From AI & robots, to cell phones, virtual reality, self-driving cars, and much more, many of the defining technologies of our times were initially imagined by creative visionaries working in science fiction writing and concept art before becoming reality. Artists, therefore, play a pivotal role in expanding the realm of what is possible, giving form to dreams of future technologies before they exist, and inspiring the engineers and entrepreneurs who bring them to life. 

Artists, authors, musicians, and creators are an untapped wellspring of innovation within the emerging AI ecosystem. Historically, when new media such as photography, film, and audio technologies have arisen, artists have always pioneered their adoption, steering these tools from mere curiosities to instruments of profound meaning & insight, and unlocking vast economic value in the process.

AI represents the next step in this long lineage, with artists uniquely positioned to direct its development towards more humanistic ends. Assembling visions of possible futures, artists are already utilizing AI tools to expand our creative capabilities and rapidly materialize novel ideas and artistic concepts, with impacts being felt everywhere. The inclusion of our diverse perspectives in high level societal conversations about the right use of these technologies will ensure that the field of AI research and development recognizes and enhances the complexity, nuance, and subjectivity of human experience, rather than diminishing it.

Artists operate with different capacities, constraints, and incentives than government, corporate, and civil society groups in the AI space. Government stakeholders often prioritize security, economic growth, and global competitiveness, sometimes overlooking more immediate impacts on human lives. Corporations view AI predominantly as a tool for efficiency and profit, lacking an inherent drive to protect or elevate the human spirit. Civil society organizations emphasize accountability and ethics, yet often lack direct engagement with AI as a creative medium.

In contrast, artists’ core motivation lies in expanding possibilities for human expression and imagination, and asking questions about how we can best shape technology for these ends. Our extensive daily interactions as professional artists using AI technologies can provide unique insights into their flaws and real-world impacts, fostering nuanced understanding that goes beyond politically reactive or reductionist interpretations of AI in media.

Consciously navigating these early stage rough edges and gray areas of AI development with aesthetic sensitivity and critical thinking, artists can help chart a humanistic course for AI’s future, illuminating its cultural and societal influences and exposing the seams that evade purely technical perspectives. This active shaping of technology’s meaning and place in our lives is essential to ensure AI uplifts humanity, rather than serving solely as a novelty, business tool, or means of power consolidation.

In essence, artists breathe life into AI, directing its powers towards beauty, insight, and the enrichment of the human spirit, imbuing it with dimensions it inherently lacks. Despite the imperfections and valid critiques of these technologies, we believe refusing to engage with them at all would forfeit the unique opportunity we have in this moment to shape their development responsibly. Artists ought to be equal partners in steering the course of AI development, ensuring its trajectory benefits humanity as a whole.

(Written with help from Claude & ChatGPT, with human review and editing)