The computer scientist John McCarthy introduced the term Artificial Intelligence in 1956. AI defines a system that can exist independently and intelligently. Still, cognitive capability in a machine, compared to a human brain, is only a theory in 2017. But machine learning certainly exists. If a robot is already able to process visual data or data from speech during a human interaction, a reconsideration if an AI can be called alive becomes essential.
This year, Google releases the Pixel 2 smartphone, Mark Zuckerberg works on a domestic AI with face recognition, and scientists develop a defense system to prevent drones from dropping explosives.
Hence, the hypothesis of the uncanny valley resurfaces after we have seen animal drones using biomimicry like the bionic bird or Festo’s water drones, Amazon’s home assistant Alexa, an AI system having replaced actual workers at the Japanese company Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, and Google’s DeepMind AI learning by itself how to overcome barriers. Beyond this, at international exhibitions we can see Humanoid robots like Sophia from Hanson Robotics taking the form of a human being. What comes next?
The interactive exchange of a human and a system, in which the AI observes one back, has developed a new meaning in this century. More and more artists have started to experiment with this interactive idea. Interactive games, programs and other learning platforms for coding, as well as design, 3D generated art using algorithms, homepages, generative poetry, and audiovisual installations, are just a few. Art makes it possible to bring these multiple levels together and test them out. In the long run, the boundaries of linear thinking, and therefore creating, will soon be replaced through multidimensional awareness. Thus, the best and worst is yet to come.
The artist Ian Cheng, for instance, works with game engine live simulations which are fed with input data. Once the simulation starts running, the artist releases it into its self-developing progress. Although technology is used as a tool by the artist, it is all about artists pushing technology to its undetermined spheres.
Other artists like Olafur Eliasson and Ryoji Ikeda experiment with what the historian David E. Nye called “Technological Sublime”. (Nye, David: The American Technological Sublime. MIT Press, 1994) Technology can seemingly impress humans in the same way natural occurrences can.
Furthermore, now artists get invited by NASA and other scientific institutions to visualize ideas that have been only theoretical so far.
For the most part, the research being done by artists has undergone a profound change. Therefore, the major importance for the future lies in their work and exploration of this new direction of technology.