Can AI ever do a Herblock? Cartoonists share anxiety, optimism at national meet in Kochi

Cartoonist EP Unny speaks at the inauguration of CARiTOON national fair in Kochi. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: Should cartoonists, known for their fearlessness, be afraid of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Will AI, seeping through workplaces, replace cartoonists also? There was an evident amount of anxiety and then some sense of optimism as cartoonists from different parts of the country sat together here and addressed these questions.

Seasoned political cartoonist E P Unny was largely realistic and a bit romantic in his approach to the topic. Unny cited a work by Herblock, one of the most influential editorial cartoonists in America, to share his optimism that AI might not be able to create ‘a supremely empathetic’ cartoon like that.

The 1933 work cited by Unny featured a candle with its flame put out by a Nazi cap. It is placed on a candlestick with 'German Civilization' written around it. The cartoon is captioned with Geothe's last words - "Light! More light!"

“The ultimate limitation of machine-generated creations is it will be reproducing only what is already produced,” he said. However, he had a word of advice for fellow cartoonists – “we can’t compete with AI. It’s a learning system which will keep evolving. It would be better to remain aware of what it does,” he said.

He was interacting with senior journalist Manoj K Das at CARiTOON 2023, a national cartoon caricature fair which began here on Friday. Kochi Corporation Mayor M Anilkumar inaugurated the event. Kerala Cartoon Academy chairman K Unnikrishnan chaired the inaugural meet. Prominent cartoonists Manjul, Paresh Nath and animator Aditi Krishnadas were among those who attended the meeting.

A documentary titled 'Karupp Veluppine Valayumbol' directed by Shyamaprasad on E P Unny's cartoons was screened after the inauguration.

As part of the fair, a mega exhibition of 1001 cartoons is being held at various galleries of Durbar Hall. The exhibition will be on till May 8.

Talk shows, debates and art camps will be held as part of the fair.

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