I watched a segment of CBS This Morning that featured art created by robots. Art. Created by robots. Artificial intelligence, to be specific. Programmers at Google have figured out how to “teach” computers to make art. In test after test, people failed to consistently recognize the art made by computers from art made by people. Without being able to identify a specific emotion, I felt an immediate uneasiness about that fact. And as I continued to watch the piece, it seemed like the computers were making what would typically be categorized as abstract art. Now it’s personal! People couldn’t tell a Pollock from a Dell. Really?!? So in addition to other artists, Chris has to factor in computers giving him a run for his money? If there was any job I thought was surely safe from competition from our ever improving AI, I thought it would be anything artistic, anything that takes a soul to create and a soul to appreciate. But apparently not. Apparently, all you have to do is break down the brush strokes and colors into computer-ese and a computer can produce work that rivals best sellers. In fact, they can become best sellers themselves; the segment touted that one computer-created piece sold for more than $16,000. That’s wonderful; now that computer can afford to take its family on a nice vacation. So now my uneasiness is turning into anger. What gives? Why would somebody do this? And it wasn’t just painting; there are programs in which computers can create pieces of music. A couple of movie makers used it to create small pieces of background music for their films. If they need a 10 second piece to accompany a short scene, they can have one in no time. No musician required. Don’t worry, they assure me, this won’t replace musicians, but rather allow artists to get a little boost, an easy fix out of a tough spot. These types of programs can help with writer’s block, for example. This simply does not sit well with me. There are some things we should not use machines for, some things that must be created with our hands, hearts, and minds. Could a computer really create this?
Absolutely not. Actually, yes. Okay, technically yes, but so what? A computer can’t look at it with you and appreciate it. It can’t tell you what inspired it and what emotion it was feeling while the work was being created. It can’t tell you how it felt when the piece was finished and where it’s next inspiration is coming from. Once I had (mostly) finished writing this, I went upstairs to tell Chris about it. He had just finished working on the above painting. I held his hand and we admired it together. He felt proud that he had made it and I felt pride in him.
Take that, Google.