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.

30lbs in Weight Loss (and turning 42)

Somehow I hit my milestone right before my 42nd birthday. I weighed in at 165lbs morning, and it’s probably the best gift I’ve ever given myself. Annie asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday today, and honestly I’ve found that I’m very happy for the first time in a long time, in an honest way. I love our home and our continual iterations to refine our daily experience. Most importantly, I think I have put less stress and pressure on myself to think about the future and try to live a more in the moment.

I think my next health goal is maintaining my weight and start focusing on strength more. I could see myself going down to 160lbs, as I still have some stubborn visceral fat around my belly.

I think for this birthday, I’m going to take it easy and just enjoy doing a little work, do a little workout, and watch a movie.

July 4th Weekend at Rehoboth Beach

This past weekend we went to Rehoboth Beach with Annie’s family and enjoyed (surprisingly) lovely weather. It’s been a while since I’ve been out on a beach just to hang out and relax. Julia picked up some extra beach chairs from costco and we rented 3 umbrellas.

I’ve got to say that the breeze was amazing. I spent most of the day napping and eating carbs, which was pretty awesome. We’ll probably be heading back there again in the future. The drive wasn’t too bad, except that we hit a gnarly rain storm on our way back.

Later that weekend, we followed up with a little BBQ. We need more weekends like this.

Tonal First Impressions

TLDR; Tonal is a very compact strength system, but doesn’t quite deliver on first time user experience. In fact, if the AI was a real life trainer, I’d fire them on the spot. But if you can approach it with lower expectations, it’s an early glimpse at what a smart strength training system could be.

We recently had a Tonal installed in our basement. We ordered it a few months ago and it’s finally arrived. I think I was sold on the idea that the AI inside the system would be able to adjust and help me get stronger without much thinking… but I think that there’s a long way to go. After doing the initial setup, I think that the system rated my strength score too high, and all the workouts after that were too difficult. Secondly, when I reached muscle failure, it took too long for the AI spotter to kick in.

To me, I think that there should be a way to give the AI active feedback. Currently the software relies on passively adjusting. Though they say it measures your output 50 times every second, I think that there were several times where I needed to be spotted or the weight needed to be adjusted. This caused strain, frustration, and turned me off to strength training. If a real trainer was like this, I would fire them on the spot.

Tonal has an opportunity to be better… and not by being “smarter”, but by being a better listener asking for feedback. It should do this until it has enough data and then can make adjustments. In addition, the workouts are not very clear how to work out, how to recover, and what kind of body shape you’re building towards. Their programs could do a better job of setting these kinds of expectations and explaining what’s happening. Lastly, I think that they should have audio commands to tell the AI when to help, or to adjust the weight. It’s silly to stop weight lifting just to get up and go to the screen to adjust things. I think voice controls would be ideal if they supported just a couple of commands. Things like, pause, turn up the volume, reduce weight, etc.

With all that being said, I think that it’s a beginning of an interesting product, but there is more room for improvement in terms of first time user experience. This should cater to noobs—people who are intimidated by gyms, trainers, and weight lifting. I think they should start you off easier, so that you can transition in. My first experience had me screaming, straining, and I felt defeated. If this was a real life trainer, it felt passive aggressive, as if I was too weak and I was out of my league.

Tonal should be an extension of your fitness knowledge. They should hire some gaming designers to help them out, or figure out a way to get more feedback (not just in the programs, but in the AI).

I’ll report more on this more soon.

Message in a Bottle

I started blogging over a decade ago, and I never had a real goal with it. It’s been on and off for years… mostly off… but as I look back on my content, I realize that it’s been useful as a journal, to capture a small snapshot of where my life was. If anything, I think I wish that I documented my life a little more here.

Recently, I’ve felt very fatigued with social media. I’m most exhausted with Twitter (as it’s become the most toxic stream, causing anxiety with the most annoying personalities polluting my feed with useless news and brags). It’s nice to see updates from family and friends on as well as inspirational design/art on Instagram, but I’m not sure how much value it adds in terms of consumption. I think the biggest challenge is expression, creation and sharing. There’s something that doesn’t quite feel right with the current social media mediums. Maybe it’s the allure of micro-validation? I can post pictures of what I’m eating, how I’m working out, and small things that catch my attention so I can stay in touch with my friends and family.

But then again, I can proably do all of that here. The only thing I lose is the convenience of publishing out to IG/FB. Also, I have no clue who’s really reading this posts… but I guess that doesn’t matter. What I realize is that I’m probably not really a content creator building an audience.

I’m just writing little updates and unstructured thoughts, stuffing them in a bottle, and tossing them into the ocean of the interwebz to find later.

So the photo above is completely disconnected with this topic… but I’m going to tie it all back together (I promise). I shot this photo this morning using IG stories. I didn’t really add any context other than it’s a basic photo of some blueberries and dahlias. What you don’t know is that I’ve been trying to eat healthier and reclaim a little more time back to myself. But in the process of doing that, I’m still probably using IG/FB too much, which is the irony of how I’m using my time. My attention is spread too thin; or rather, I’ve given up too much of my attention to the wrong places. I’d probably get more out of just doing a video call to catch up with friends and see how they’re doing, and maybe plan a trip to visit them.

We can eat blueberries together and actually enjoy life together versus stare at a little OLED screen.

I think that’s my message in a bottle to myself. Hopefully I can find this again in the future.