The age of robots is quickly approaching if not already here, and it may pose a threat to aspiring artists. There are two technological advances that will have a particular impact on the art industry: Virtual/Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence.
Virtual Reality devices provide fully immersive experiences that allows users to personally interact within a computer-generated, three-dimensional environment. Virtual Reality is not limited to video games. Graphic Designers may want to take a look into this, not only for game design but also for social media platforms and educational platforms. Videographers ought to consider adapting to this trend by training themselves on how to use 360° cameras. Painters may want to have a go at Google’s Tilt Brush, which allows you to paint inside a virtual reality. Augmented Reality devices allow users to function in the real world, supplemented by computer-generated information. There are an increasing number of exhibitions that allow viewers to interact with art pieces that ‘come to life’ through augmented reality with their smartphone. Those who like to stick with traditional mediums may want to consider using augmented reality to show photographs of their artworks at multiple galleries at the same time.
Machines with Artificial Intelligence function in ways normally thought to only be associated with human minds. For example, some AIs are self-learning or are able to understand human speech. What does this have to do with artists? Well, people have created algorithms that allowed them to 3D-print an original painting that looked exactly like a Rembrandt.
Scared now? But Artificial Intelligence cannot possibly encroach on the beauty of the human soul…can it? Take a look at Cozmo, an AI robot designed to mimic human emotions. Of course, this robot is not the end-all-be-all; but neither were flip-up cell phones. It may not be impractical to predict that one day, AI will be able to do everything that we artists can do.
A few consoling thoughts; I expect that ours would be one of the last occupations to be replaced by AI, considering how challenging it is to quantify emotions and personalities. I also imagine that after the robot-craze over digital realities, autonomous vehicles, 3D-printers and AI, people may look once again to the value of the ‘human touch’ and the raw, natural world. Humans are flawed, and we may need to be prepared to market that aspect of ourselves; our struggles are what makes us unique – what makes us beautiful.
It is very important for us artists to begin asking ourselves how we are going to adapt to this increasingly technological world. Once upon a time people bought from whatever artists were in the local area. Now, people can buy from any artist they like via the internet, making it all the more challenging for each one of us to stand out among millions of other artists. How exactly do we do that?
Let me explain one approach with a personal experience of mine. Two summers ago in Anchorage, Alaska, I found a very nice handmade belt with native designs on it, made by a man who called himself Ziggy. We talked briefly about our lives, and he told me that he painted most of the murals in Anchorage, learned more than 100 trades throughout the course of his life, and ran for mayor of Anchorage 3 times. After I bargained the belt down to $75, I watched him finish making it by customizing it to fit my waist. Had I seen the same exact belt for sale at Macy’s, I would never have bought it in a million years. But I got a handmade Alaskan belt made by a man with a scraggly beard who ran for mayor three times – I do not regret a thing.
There is a saying that people do not buy artwork – they buy the artist. Marketing one’s artwork on social media is just the beginning. One needs to market their personality, their character, their visions, and even other passions. Our art is not the only thing that has to be relatable; the more relatable you as a person are, the easier it becomes to make exchanges.
In summary, current technological advances have as huge an impact on our industry as any other. I strongly encourage other artists to think critically about how they can adapt to current and incoming trends in order to share their individual gifts and insights to the world.
This is a rough-draft article expected to publish on The Stillman Exchange sometime in the near future.