Trace the Information: Two Truths and an AI, Art Edition
SKILL: Trace the Information
SUBJECT(S): History, AI
Students will use reverse image searches to learn which of these mind-bending artworks is AI-generated.
Links to Examples
Stable Diffusion is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that generates images. It is trained on a data set of thousands of images and produces new ones based on prompts from users.
About the Examples
In this variation of “Two Truths and a Lie,” two of these artworks were created by human artists using traditional methods and one was generated using AI. Students will discover which image is “AI” by using reverse image searches.
The first artwork, The Sun Sets Sail, is by Canadian magical realist painter Rob Gonsalves. The second, Spiral Town, is an image created by Reddit user Ugleh that was generated using Stable Diffusion. The third, Relativity, is a lithograph from Dutch artist M.C. Escher.
- Artwork 1: The Sun Sets Sail, Rob Gonsalves, 2001, acrylic on canvas
- Artwork 2: Spiral Town, Reddit User Ugleh, 2023, stable diffusion (AI)
- Artwork 3: Relativity, M.C. Escher, 1953, lithograph print
- Provide students with links to Artwork 1, Artwork 2, and Artwork 3, and tell them that two are created by traditional artistic methods and one was created using AI. Provide any background knowledge of AI-generated images if needed.
Note: Depending on available time and skill level, each student can investigate all three, or students can be assigned one of the three artworks.
- Have students conduct reverse image searches on the artworks to trace their origin (e.g. how it was made, title, artist name, and year created) using the following steps:
- Right-click on the image and select “Search Google for this image.”
- Select “Find image source.”
Note: Reverse image searches sometimes yield low-quality results, including social media posts and advertisements. Students may need to first find the name of the artwork by using a reverse image search and then take the extra step of searching the name in Google to learn more about its origin.
- Ask students to share their findings. Which were the truths, and which was the AI?
- If students were unable to locate the origin of the AI-generated artwork Spiral Town, inform them that it was originally posted on a subreddit dedicated to Stable Diffusion, before being widely shared on social media. Discuss with the class:
- Do you think the creator intended to deceive anyone by creating the image?
- Why do you think so many people on social media thought the image was an authentic artwork created by a person?
- What are the consequences of sharing AI-generated images out of context?
Optional Discussion Questions
Where does AI artwork fit? While many were amazed that Spiral Town was AI-generated, An X (formerly Twitter) user pointed out various flawed areas of the artwork, such as chimneys over windows or incorrect shadows, as “decisions a human wouldn’t make.” Do you think AI-generated artworks should be considered real artworks? Why or why not?
The art of AI artwork: Ars Technica’s article “Funky AI-generated spiraling medieval village captivates social media,” describes how Spiral Town was created. It also notes that current US copyright policy suggests that since AI art is machine-generated, it cannot be copyrighted by the artist, and so can be freely used by anyone. Considering the work put into generating AI art, do you agree or disagree with this stance? Why or why not?
- LESSON: CTRL-F Lesson 4: Trace the Information
- VIDEO: Trace the Information with Jane Lytvynenko (1:47 minutes)
- VIDEO: Skill: Search the History of an Image (4:14 minutes)