Dirk Knemeyer

AI & Original Works of Art, April 14, 2016

If you think about how art schools work, they focus first on foundations and skills and fundamentals and you begin to learn a lot of different ways to create. The AI is learning different skills and different fundamentals and different tools and ways to create. The interesting question is how far are we away from the AI creating things that are uniquely its own based on the synthesis of many different styles and skills that it has developed beforehand? It probably is decades, meaning low ten to twenty years, as opposed to three to four, but it’s coming. Not too far away. It’s definitely coming, and how will you feel then?

Art is … I don’t think it’s so much an expression of the world around us as it’s an expression of the context that we have been exposed to and how we process and react to it. It happens that as humans and the way we live our life as humans, the context that we’re exposed to encompasses a great deal of data that seeps into many aspects of the world, at least in some limited geographical, cultural context.

The amount of context that machines will have in the future is going to grow exponentially. Right now the context of expression of the world that a computer would turn into art is a mash up of Picasso and Michelangelo and Rembrandt, or whomever, without the greater understanding of the world and place and the many things that inform human art. It’s inevitable that that context will be a part of artificial intelligence in the future.

At the point it has all of that context to go with the skills, it’s going to be doing what we do. I believe in hard determinism, so I believe that the things that we do are an inevitable, and if we had machines powerful enough to do so, even predictable synthesis of basically all of our nature and nurture up until that point, and as we interact with the world itself. The idea of free will and the human spirit, I think that those are clumsy ways of explaining things that we don’t have computational power enough to understand.

I think that AI and machines are being built in the model and mode of humans but with computational power that will continue to be orders of magnitude higher than we ourselves have. They’re taking our place as operational actors in many different ways, from a technological perspective, is an inevitability. The question is will things be done artificially from a social, legal perspective to prevent that operational eclipse of humans guiding the world. To me that’s the big question and unknown.

As far as computers being able to create original art in this dramatic, idealistic, lovely way that we think of human artists creating, I think it’s asked and answered and it’s coming. It’s just how long will it take the nerds to take to program the machines properly to be able to do that? It will probably be faster than we think.