Impressive indeed! However, is it really art?
The following is my own incursion into this subject. I claim no authority, just my current opinion.
While mesmerized by the stunning results of “AI”, there are several aspects that made me go down the rabbit hole to understand what I think and feel about this glaring new world of big data we have drowned ourselves in.
First and foremost, the term “artificial intelligence” seems to me, an overstatement. Gather data from different sources and intelligence can have many different interpretations and thus mean a wide array of things. Philosophically, there is certainly a lot to unpack around this term alone. Does intelligence imply consciousness? Is intelligence a feature of Reason? Is it just the capacity to solve problems? From Latin, intelligence means to “comprehend or perceive”. Do these new technologies comprehend anything? We seem to have built them with the ability to perceive but do they really learn? What I feel this subject is bringing to the surface, is the need for a new debate into what means to be human and what it means us having reached this point of technologic artistry… are we a logical evolutionary progression? a Destiny? an Accident? A way through to a symbiotic machine world?
What “AI” does (astonishingly) is generate new and complex results/responses/answers. As any new technology it offers the capacity to “make life easier” (an important debate on its own) but they also carry the inevitable environmental and perceptive forces of change. “AI” main raw material is data. The more the better. “AI” would be impossible without it. It thrives on ever bigger and wide-ranging datasets to be able to operate. For this to happen, many companies have made its sole purpose (planned or not) to obtain and harvest this information from any person/entity connected to the web and, thus, we now live in a world where we are “willingly unconscious” monitored 24-7 by companies that collect this data from the most varied sources… from the logical “cell” phones to lawnmowers, blenders, street cams. If currently these databases belong to a few companies, everything is pointing to a convergence. At this point, privacy is obsolete, no matter how many GDPRs or Cookie policies we implement, privacy is out the window. Even though I believe privacy (as a concept) is a thing of the past, it does concern me that it is being monitored by a few private companies and governments. So, while I am truly fascinated by this thing called AI, I am rather conflicted about what are the costs and consequences of all this in our ever-changing cultural fabric.
The now “infamous” algorithms have already showed us how seemingly neutral mathematical functions can have tremendous cultural and moral implications while apparently hoping to optimize “user experience”. In theory, our Social Media and News “Feed” are curated by a set of “popularity/engaging” parameters that “recognizes/selects” what are the best contents for us to interact with. However, from a company perspective, it is not our interests that are at stake… it’s our attention, and so, the goal is to grab on to that. And here things become slippery because the basic measure is popular engagement and for that, all of us are boxed into combinations of category types (age, profession, daily habits, location, etc.) and we are fed all the same (even though variable) “hot content”. Down the line, this is leading to increasing polarization and weakening of dialogue. Left/ Right, Religion /Science, Man/Female, Pro/Against, Inclusive/Exclusive, Us/Them seem to be the only options of a binary true/false world. Even if many of these concepts are still very much up for debate and revision, a wide-reaching dialogue seems to be lacking in these environments.
On the other hand, incredible new insights have been possible in many scientific fields also due to powerful algorithms and “AI” systems. It is undeniable that these techs can in great deal work for “the betterment of life in the world”. From scientific breakthroughs to potential new solutions to deal with issues like hunger, pollution, human migration the opportunities are around the corner, and I really believe that they can bring a most needed hope to our world. But what does it look like? Human cyborgs, AR headsets? It’s not like we can go back, right? But, after more than 3000 years of recorded history and increasing technological complexity… are we that better? With a potential environmental collapse in a near future, where is all this tech taking us to?... the last I checked (2 days ago), world plastic production is still increasing yearly since 1950…
When reflecting upon the “goodness” of any new technology, we naturally tend to observe mostly, the enhancements and obsoletions that it will be produced, but we also tend to ignore the invisible set of environmental services that these technologies generate that will also change how we perceive the world around us. “We shape our tools and they shape us instead”, so what does it mean to easily generate impressive texts or images in the blink of an eye? As I look at this beautiful AI image that was shared i can´t help to feel conflicted. Have I known it was made by a human I would accept it as art, but, once realizing it is AI generated, I feel reluctant to recognize it as so. So, what is art? An exclusively human form of expression? Or do all lifeforms are capable of art? Or is art a state of mind that can be invoked under certain circumstances? Or as the Polynesian say “We have no art, we do everything as best as we can”.
“We monkeys only think we are running the show” throbs constantly in my mind… thank you Dennis McKenna. It always reminds me that at the end of the day we a are just “clever, but not wise“. We are graced with the paradoxical mysterious tremendum of life in a momentary cosmic breath. In our time, we live plunged in a multitude of tech extensions that many times are just distractions preventing us to experience the plenitude of being conscient star dust, hitchhiking on rock across the galaxies.