Technology: The Death of Art?

By: Sonal Somaiya


Over winter break, some musically inclined friends and I recorded a cover of a popular song. One at a time, we recorded the keyboard, bass guitar and vocals and then used percussion loops to fill out the piece. We had created a studio quality track over the course of just a few hours – a feat that wouldn’t have been possible without technology.


Music is arguably one of most technologically driven forms of the performing arts. An art that at the outset relied on a live instruments and vocals has been revolutionized into a behemoth industry with the advent of digital instruments and advanced recording technology. Visual art is no different; the average iPad is equipped with astonishingly advanced digital sketching and design technology, so even an amateur artist can create high caliber artwork.


So what does this mean for the future of art? Will technology eliminate the need for the artist? A sculptor could be replaced by a 3D printer, a dancer by a hologram and a composer by an algorithm. Instead of a human centric creative process like that of choreography and composition, will data analytics be used to drive creative decision making?


We have already seen musicians choose notes based on a formula that tells you which melody will drive the best audience reaction instead of relying on their own intuition to create. What comes after plays out like a Black Mirror episode where art technologists and their audiences are stuck in a feedback loop to create the most pleasurable experience of art and have eliminated any human influence on the process.


I’d argue that true art comes from human creation and performance, but technology has already moved past that stage. With recent advances in AI, technology is capable of “humanizing” its rendition of art to evoke the same emotions of a live performance. Furthermore, as technology becomes more accessible, more people are able to become creators, commoditizing the very notion of being an “artist”.


However, essential to our appreciation of artwork is an admiration of each stroke of the brush, each strum of the guitar and each move of a muscle that went into its creation; a recognition of both the feeling art evokes and the expertise and practice that went into it. Though technology has started to chip away at the former, it cannot replace the latter. Anyone who has seen the famous David in person can attest to its grandeur and commanding presence. Part of the allure though, is knowing that a 26-year-old Michelangelo hand carved the impressive statue from a single block of marble.


As the line between human-created and technology-driven artistic expression blurs, I predict we will see a renewed emphasis on just this. While technology might be great at mimicking artists, it can’t replace the years of training and hard work artists put in to perfect their art forms. Ultimately, when we cannot distinguish between human vs. technologically created art, we will turn to this effort to distinguish it for us.


Sonal is a first year passionate about technology and innovation.