, curator of Dulwich Picture Gallery, believes great art will always need a human hand.

She told ITV News: "I don't think I'm too worried. I think AI can create something technically perfect, but actually the old masters they're flawed and they have humanity.

"You can see individual brush strokes, you can see where they've left thumb prints in the paint and that's something I don't think artificial intelligence can replicate or is willing to replicate."

Computers haven't yet developed the emotional response art evokes in humans, but they can now produce pictures which can make us question whether we can believe our eyes.

Answer: Top left was created by Mr Rutkowski, the other three were generated by AI.