An AI-generated portrait of the fictional Edmond de Belamy. Photo: Christie's

AI-generated art is selling for thousands of dollars to private donors and auction houses, leapfrogging from mere novelty.

Why it matters: We're often told that manual work will be snapped up by robots, while creative jobs are relatively safe. It’s not clear this technology quite approximates human creativity, but its commercial success suggests a demand for simulated imagination.

What’s going on: In October, Christie’s will become the first auction house to sell a piece of art created by artificial intelligence, Artnet news reports: a portrait developed by a French collective named Obvious.

  • Obvious sold a painting in the same series to a private collector for about $12,000 in February.

How it works: The pieces were made using generative adversarial networks, or GANs, a state-of-the-art AI technique.

  • The painting algorithm took a crash course in portraiture, reviewing 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th centuries.
  • A second algorithm called the discriminator judged the result to see if it could discern AI- from human-created art.
  • If it could, it sent the generator back to the easel, and the cycle repeated until the generator produced something indistinguishable from human art.

The final products may not be exactly human-like, but they draw a viewer in. One member of the fictional Belamy family, Edmond, is an inscrutable, slightly pixellated ghost. Another — the count himself — looks like a wispy, glowing J.S. Bach.

The backstory: Computers have been making art for decades, from a system called AARON that has been drawing since the 1970s to "The Painting Fool," an algorithm that creates art based on the emotional content of news stories.

Humans are bad at telling human-painted art from computer-generated art, a 2017 Rutgers study found. Artworks created by GANs tuned to simulate creativity fooled humans into thinking they were human-made 75% of the time.

The big question: What does it mean for computers to be creative?

  • Computer-generated art generally needs a seed: Some inspiration from which to start. For The Painting Fool, it’s text; for the Rutgers system, a random input.
  • But Ahmed Elgammal, director of Rutgers’ Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, writes that humans need inspiration, too, and that artists draw on their experiences and other art to seed their own creations.

Go deeper: A thoughtful 2016 piece in MIT Technology Review.

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ActBlue collects record-breaking $30 million in hours after Ginsburg's death

Mourners place flowers, messages, and mementos at a makeshift memorial in honor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in front of the US Supreme Court on September 19. Photo: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

ActBlue, the Democratic donation-processing site, reported a record-breaking $30 million raised from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday in the aftermath of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, NPR writes and ActBlue confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters via the New York Times: "The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 30,557,899 — Total deaths: 952,981— Total recoveries: 20,822,644Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:30 a.m. ET: 6,730,304 — Total deaths: 198,679 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 93,150,052Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — Massive USPS face mask operation called off — How the American diet worsens COVID-19.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety net.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.
  7. World: Guatemalan president tests positive for COVID-19.

Trump says Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Ginsburg's seat

President Trump. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

President Trump wrote in a tweet Saturday morning that Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court following her death Friday.

What he's saying: "We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices," the president said, tagging the Republican Party. "We have this obligation, without delay!"