Man Vs Machine Is Obsolete: Towards New Perspectives Of AI In The Arts (And For The Greater Good)

Beth Jochim, Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. Twitter: @_bblurred

Not a day goes by without reading alarming news concerning technology, and in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Social media, journalists and even politicians are subtly creating a scare about the risks of embracing AI, starting with the possible loss of jobs up to the depletion of our livelihood.

Sometimes we forget that we do not live in a science fiction film, but that we – humans - program technology based on our needs.

There is no doubt that the implementation of technological systems based on Artificial Intelligence needs constant monitoring, re-discussion and correction, and with this practice ethical, philosophical, and legal questions arise. This does not mean that there must be an antagonism between man and machine, or that the machine has an independent life and independent decision-making capacity and wants to destroy us.

When it comes to software and Arts the situation becomes, in some ways, even more complicated. A lot of the discussion involves the concept of creativity and often there is a mental barrier in defense of creativity as a stronghold of our human being. There is a conscious (or unconscious) fear that the machine could take creativity away from us, making us somehow less human. And this fear is largely shared by artists who refuse to approach technology and incorporate it in their practice because they are afraid the machine could take over.

In the last decade, the discussion has shifted from whether software can be independently creative to whether it should be allowed to be.

On the one hand there is a very active community that is embracing Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning as a tool or work collaborator, but that refuses the idea of software being independently creative. This movement, called Creative AI, works mostly towards the construction of sharing tools, also at a commercial level, to increase or enhance creativity.

On the other hand, there is the research field of Computational Creativity that is “the philosophy, science and engineering of computational systems which, by taking on particular responsibilities, exhibit behaviors that unbiased observers would deem to be creative”[1]. This research field supports software to be, one day, independently creative and focuses on the bigger picture of Artificial Intelligence and philosophical discourse around notions of creativity in humans and machines.

British computer scientist Simon Colton, in his essay “From Computational Creativity to Creative AI and Back Again”, envisions a future where the schism between these two communities is rebuilt to favor us: “I posit that only if software is developed to record its life experiences and use them in the pursuit of creative practice will we learn anything about the human condition, through increased understanding of the machine condition. Developing better AI painters means engineering software with more interesting life experiences, not software with better technical abilities. While there might be advantages, there is no imperative for these life experiences to be particularly human-like, and society might be better served if we try to understand computational lives through art generation”[1].

Letting computers be machines and break away from a meta pattern of human culture, is also what author and Professor Lev Manovich [2] sees as a possible way to go. Being radical, teaching machines to do what humans can not do, making them to achieve what we can not achieve can lead to create something truly new and not under the human umbrella. Perhaps this output will not be completely understandable or recognizable as art by humans at first, but it is in these shades of grey that we could find disruptive possibilities and meanings.

The true essence of creativity still remains a mystery. As Professor Arthur I. Miller points out, at the moment there is a lot of effort devoted to the creation of a broader and more flexible intelligence. For example, combining neural networks with key features of symbolic machines could lead to reach more intelligent solutions and challenging, experimental forms of art, music and literature [3].

As Simon Colton also underlines, for decades our anthropomorphized view of AI has made us more likely to accept a computer that shows under-evolved human behavior than one that has a very low level of not-human intelligence. This is because in our collective imagination Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is scary and portrayed as the end of humanity.

What it appears to be, and this is one of the possible futuristic scenarios, is that treating computers as machines and not constrain them by human boundaries, could lead to a new form of creativity with the potential to drive humanity forward.

Letting machines be autonomously creative through artistic expression could benefit society, as we could reach something that will expand us as humans. The process could become more important than the product, as we could reach a deeper understanding of computer processing, human culture (in a digital age), intrinsic motivation, reflection, AI-systems decision-making, and much more.

Technology could become a mirror that reflects who we are and who we could become.

The opposition of man and machine seems therefore to be obsolete. When will we be ready to shift our perspective and start talking of man with machine?

If you want to share your opinions with us, please do so. Get in touch here or in Twitter.∎

References and Resources

[1]“From Computational Creativity to Creative AI and Back Again”, Simon Colton, Interalia Magazine, September 2019: https://www.interaliamag.org/articles/simon-colton/

[2] “Defining AI Arts: Three Proposals”, Lev Manovich, Catalogue of the exhibition “Artificial Intelligence and the Dialogue of Cultures”, Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg, June 2019: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10156507563373456

[3] “Creativity and AI: The Next Step. Combining two types of machine intelligence could open new frontiers of art”, Arthur I. Miller, October 2019, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/creativity-and-ai-the-next-step/

[4] https://aiartists.org/


About the author: Beth Jochim is the Creative AI Lead at Libre AI, and Director and Co-Founder at Cueva Gallery. She works at the intersection of technology and arts. She is actively involved in different activities that aim to democratize the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, bringing the benefits of AI/ML to a larger audience. Connect whit Beth in LinkedIn or Twitter.


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