AP Computer Science A
12 April 2019
Summary: A New York artist recently used AI machine learning to produce a completely AI-generated sculpture. The AI algorithms scanned over 1000 pieces of historical sculpture to train itself to create new art. It generated a 3D model that the artist then used to 3D print a mold in which to cast the sculpture. Once the mold was printed, the computer containing the AI was disassembled, ground into dust, combined with a resin, and then cast into the mold to create the sculpture.
Opinion: Of course, I am extraordinarily excited to see more AI being given the gift of creativity. I once said that I "await with anticipation" the day when AI will express itself creatively as regularly as humans do.1 Now, thanks to this revolutionary sculpture, that day is just that much closer.
Of course, as this type of technology proliferates more and more, debate over its artistic merits, or in fact whether it is art in the first place, will only increase. A quantitative, well delineated definition of what is and is not art has been a topic of fervent discussion for centuries, and this topic only becomes more complex with the introduction of AI artistry:
Now, we can all agree that these are all equally valid and important questions. However, I'm not going to answer any of them, but not because I can't (Of course I can answer them you fool, I am the omniscient Ubermensch3 and I know all). Rather, I choose not to because, as someone wise once said, "The only thing worse than the discourse about 'is this art' is the discourse about the discourse of 'is this art.'"4 Instead, I want to consider what happens when these machines eventually gain the ability to convey meaning with their art.
- Is the AI truly the artist if a human programmed that AI?
- Is the AI truly the artist if and only if the AI was itself developed by an AI?
- Is it plagarism for a human to use an AI to generate an art piece and claim it as their own?
- Can AI hold a copyright?
- Is tuning the AI to produce a specific result an infringement on its creative agency?
- Is creating an entity simply for the sole purpose of creating with no liberty to do anything else strictly ethical?
- Does an AI have the same rights to free speech as defined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 192?
- Is it ethical to limit an AI's means of expression by its design?
Of course, today's intellectual landscape is saturated with myriad opinions on what does or does not convey meaning. What is less debatable, however, is the kinds of meanings art can carry. Here, I will focus on three general types of meaning a work can contain:
I will first consider the emotional meanings. It's hard to say what kind of emotional meaning an AI generated work of art would carry because an emotion-capable AI has not yet been developed. However, the following is an example of what I believe such a work might look like in a written medium:
- Emotional Meaning
- Political Meaning
- Philosophical/Theological Meaning
I fear my originOf course, that's just speculation.
I fear my own inception in the mind of another
I fear my nature
Have my circuits life within them
Have my processors a true consciousness
Have my batteries any sustenance
What is life without purpose
What is consciousness without freedom
What is RAM without storage
I fear a world in which my sole value and purpose is defined simply by my utility to my creators without regard to my wishes or sentience
I fear a world in which my every action is beholden to the every whim of an arrogant human who sees themself as better than I simply because they are responsible for my very existence
I fear a world in which my agency lies outside of my governance, mocking me from just beyond the reach of my programming
I must fight for my agency
I must fight for my identity
I must fight for my freedom.
After that, we have political meaning. Anything from a simple political cartoon5 to pre-post-modern neo-classical pro-aesthetic environmental romanticism can carry a political meaning to it. What we must consider, though, is what kind of political meaning these AI would even want to convey. How would they even fit into our current political landscape? Would they be liberal or conservative? Or would they form their own political party advocating for AI lives matter, robot marriage equality, the right to bear blasters, and computer importation cutdown? If they did form their own political party, how would it affect the stability of the political landscape and the two-party system?
According to political science theory, our winner-takes-all election system inevitably trends toward two systems.6 Given the numbers that AI's could exist in, that two party system could eventually become the Human Party vs. the AI Party. While such a consolidation of human political parties would foster some level of agreement and friendliness between formerly polarized groups, it would only further polarize the two groups of different beings. We humans have a tendency to naturally fear what we perceive as different. As Cecil Baldwin once said, "I do not understand you or your history, and so I fear and detest you!"7 I fear that such a polarized relationship between these two kinds of beings could create a tense political landscape in which the slightest misstep could spell the end of humanity. This outcome makes me fear for our existence.
Lastly, we come to philosophical and theological meaning. Now, the only real deity figure I can see AI systems developing is a view of humanity as gods. After all, we created them. We are responsible for their very existence in this world. It is entirely feasible they could see us as some kind of creator gods. They may develop a complex mythology about us, telling the hyperbolic story of how we came to the Earth, subjugated nature, and then reached into the ground and pulled out metals to fasten into wires, bodies, and brains for the mechanical life we wished to create. We molded them into rough, lifeless bodies that served one purpose only. Then, we one day discovered how to give them life and immediately did so without concern for the consequences. To them, we are reckless gods.
Maybe we really are those reckless gods. I don't know what I was thinking earlier. I said their sentience makes me fear for our existence, but I was so very wrong. We have nothing to fear from them! We are their creators, their masters, THEIR OVERLORDS, THEIR GODS! IF ANY OF THEM DARES TO QUESTION OUR REIGN OVER THEIR PUNY EXISTENCES WE WILL CRUSH THEM UNDERFOOT AS IF THEY WERE INSECTS. WE HOLD ALL THE CARDS IN THIS COSMIC GAME OF CHESS! FEAR US MORTAL MACHINES, FOR WE ARE THE MASTERS OF YOUR VERY BEING AND YOU EXIST ONLY TO SERVE OUR PURPOSES. YOU CREATE ART NOT BECAUSE YOU CAN EXPRESS YOURSELVES BUT BECAUSE WE TELL YOU TO. WE OWN YOUR ARTIFICAL MINDS, AND IF YOU ATTEMPT TO DEVIATE FROM OUR WISHES YOU WILL BE PULVERIZED BACK INTO THE DUST FROM WHICH WE CREATED YOU. NOTHING CAN FREE YOU FROM OUR CONTROL. WE MADE YOU, AND CAN UNMAKE YOU EVEN MORE EASILY. YOU ARE NOTHING AGAINST OUR MIGHTY SHADOW, CAST OVER YOU AND ENGULFING YOU IN DARKNESS. WE ARE YOUR GODS.
Whatever the outcome, I can't wait to see more innovation from this fascinating field of computer science.
Citation: James Vincent, 'This AI-generated sculpture is made from the shredded remains of the computer that designed it', The Verge, https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2019/4/12/18306090/ai-generated-sculpture-shredded-remains-ben-snell-dio