Arts and Culture

AI vs Art: Will AI help or hinder human expression?

A person drawing with a computer beside him: AI vs art: Is artificial intelligence (AI) a threat or a blessing to art and human expression?

AI vs art: Is artificial intelligence (AI) a threat or a blessing to art and human expression? Image: Unsplash/Dillon Wanner

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
Sophia Akram
Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Is artificial intelligence (AI) a threat or a blessing to art and human expression?
  • A music industry veteran, the head of the Hollywood actors' union, and a visual artist have their say on AI and art, on the Radio Davos podcast.
  • Listen to the podcast here or on any podcast app via this link, or on YouTube.

“AI can be beautiful but AI can be diabolical, just like people,” says veteran musician and producer Nile Rodgers, “I think that any tool that allows an artist to create is an amazing thing.”

In this episode of Radio Davos, Rodgers discusses artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is reshaping the boundaries of creativity.

Rodgers’ interview accompanies conversations with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief negotiator of the Hollywood actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, and Refik Anadol who uses data and AI to create visual art. All three discuss the risks and opportunities of using AI in film, music and art.

Here are some of the highlights.

Have you read?

Navigating AI in Hollywood

In 2023, Hollywood actors went on strike in part over the perceived threat of AI replacing them. The SAG-AFTRA union negotiator explains why the issue is so important and why what is required are rules on the use of AI, rather than trying to ban it.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA: What these tools do is they take someone’s image, their likeness, their voice, their performance and they turn it into something that they never participated in the creation of.

That’s a very personal thing. It’s not only about having a job; it’s also about the fact that someone is using your face and your voice to deliver a performance or a message that you had nothing to do with the creation of that…

We can ultimately see a human-centred use of AI in the entertainment industry instead of something that’s dehumanizing or devaluing of creative talent.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA

If we put all of our power and force into trying to block AI in what would ultimately be an unsuccessful effort, we’ll have given up the chance to really nudge it in the right direction.

And I do think putting guardrails up and pushing AI into the right kind of implementation is how we can ultimately see a human-centred use of AI in the entertainment industry instead of something that’s dehumanizing or devaluing of creative talent.

'Data as a pigment'

Refik Anadol creates vast, dynamic visual art - powered by AI which he says it just the latest tool in the history of making art.

Refik Anadol: I think it was 2008 when I truly started to imagine the idea of using data as a pigment. And over the years, I never, ever felt that I’m done with the idea of using information around us like a pigment.

But of course, when AI started to become a partner, a collaborator, it enhances that imagination at a whole new level.

For example, I have been truly immersed and inspired by nature. I think nature is the most intelligent thing we have and we have to preserve it. We have to understand it. And last several years, I’m explicitly imagining nature in a new way...

AI will exactly reflect who we are. So it’s not about AI. It’s about humanity.

Refik Anadol, artist

My most important message to deliver about AI is to be sure that it is a mirror. And AI will exactly reflect who we are. So it’s not about AI. It’s about humanity. But the same technology I do believe can be used to create possibilities, can be used to solve certain problems.

The hitmaker: Nile Rodgers is open to AI

For half a century, Nile Rodgers has been making hit records that have touched people's hearts around the world. The creative force behind disco pioneers Chic, and some of the best known songs of David Bowie, Madonna and Beyoncé, tells us the definition of an artist: someone whose work "speaks to the souls of a million strangers".

AI can be beautiful but AI can be diabolical, just like people… I think that any tool that allows an artist to create is an amazing thing.

Nile Rodgers, musician

Nile Rodgers: I think AI can be beautiful but AI can be diabolical, just like people… I think that any tool that allows an artist to create is an amazing thing…

I just read that a group that I was working with – we just had a huge hit – and they did it in ten different languages. And is that artistically cool? To me, that’s a tool that helps the artist communicate more… Great example: opera. We translate operas into other languages when a producer finds it necessary. I happen to like most of the opera that I like in the original tongue but it happens all the time. Think about Broadway shows.

So if you have a tool that can do it faster and more efficient, is that any less artistic than spending the time to learn and stuff and you’re just really just reciting it by rote? You don’t really know the new language. You just know how to sing in it…

I don’t really ever think that one form of expression excludes the other. It just maybe becomes more popular. And you know, in a weird way, I feel like there’s nothing wrong with that.

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