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  • Writer's pictureMichael Thompson

Why Artificial Intelligence Will Make You More Human

The year is 1839. You have just awoken and are eating eggs and a croissant on your balcony as you overlook the Bay of Marseille, France.
As you take your last sip of espresso, you give your wife a kiss on the cheek and leave to paint Monsieur Fournier who has commissioned you to paint him in his study and afterward his wife and only daughter.
This will certainly be your most impressive portrait to date, as this prestigious commission will allow you to fully display your mastery of the brush that you have been perfecting over the last 2 decades.
A carriage comes to pick you up outside of your home to take you to the Fournier residence, you nod to the driver, get in the back, and place your brushes next to you with conviction. Today, you have truly made it as an artist.
As you’re driving, you spark up a conversation with the driver and begin to talk about the weather and other niceties. He asks you for your thoughts about the invention by Louis Daguerre just announced at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris earlier this week. You tell him you’re quite sure you don’t know what he is talking about, and he explains to you what they are calling a daguerreotype which can capture perfect lifelike images of a person in a few seconds.
You scoff and say you must see it for yourself. You sit back in the carriage and the rest of the ride is silent.
1 year later, Monsieur Fournier has purchased Louis Daguerre’s famous camera. He thanks you for your beautiful work, and you never receive another commission from him again.
The invention and popularization of the camera marks one of the most important times in art history and history altogether. The technology that we now each keep within 2 feet of us at all points in time not only revolutionized how we capture images and document moments but also played a significant role in how modern art came to be.
You see, when the camera was invented, a large percentage of professional artists were portraitists, painting realistic images of the upper class to mark their esteem and noteworthiness. The camera made the market for realistic painted portraits drop significantly, and a skillset that many people had cultivated over years of experience was suddenly devalued to immense proportions. Families who could never have afforded portraits before now were able to, and the shrewd businessman or woman no longer had to sit for hours for a painter and pay much higher prices to have their likenesses captured.
I wasn’t around in the 1800s, but I can imagine there were many people who were pissed off that this camera had “taken their job” so to speak. I think this is a very common response to technology across the board, any time a revolutionary piece of technology comes around, a certain number of specialists will slowly become obsolete. I'll talk about this more in next week’s newsletter, “The Specialist is Dead”. As much as people can be upset about it, this is just technology doing exactly what it was created to do; I’m sure there were candlemakers who lost their business when electricity came about, but almost no one today would argue that we should still be using open flames as our primary light source.
There is something else technology does though that we don’t focus on enough, it forces us to react. While there was a group of artists who were put out by the camera, there was another group of artists who reacted in an unexpected way. Instead of giving up their life as an artist or chasing after futile opportunities, they came together and decided to make work that captured authentic human perception of the world, rather than a realistic representation of it. This group came to be known as the Impressionists. Impressionism went on to become the most popular movement in art history, headlined by artists like Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
Technology pushes us out of stagnation. It not only forces us to innovate, but it also allows us to access parts of humanity that were not initially at the forefront of our mind. If we were to look at all of human history and all of the things we have created, the more interesting story is not what we’ve made, but how we’ve responded to those creations.
I predict that in the next decade, over 75% of programmers, designers, and copywriters will be obsolete. Artificial intelligence will quickly replace specialists' jobs at immense rates, and it is understandably something that people are afraid of.
Here is why I’m excited for the rise of A.I.:
Not because of what it does, but because of how we’ll respond to it. For over 100 years now, people have been afraid to define what art is. I think we will quickly find that if we cannot define what art is, it will almost certainly die. Van Neistat gave a definition that I would like to put forward as we seek to redefine and save art. He said,
“A work of art preserves the human spirit."
In every great work of art throughout history. Music, Painting, Architecture, and Film; we see the human spirit in all of them.
In 2018 a group called Wunderman Thompson sought to create the next great work of art by the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. Through a process of scanning his original works, alongside 3D printing technology, and generative AI, they were able to create a physical work of art that is nearly indistinguishable in style from an original, they called it, “The Next Rembrandt.”
However, if I were to ask an art collector how much they would pay for an original Rembrandt vs how much they would pay for “The Next Rembrandt,” the price wouldn’t even be in the same stratosphere. Why? These are both physical paintings in the same style, with similar compositional elements; shouldn’t they be sold for the same price?
Because as much as the physical properties can be the same, “The Next Rembrandt” does not hold the spirit of Rembrandt himself. It holds remnants of machines and programs, which have no spirit at all.
When I became an artist, my primary goal was never to create images - it was to create impact. I didn’t have extensive knowledge of art or the art world, a huge portfolio, or prestigious training. Instead, my introduction to art was through people. Seeing the ways that creation, collaboration, and beauty brought people together. Art at its best ignites the spirit within each of us and reminds us what it means to be human.
When I’m painting, writing, or speaking, my primary goal is always to tap into that humanity, the art itself is just an access point. This is why I’ve built my career around people, it's why I designed “The Creative Ecosystem,” because I realize that without people, art has no value at all. The growth of Artificial Intelligence will be astounding and sometimes frightening over the coming years, but I’m confident in saying that no matter how advanced it is, it can never preserve the human spirit. I see a space where there is now an even greater potential for creativity to be less about the image and more about the person. Because even when we get to the point where every job can be performed with total efficiency and the daily tasks that used to fill our time are gone - the last thing and the most important thing that we can do is to preserve the human spirit.

Talk to you soon my friend.


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