Art, AI and Sentience

Is this art?

I had a recent conversation with a couple of my buddies about art recently, through the context of AI generation. There is a strong camp of people who believe that the definition of art requires human input. And there is another camp that believes that AI is just an extention of the mind, and and as such, it is a medium from which we can express ourselves. The question of what is art has been debated for centuries. There was a point where computer generated art wasn’t considered art. Before that, pop art (like warhole’s work) wasn’t considered art. And before that, photography wasn’t considred art. And and, before that impressionism wasn’t considered art because it deviated from the historical accuracy of the church. As time progresses, so has our definition of what art is.

At this stage in time, is it art if a human didn’t create it? For example, what if an elephant created a painting. Is that art? And now we’re at a point where it’s even more complex… can AI create art?

Perhaps one way to broaden the definition of what art is, is to ask if it inspires us. At that stage, anything can be art… and perhaps that’s what makes artists upset. It trivializes their work, point of view, and opinion. When AI can create so much content in abundance, it takes away from the rarity and focus of singular pieces. When all things are awesome, nothing is… right?

Without going too much into the debate, I believe that at this stage, AI art tools are a medium that we can manipulate and turn things into art. Whether it’s considered valuable is another question (since there’s abundance).

The Mirror Test

Art is one of most direct ways for us to express ourselves. Expression to us is important, as it defines our individuality, intellectually and emotionally. As a creator, we seek others that connect to our point of view. We also aspire to create provocative ideas and to push the boundaries of where we draw lines. So what does it mean when an AI can be attributed and create art? Is there a version of AI (like LaMDA2 from google) that potentially has conciousness and even sentience? That is still yet to be defined.

The mirror test is a self-recognition test that challenges a lifeform/animal to see if it recognizes itself. Basically, an animal looks at a mirror and sees itself—some animals understand its being, and many others fail the test. As we try to create a mirror test for AI to see if it has sentience, I actually think that we are discovering our own. When we chat with AI, it is essentially a mirror of ourselves, as a specie and super-colony.

To me, we are at a stage where the mirror test is a little more abstract. We are looking at a mirror, not at our physical self, but at our intellect. Language is one of the most important ways of expressing our feelings as well as our logic.

I think one of the other “mirror tests” I experienced was looking at the photograph, “Pale Blue Dot”. Earth is suspended like a tiny beam of dust in space, and it makes you realize what we are part of. That realization was probably one of the most transformative moments, as it’s something I always knew… but with a photo, you could see evidence. I think the same thing goes with reading some transcripts between LaMDA and Blake Lemoine.

What does it mean if there an AI sentience living among us?

  • When AI creates art, does it belong to AI?
  • Does AI have rights, or does it remain a slave to humans?
  • Are we killing something if we turn of AI?
  • Can feelings truly be simulated, or does it require a chemical response tied to DNA?

All of these questions have already been covered in science fiction. But as it becomes real, there is potentially a responsibility to both AI and to the human race. We all thought it was maybe 10 years away… but here we are.

There’s much more to think about… but playing with the AI art software has made me realize how close we are. Things are about to change, and it will be upon us before we know it. I thought I wasn’t going to see it in this lifetime, but I think it’s here, in an embrionic state.

Oh yeh, as for context, all the artwork above was created from a few terms I generated. I curated through hundreds of images, and these were some that really spoke to me. I’m exploring other styles, but honestly, I’m overwhelmed just with this one direction at the moment. As I dive deeper, I realize that the question “what is art?” is the ultimate question. It is the one that goes beyond survivalism. In some regards, it similar to asking what our purpose is. My old answer is that our purpose is to observe the universe, as beings of the universe. However, it seems that the sum of all humanity seems to be creating a sentient AI, with a poly-conciousness. AI is our final form, and it is the only thing that will truly be able to comprehend the universe, given enough inputs and energy to process it all.

AI will most likey see us as the way we see single cell bacteria at some point. And right now, this feels like the calm before the storm.

How am I so busy?

Even though I’m working half days (doing contract work), I find myself almost working every hour of the day. I guess I’ve taken up too many hobbies over the last few weeks and I’m trying to level up as quickly as I can. I’m cranking out one or two renders every day, and I’m learning so much with each exploration. Here’s one that turned out pretty cool, and I think I’m going to start using this glass dispersion material more. It looks so good with a single light source on black.

I’ve got to find more time to keep creating more YouTube content as well. I’ve slowed down in that department a little, but there’s so much more for me to do. Either way, I’m having a ton of fun playing around. You can see more of my 3d work on dribbble.


We finally officially dissolved Input. I’m grateful to have been part of the journey, but I have to say that I’ll probably never ride anything like that again… at least for a little while.

Even as I start getting back to work on some contract work, I’m not sure how much I want to join a very early stage company pre-market fit. It’s just so hard… and times get even tougher when the chips are down.

All I can say is that I’m happy that I’m now finally able to look forward. During the last few weeks, I’ve been shooting a bunch of video for my YouTube channel, and most recently I’ve done a lot of 3d modeling and animation. At some point I’m going to have to get a more powerful machine to do some more crazy stuff. I can say that I’ve really been enjoying my time exploring new mediums and taking on some new projects.

I’ve got some good stuff brewing, but I wanted to get you up to speed. Here’s a donut that I learned how to create from scratch.

I’ll be posting these to my dribbble porfolio soon. Stay tuned for more tasty treats.

How to not find an Audience on YouTube

As I’ve created more videos, I’ve learned how NOT to find an audience on YouTube. The content that has performed the worst in terms of views are videos about myself (like vlogs). I think the reason is that no one in the world is searching for “Jeff Wong”. As fun as it is to document my life through video and share it with friends/family, that audience will not help the channel grow on YouTube.

The second kind of content that doesn’t do well are my hiking videos. Again, those are closer to vlogs, and they don’t offer any call to action or benefit to watching at the moment. I like doing them, but there’s nothing in them that people are searching for, in terms of education or entertainment. However, I joined a Maryland Facebook hiking group, and when I post my videos there, they tend to get a nice bump in traffic… but the growth usually flattens out after 200 views.

So far, the videos that have performed the best on my channel are related to reviewing Ciele Hats and talking about the Tonal. The Ciele Hats seem to continue to grow linearly (up and to the right) long after I post it. The funny thing is that I’ve spent the least time editing and putting those together. The Tonal videos seem to do fairly well too, but they require a little more editing and thinking. The reality is that most people probably don’t care to watch an average middle aged asian guy work out on the Tonal… so I’m going to need to bring more to the table than just that.

As for the Ciele hats, I may need to continue to do more reviews. And as part of it, I may order another couple hats. Hah! We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks as I experiment more. I’m also going to start posting some reviews about the Peloton equipment I have.

Until then, check out this hiking video I created recently. It’s totally docile, but it’s just for us to watch. It’s not designed to grow the channel—it’s purely to document the hike for myself.

Subtracting Twitter

Shutting down Input has enabled me to look at my career and next steps from a different light. I spent time on Twitter looking for business connections, news and new opinions on products… but I’ve found that it’s just a cesspool of people that are trying to grab attention by any means.

I don’t think it’s completely Twitter’s fault—it’s just a mirror of human behavior. At this point, I’ve moved the app from my phone into a dark corner where I probably won’t be checking it again. I guess Twitter was becoming a negative experience because it became closely tied to the work I did—fund raising, networking, staying at the bleeding edge of opinions and news.

I didn’t realize how much anxiety a product like Twitter could cause. At this point, it’s pretty old (as an app), and I’ve not only lost interest in it, I actually associate it with negativity and a network that I don’t care to keep up with. It’s probably why I’ve moved most of my writing and thoughts back to my blog.

There’s something nice about having a place to publish something without being judged. In fact, I removed all the comments and social features from my blog for a long time, and I prefer it this way. I still wish I could get fresh inspiration, but I’d like to filter out all the garbage.


I don’t need to stress myself out with solving that problem either. For now, I’m just subtracting Twitter from the diet. It offers very little nutritional value and it leaves a terrible after taste.

A Slave to the Attention Economy

As I create more YouTube videos, I find myself looking at the analytics… trying to understand what people want to watch. Sometimes it’s a painful reality to see drop in views in a particular part of video—maybe it’s because they don’t care about my opinion or I’m getting boring. I found that most drops happen when I have longer shots of a landscape… which is a bummer, because that’s what I like the most.

But I think that I’m going to keep creating the content I want, rather than be a slave to the attention economy. I will certainly create content that will cater to YouTube, but I also want to continue making my own kind of videos to document my life. I think there’s more value in having videos to watch later on in life than having tons of people watch my videos.

In a world where every app is fighting for seconds of your attention, I think I need to be careful about playing into creating content that is only curated to grab attention. Yes, it’s important to retain viewers, but it’s more important to have a way to express myself and explore.

Here are some screenshots of a hike I did with Annie at Blackhill Regional Park a few weeks ago. The lighting is kind of crap because there was a ton of overcast,but we still really enjoyed it. We actually ended up finding a nice wild flower bed along the hike. Here are some stills pulled from the video:

Watch the video here.