To the Editor:
I’ve read numerous articles that decry the application of artificial intelligence to areas such as self-driving cars and jury selections. These arguments can typically be traced to an underlying fear: a distrust of machines making decisions for humans. The recent argument of Spencer Barnett ’24 against using AI to judge art can be traced back to this same fear.
Humans prefer to determine their own fate, and it’s hard for us to admit the flaws in our own decision-making processes. In the case of self-driving cars, there has been a knee-jerk reaction against allowing a machine to make life or death decisions for us, even though self-driving cars have the “potential to save lives and reduce injuries,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
I feel Barnett’s argument is a similarly knee-jerk reaction against the merits of automated decision-making. In the case of judging art, it’s especially difficult for us to admit that our species’ emotional and aesthetic decision-making might be flawed. We cling to what Barnett describes as “the magic of great art — the intangible combination of elements that moves us uniquely as humans.”
But is “great art,” as determined by society, truly a reflection of collective human emotion? Likely in part, but our perception of art is also skewed by art critics and how the market limits what works of art are available for us to appreciate in the first place.
Thus, how we value art is not solely based upon our emotional connection to it, but also upon our perception of how others value it. In judging art, artificial intelligence no doubt introduces its own external valuations, but this leaves us in the same position we are in now.
I have no objections to Barnett’s column as a sentimentalist defense of what makes us human; to that end, it is both eloquent and thought-provoking.
But as a coup de grâce for AI within creative industries, his column falls short.
Jonah Saitz ’25