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Art History Degree More Worthless Than Ever Since Computers Can Do the Job Now

Art historySmithsonian Magazine reports that an algorithm, built by Rutgers University computer scientists Babak Saleh and Ahmed Egammal, allows computers to recognize and classify artworks with the reliability (or even beyond the reliability) of art historians.

The MIT Technology Review originally cited the findings. It reports: “In just a few years, computer scientists have created machines capable of matching and sometimes outperforming humans in all kinds of pattern recognition tasks,” and where visual art is concerned, “the results reveal connections between artists, and between entire painting styles, that art historians have labored for years to understand.”

Frankly, as described, the computers aren’t able to do anything above and beyond what historians have always done, though the MIT story does conclude (of course, because it’s MIT) that the algorithm “provides a new and powerful tool for historians to look for influences between artists that may never have been aware of,” and “also allows a new form of art exploration, jumping from one image to another similar one, in a process that is visually equivalent to finding synonyms.”


(image via MIT Technology Review)


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10 Responses

  1. Lauralee

    Interesting to see how the discipline of art history is defined in this short article. At this point In history, it is defined well beyond the parameters of classification of style – which is an ever changing subject in itself, as is dependent on the social climate of the time. I do not believe a computer could replace the art historians task.

  2. max herats

    Did you find that app that adds a mustache to everyone’s face like on that person did to the Mona Lisa ? It’s hilarious.

  3. Art History degrees are typically prerequisites to other fields like art conservation. I can tell you, that a computer could NOT do my job. And I worry that blurbs like this would deter students from seeking out this field. Given we presently have a lack of professionals who care for art and artifacts(see Heritage Preservation Report), I hope no one sees this article. Because in the trickle down…cultural heritage loses.

  4. Art History

    What a silly, mean spirited click-bait title. I wish I knew who wrote this, so I could ignore any subsequent articles by this buffoon. Did the author choose to remain anonymous because they were concerned someone might call them out for not knowing what an art historian does?

  5. Kim

    The title of the article is awful given that what the article actually talks about has nothing to do w/ an art history degree. A computer cannot put artwork within a historical and sociological framework or relate it to other artists. The title was poorly used as a way to look at it and I’am disappointed with Glasstire for printing this. I am fan of this site usually, but this was just pure spectacle and I don’t plan on reading you much now.

    1. seth mittag

      Actually once a computer can determine the artist and time period it is a trivial matter to find the sociological and historic framework it exist with in. Its simple graph theory really… I would start by building a look up table that references wikapedia articles. Next use some semantic meaning algorithms and bam no more need for Lascaux to Renaissance.

  6. Ginny

    And I suppose the geniuses at MIT have built in expertise so that their computers can tell the difference between the real thing and the copies you can order on line of virtually any painting you want.

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