How much is intent and authenticity worth? A.I., Art, and Blockchain.

A.I. generated image of a crow on a pile of snow covered sticks.

Recently on Twitter, we contemplated how much intention is worth in the appreciation of art, and by extension, how much authenticity adds to the overall value of art.


WheelHouse Art is a big proponent of using Artificial Intelligence as a tool in art. But how might the relationship between art and viewer be affected if the viewer doesn’t know a work is generated with AI?


When we experience art, we can spend hours studying, deconstructing, and deriving meaning due in large part to having faith that the creator on the other side purposefully crafted the work with intent, injecting meaning in every brushstroke, quarter note, and punctuation mark.


But what if an AI program generates a poem and is read by someone who doesn’t know it was written with AI? The reader will seek deeper meanings and truths in the work, but will they value their experience the same if they later learn it was created without conscious intent?


Of course there had to be at least a modest amount of intent from someone to create a prompt for the AI program to create something. But how much intentional action is needed to produce deep, personal value for an audience?


Would one gain any more or less from this poem:


“The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree


Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.”


Than they would from the following poem?:


“A crow in snow, a stark contrast,

Black feathers against white amassed.

Silent wings, it glides with grace,

In search of food, it scans the place.


A scavenger, a bird of prey,

Surviving winter day by day.

Its caw echoes through the trees,

A sound that carries on the breeze.”


The first poem is titled Dust of Snow by Robert Frost. The second poem was created in seconds by Chat GPT using the prompt “create a poem with a crow and snow in two verses.”


A reader can create their own meaning behind the AI poem, but does it hold as much weight as that which comes from trying to decode and connect with the spirit of Robert Frost?


Is this a “post-truth” life experience in art?

If AI work is valued as less than, then will this potential of uncertainty devalue art across the board? Or will the general consensus come to value AI equally (or more) to human creation?


Clearly verified authorship plays a role in value of experience and most certainly financially, too.

What if we told you some other random person wrote Dust of Snow instead of Robert Frost?* Would it lose any value for you?


How much is gained or lost “knowing” Salvator Mundi was painted by Leonardo da Vinci?


Getting "authenticated" as a Leonardo helped the painting go from a sale price of $10,000 in 2005 to over $450 million at a Christie's auction in 2017.


So we can see that authentication of authorship provides a level of trust to assure us that what we are seeing builds our ongoing history of understanding of an artist and their artwork. This becomes more difficult, though, as we become more culturally intertwined with the digital world. How can you trust that digital artwork was created by an artist, and by the actual artist that is listed with an artwork?


It's at this point where we see NFTs, and blockchain more broadly, as tools to help hold our cultural values moving ahead in our digital future. Blockchain is basically a publicly accessible open ledger system found online, with records stored across thousands of computer servers all over the world. They are as close to hack-proof as there is, and because of this, all records of the creation and sale of NFT artworks come with immutable provenance.


We see your eyes starting to glaze over, so we are going to wrap this up with an unapologetic plug for our NFT collection, including work that used AI in its creation, like this piece by Brian Harper:

When you see WheelHouse Art NFTs, not only is their provenance authenticated on blockchain, but you can trust the work is by the artists they say they are. WheelHouse Artists. Locally-connected artists. We do it because we believe in it, and we are bringing the bluegrass to the blockchain.


And by the way, in case you were wondering. The image at the top of this blog is an AI generated image using the Dust of Snow poem as a prompt. It's not an NFT, but at least now you know what it is.




* - Dust of Snow was, indeed, written by Robert Frost.