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.