In Celebration of Shoddy Workmanship

Once considered a preserve of humanity, even a benchmark of civilisation, creativity has now been colonised by AI.  Turns out it’s not so exclusively human as we once thought.  A recent example of this incursion is the case of German artist Boris Eldagsen winning the Sony World Photography Award with his AI-generated image, Pseudomnesia: the Electrician.  Respect: it’s a very good image.

But it raises an important question.  How are we going to award, or even recognise, human creativity, if AI can do it all so much better?  Booker Prize?  ChatGPT will write that same prize-winning novel in five minutes.  Turner Prize?  There’s a robot constructing a metal tent filled with all the serial numbers of the other robots its coupled with as we speak.

Within the field of creative arts, it is going to get increasingly difficult to distinguish the human from the artificial.  Except in one crucial way…

Only a human could produce a piece of art as spectacularly shoddy as the infamously botched restoration of the Elías Garcia Martínez fresco Ecce Homo in the Santuario de Misericordia de Borja church in Zaragoza.  No AI-creator could have produced such basic brushwork; clumsy composition; self-deluded satisfaction upon the final result.  The bodged Martínez restoration is a positive triumph of human creativity over AI.  Step forward Cecilia Giménez, take a bow.

This is the kind of work our future creative awards should celebrate: the unique shoddiness of humanity.  Give prizes for the worst chunky knits; the mixed metaphors; the out-of-focus photographs; the off-key concertos; the doggerel; and the weekend painters.

Our glorious mediocrity is the only way we can distinguish ourselves from the machine.

© Simon Turner-Tree

Simon Turner-Tree: man or machine?

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