Artificial intelligence systems are slowly taking over tasks previously performed by humans, and many processes involving simple repetitive actions are now fully automated. At the same time, humans are still superior in abstract and creative tasks; however, it seems that even in creativity, we are now facing the challenge of our own creation. Witness the rise of hundreds of artificial intelligence artists, pioneers of AI-art.
These complex algorithms are creating unique (and sometimes disturbing) works of art. They are creating stunning visual effects, profound poetry, extraordinary music, and even realistic movie scripts. The work of these artificial intelligence artists raises questions about the nature of art and the role of human creativity in future society. Here are some works of art created by non-human entities.
Google’s latest art project, PoemPortraits, extracts a word from your suggestion and generates a unique poem (again, a collaboration between humans and machines). You can even add a selfie to the final “PoemPortrait”. The creator of the project, artist Es Devlin, explained that artificial intelligence “will not copy or modify existing sentences, but use its training materials to build complex statistical models. Therefore, the algorithm generates original phrases to mimic what it was trained on.”
“Our transcendence adorns, That society of the stars seems to be the secret.”
The two-line poem above is different from any poem you have encountered before. They are generated by an algorithm trained through a deep learning neural network that trained 20 million words of 19th-century poetry.
Faceless Portraits Transcending Time
In March of this year, an artificial intelligence artist named AICAN and its creator Ahmed Elgammal took over a gallery in New York. The exhibition at HG Commentary featured two series of ai-art canvas works depicting dreamy and heartbreaking faceless portraits. The exhibition was not simply attributed to a machine but was attributed to the collaboration between a man and a machine. Ahmed Elgammal is the founder and director of Rutgers University’s Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Consider, that AICAN is not only a freelance AI artist but also a contributor to artistic endeavors. How did AICAN create these creepy faceless portraits? The system featured 100,000 photos of Western art from over five centuries, which enabled him to learn the aesthetics of art through machine learning. He then built on this historical knowledge and the mandate to create something new to create a work of art without human intervention.
In mid-2019 we saw the announcement of Ai.Da, being considered the first ultra-realistic drawing robot artist. Her mechanical skills, combined with AI-based algorithms, allow her to draw, paint and even sculpt. You can draw people using your artificial eye and a pencil in your hand. Ai.Da’s artwork and first solo exhibition, Unsecured Futures, ai-art, was exhibited at the University of Oxford in July 2019.
Obviously, Ai.Da has no real conscience, thoughts, or feelings. Despite this, the (human) organizers of the exhibition believed that Ai.Da serves as a basis for crucial conversations about the ethics of emerging technologies. The exhibition served as a stimulus to address critical questions about what kind of future we should create through these technologies.
The exhibition’s creators wrote, “Humans are confident in their position as the most powerful species on the planet, but how far do we actually want to take this power? To a Brave New World (Nightmare)? And if we use new technologies to enhance the power of the few, we had better start safeguarding the future of the many.”
These works of art are just a glimpse into the breadth of creative works generated by algorithms and machines. Many of us rightly fear these events. We must ask ourselves what our role will be in an age when machines are capable of carrying out tasks that we consider complex, abstract, and creative. The implications for the future of work, education, and human societies are profound. At the same time, some of these works demonstrate that ai-art may not necessarily pose a threat to human artists, but rather an opportunity for us to push our creative limits.
The most exciting artistic creations involve collaborations between men and machines. We have always used our technological scaffolding to push ourselves beyond our biological limits. We use the telescope to extend our view, airplanes to fly, and smartphones to connect with others. Our machines don’t always work against us, but rather function as an extension of our mind. Likewise, we could use our machines to expand our creativity and push the limits of art.