Artistic evolution in the AI era

Professor Dorothy Miell, Chair of the Board of Governors, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), asserts the enduring importance of human artistic expression, emphasising inclusivity and authenticity as RCS navigates the evolving landscape of AI in the arts.

Fellow: Professor Dorothy Miell
Professor Dorothy Miell

The recent International Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit held at Bletchley Park in early November attracted global representatives to consider the scale of the impact non-human generated content will have – good and bad – in all our futures. Against this tide of change to how nations and individuals live and work, many are faced with unease about how we might preserve the value and place of human creativity and the imperative to safeguard space for its growth and nurturing.

Creativity and artmaking in all its forms occupies a pivotal place not only in individual but also economic wellbeing here in Scotland. The creative industries themselves, according to latest Scottish Government figures, are worth around £5.8 billion to Scotland, supporting over 60,000 jobs. Moreover, creative industry exports constitute around 3.3% of Scotland’s total international exports. Beyond the economic value, there is increasing evidence of the importance to individuals and communities of the performing and visual arts, enhancing individual wellbeing and human flourishing.

High-impact research conducted at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), with national partners such as Chamber Music Scotland and Drake Music Scotland, has for example demonstrated the role of creativity to support families experiencing significant life events, using songwriting to help through the most trying of times. It has also supported children and adults with additional support needs to develop their creativity in music using digital tools that enable them to collaborate with other young people on a more level playing field.

A group of people on a stage
© Royal Conservatoire of Scotland/Robbie McFadzean

In the performing arts, the RCS stands as a passionate advocate for the transformative potential of artists. With students from more than 60 countries, specialist staff and active partnerships with all of Scotland’s national performing companies, the RCS is a beacon of excellence, regularly ranked in the top 10 performing arts institutions in the world (QS World University rankings), creating an environment that inspires students in music, drama, dance, production, and film to create, collaborate across disciplines, pioneer innovative ideas, and evolve into the artists that our world needs.

We work in many different ways to enhance inclusion in performing arts education, not only because we believe that the performing and production arts need voices from different backgrounds, but also because we need the whole of society to be reflected both in our industries and in the stories that are told and shared. Through its Fair Access team, the RCS prioritises working with people from the most deprived postcode areas, as well as people who are care experienced and/or estranged from their families. Connections are made and pathways are mapped through outreach programmes, entry-level short courses, masterclasses, and guidance preparing for higher education level study.

Against the backdrop of accelerating artificial intelligence, is there still a place for Scotland’s creators and story tellers? I would of course say ‘yes’. Indeed, more so – for both our economic sustainability, as well as our social cohesion and individual wellbeing.

As RCS’s Principal, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey put it when addressing this year’s graduates at their recent graduation ceremony: “AI will make us have to work harder to express ourselves and all our frailties and possibilities with honesty. Slickness can be taken over all too well by AI. But honesty, individuality, camaraderie, individual experience and authenticity will hopefully remain the preserve of artists.

“When we add these uniquely human emotions, desires and feelings to our innate creativity, we will create work that can only be by humans for humans to celebrate our fleeting time on this tiny floating rock in space.”

The RCS stands at the forefront of nurturing the performing and production arts, fostering inclusion, and championing the enduring role of human creativity in an age of rapid technological advancement. In this everchanging landscape, we want to ensure that the arts not only endure but thrive, offering a beacon of hope, authenticity, and shared human experience.

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