Me, Myself and AI

Me, myself and AI: thirdsies on synthetic art

I’m listening to the latest Comic Lab podcast and their guest, Kevin McShane asked the hosts if they’d ever use AI to complete their comic strips, if it was trained on just their work and would look like their hands.

The gist was something like “if you could script it and indicate what figures and objects went where, would you let the AI finish it off as a digital assistant?”

Which is an interesting question ~ in a profession, where cartoonists use computers to typeset their words in an approximation of hand lettering, or filters and digital brushes to get the effect of foliage, or fire, or clouds… where do you draw the line?
(sorry again)

A working professional would be daft not to use a plug in AI that could do the colour flatting, pause for human adjustments, then do at least a first colouring pass over that.
Or lay out the lettering from a typed script, in a variety of fonts and approaches.
Or fill in the background in appropriate angles from a pre-loaded 3D wireframe.

As the Comic Lab guys pointed out, refusing to do that would give their ‘competition’ an advantage of being to produce work much much faster ~ and the readers don’t care how a strip was made, just that it entertains them!

It sounds like an unavoidable slippery slope, that can only end with the AI generating 99% of the strip in the end.
To make more Product, faster, to shovel it in front of more eyeballs.

I’m becoming more convinced by the day, that AI is going to necessitate a shift that sees the ‘Creative’ Industries renamed what they have been most of the time ~ with no pejorative intent: the Content Industries.


The hubris of calling everyone who makes something an Artist will crumble and a Content Maker will be the accepted (celebrated!) term… the 80’s will have won another battle in making commerce ‘special’.


Art, made separate from Industry, for different motives can reclaim the noun for a much smaller area of human activity. Unable to match the productivity of the Content Makers (crap name… maybe the Connners?), there will be a premium on the handmade, the skilled… oh, my… maybe that drooling, incontinent beast, The Concept Artist will be put out of our misery at last…

It feels like we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift, where there will be a real division between Art and Content. Many creators will have to reevaluate their work and their identity to decide what they are creating.

Crucially, this can only happen properly when we let go of value judgements between the two. I’ve always argued that the distinction between Art and Craft is not quality, but intent ~ the idea that any well-made thing must be a work of art springs from the insecurity of others thinking “I could never do that, so it must be Art,” it seems to me.

Perhaps by expanding the circle of Content Makers (Conters?) so much, AI will change that. It is to be hoped that making something that is successful, whether commercially, practically or critically, will become the focus, and we won’t have to label any great work as ‘art’.

There is more bad art than good… there will be more bad content than good. Maybe one of the unintended consequences of synthetic creation spreading across the creative and entertainment industries will be that good work gets celebrated for being good and not ‘promoted’ in to a different league so other works don’t have to measure themselves against it…