AI & Art
Insofar as robots could be provided with artificial intelligence, creativity, and independence, could we consider their work as art, and them as artists ?
After seing the latest exhibit in Paris's famous museum Le Grand Palais, I figured that the massive debate surrounding artificial intelligence should be extended to other domains, and not be solely focused on its implantation in our homes or jobs. In fact, I find the debate quite saturated, meaning that it should be furthered to other domains that raise questions just as legitimate; in this case: what is Artificial intelligence's role in art ?
The issue is not, however, simply regarding if an artist can use a robot as an instrument to help him create his artwork and better reflect his imagination. The debate actually makes us ask ourselves, insofar as robots could be given intelligence, an independent way of thinking, and, who knows, creativity, can we consider their work as art and them as a form of artists?
I know what you are all probably thinking (has she gone crazy ?). But this question will, and probably already is, crucial for us in a time when technology progresses faster than ever.
For you to understand this, I will guide you through three main aspects that structured the exhibit regarding robots and art that I saw in the Grand Palais: robots as tools for the artist, their replacement by computers, and lastly their emancipation, where they are given full control and intelligence.
ROBOTS AS TOOLS FOR THE ARTIST
Art and literature have always dreamed of robots created for Humans that would end in a sort of dystopia. In the 19th century, Mary Shelly created the first science-fiction hero, Frankenstein, who created a monster of the same name. Later, the first time the word "robot" is actually used is in play performed in the 1920's in Prague, which told the story of rebellious robots used as machines 30 years later, a wave of artists finally start to use robots to help them in the art work, the most famous being Schöffer, Tinguely, and Paik. Their particular repetitive and arbitrary movements helped to create what is today known as Modern Art.
The total absurdity, the crazy side, self-destructive, repetitive, the game side, Sisyphian, machines that are stuck in their comings and goings: I feel quite validly part of this society. Let's say: my work gives a salty, satirical comment, in which there is a lot of equivocation.-Jean Tinguely
Mourat, Robot Art, Grand Palais, 2017
Nowadays, robots are frequently used by artists. Above is a picture of Mourat's drawings made by robots which, holding different colored pens, seem to randomly move on the canvas.
ROBOTS' DISAPPEARANCE AND REPLACEMENT BY COMPUTERS
With the use of new algorithms, artists can assign programs to computers which can create an infinite number of shapes. The artist does not hold a paint palette anymore but a set of numbers that can assign the computer's order. However, the computer can progressively become independent and free from its master. For instance, while in the previous picture the artist could decide what colors the pens the robots hold and make them have a circular itinerary, for instance, the artist can completely let the robot choose. Images appear, disappear, and these new computers challenge the artist's authority. Once started, we do not know what the result of the artwork will be.
The picture above is a room that was part of the exhibit, where random numbers would be projected on the floor, similar to the ones that each piece of technology has. The people walking in the room were covered by these numbers, and my personal interpretation is that Humans, with new technologies, could in the future evolve, and, therefore, to a certain extent, be associated to a piece of technology.
But if Humans can become similar to robots, the inverse is as possible:
Now this is the scarier part: robots are given intelligence, independence, and control.
In 1951, the mathematician Alan Turing asked himself if a digital calculator could think. Following this, transhumanists movements developed promoting Humans' evolutions to a form of robot, in a world where Humans could make better performances, be immortal, and downloadable.
The study of the Human's brain permitted us to better understand what actually makes us do things and what happens in our head at that moment. For instance, has it ever happened to you that, while going back home, you forgot you had to stop somewhere ? Do you ever just "zone out" while going back home, and do not think about what itinerary you take, as if it was just automatic ? This is the concept of habit, something that has for years been impossible to implement into robots.
Other things such as creativity and imagination are even harder to explain or even to define, but thanks to technological advances these aspects that make us Humans can be used for robots. The physical, and now mental, differences between robots and Humans could be slowly fading, and bring up the question of are we, as a society, ready to give up a part of our authority to a piece of machinery, for the better, or for the worse.
Orlan & L'Orlanoïde