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SRI Seminar Series: Aaron Hertzmann, “Can computers create art?”

September 20, 2023, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

SRI seminar series: Aaron Hertzmann

Our weekly SRI Seminar Series welcomes Aaron Hertzmann, principal scientist at Adobe Research and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington who is an expert in computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning, and art.

In this session, Hertzmann will discuss questions of authorship raised by generative AI systems that are able to create images, enabling new modes of artistic expression. Can AI algorithms be considered artists? Will artificial intelligence reshape the ways in which we produce and understand art? Hertzmann will explore this issue in relation to previous technological developments—including oil paint, photography, and traditional computer graphics—as well as the role of art as a social phenomenon.

Talk title

“Can computers create art?”


Can AI algorithms make art, and be considered artists? Within the past decade, the growth of new neural network algorithms has enabled exciting new art forms with considerable public interest. These tools raise recurring questions about their status as creators and their effect on the arts. In this talk, I will discuss how these developments parallel the development of previous artistic technologies, like oil paint, photography, and traditional computer graphics, with many useful analogies between past and current developments. I finally argue that art is a social phenomenon, “AI” algorithms will not have human-level intelligence in the foreseeable future, and that it is extremely unlikely that we will ever consider algorithms to be artists.

Recommended readings

Aaron Hertzmann, “Can computers create art?” Arts, Volume 7, Issue 2, 10 May 2018.

Aaron Hertzmann, “When machines change art,” blog post, 17 December 2022.

Ziv Epstein, Aaron Hertzmann, and the Investigators of Human Creativity, “Art and the science of generative AI,” Science, Volume 380, Issue 6650, 16 June 2023.

About Aaron Hertzmann

Aaron Hertzmann is a principal scientist at Adobe Research, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. He received a BA in computer science and art/art history from Rice University in 1996, and a PhD in computer science from New York University in 2001.

Hertzmann was a professor at the University of Toronto from 2003 to 2013, and has also worked with Pixar Animation Studios and Microsoft Research, Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab, Interval Research Corporation and NEC Research. He has published over 100 papers in computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning, robotics, human-computer interaction, and art. He was an associate editor of the ACM Transactions on Graphics for ten years.

Hertzmann’s awards include the MIT TR100 (2004), a Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2006), a Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship (2006), the CACS/AIC Outstanding Young CS Researcher Award (2010), and the Steacie Prize for Natural Sciences (2010), as well as several conference best paper awards. He is a fellow of the IEEE and ACM.


To register for the event, visit the official event page.

About the SRI Seminar Series

The SRI Seminar Series brings together the Schwartz Reisman community and beyond for a robust exchange of ideas that advance scholarship at the intersection of technology and society. Seminars are led by a leading or emerging scholar and feature extensive discussion.

Each week, a featured speaker will present for 45 minutes, followed by an open discussion. Registered attendees will be emailed a Zoom link before the event begins. The event will be recorded and posted online.


September 20, 2023
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society
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