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  • Cecilia Kramar

The Artist in the Machine: An Unintentional Exhibition of AI Artists

By Kimberly Glassman

Are machine’s creative? When you ask Siri or Alexa, “tell me a story,” do you ever wonder how much of it is actually made by ‘them’? In his book, The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI Powered Creativity, Arthur I. Miller claims: yes, machines are creative - but not in the same way that humans are. In an interview with team leader of The Watson Project,[1] David Ferrucci, asks, “can a submarine swim?” To which Miller responds: “Yes, But not like a fish. Better.”[2] To even breach the question of machine creativity, Miller tries to define creativity in humans, and - by extension - human consciousness. Now, I could spend an entire article ranting about the fact that Miller supposedly ‘solved’ human consciousness, a philosophical conundrum that has plagued the greatest minds of history for centuries (in thirty pages no less). However, I really want to showcase the, perhaps unintentional, yet wonderfully curated exhibition of AI art highlighted in Miller’s book. Instead of asking what creativity in humans and machines looks like, let’s explore how AI and humans are converging to create together! The following examples are a combination of Miller’s case studies, with a few of my own favourites.

AI Visual Art on Instagram

Through a number of case studies, Miller’s book demonstrates how AI is currently used by many artists as a technological tool. Mario Klingemann (@quasimondo), for example, is breaking all kinds of barriers by taking on AI generators as collaborators. He has worked with Google’s Deep Dream Generator, with which he selected images for the AI algorithm to combine into new psychedelic artworks. Many other Instagram-based artists have taken up Deep Dream and have started an online community posting in the thread, #deepdreamgenerator. Websites such as Deep Dream are extremely user-friendly and allow professional and emerging artists alike to play around and create art. In fact, anyone can use it even from home! How then can we really differentiate between an artist’s palette, paint, video editing software, and more complex tech like AI? Especially today, when artistic resources may be few and far between to create new stay-at-home friendly art, AI algorithms could be an untapped medium for artists to create. Works by @brixpix, @ron6912, and @deepdreamgenerator are just a few examples of the innovative work being done by artists and AI algorithms.

Follow the Instagram thread #deepdreamgenerator and #aiart for more content.

Quarantine self portrait after 40 days by @brixpix

Two Authorities In Religion by @ron6912

AI Humour on Twitter

They say humour is the final frontier of AI creativity, but how can we teach a computer to be funny? Besides the fact that humour is subjective, contextually specific, and always evolving, Miller demonstrates examples of innovators who question if humour can be boiled down to a formula. Can science truly break down how to get a laugh? Though these bots miss the mark sometimes, they definitely had me laughing out loud!

@jokingcomputer operates on a formula that conducts a play on words. Some are absolutely fantastic, such as, “What is the difference between a bright animal skin and a comic man? One is a sunny fur, the other is a funny sir,” while some are a bit too absurd to land the joke: “What do you call a care charge? A fear fare.” And then some really get you thinking: “What is the difference between a principal feeling and an evident quantity? One is a main pleasure, the other is a plain measure.” Most of the jokes actually had me face-palming, like you would do when your dad says a lame joke. They are highly entertaining and definitely worth a follow if you enjoy a bit extra sunshine added to your Twitter feed.

@HEADLINERTRON had me smiling all day. I especially enjoyed the jokes that obviously boiled down something akin to an actual comedic formula. From sexist jokes (made almost to be a parody) like “My wife is a woman, that is my favorite thing about my wife,” to comedians constantly experiencing an existential crisis, “Life is fucking hard, I hope you enjoyed the jokes I prepared for you but the rest of the day is not gonna be great,” Headlinertron definitely seems to be onto something. Some other jokes, however, you really wouldn’t be able to tell if a computer generated it or not, like: “Old people drive, they drive slow. You know why? 'Cause it's incredibly difficult,” and “I make a lot of jokes about death, it's a real problem for people. Do you know what kills me? Because I don’t." The repeated use of vulgar language, sexist and racist comments, as well as self-deprecating humour come up in almost every joke. Scrolling through, the bot also inadvertently also showcases trends in stand-up scripts used today.

Unlike the others, Metaphor-a-Minute tries to pair up combinations of words that do not yet exist by adhering to a formula of creating metaphors. The system is at most times confusing, but occasionally hits the mark. This one is for all the students out there trying to finish their degrees: @metaphorminute, “a dissertation is a reticulation: unmodernized, but not unrefuted,” 7:53 PM June 8, 2013.

AI Music on YouTube

Listening to a song, can you tell if it was created by humans and if so, how? Sony CSL provided us with the first AI-generated pop song in 2016, Daddy's Car, and later went on to make an artificial system that could mimic Bach so well, it is hard to tell which was the original and which was composed by the AI. Check it out for yourself here!

A favourite AI system of mine for music is folkrnn, a program that generates folk tunes with a recurrent neural network. You can find a whole playlist of songs using folkrnn on The Machine Folk Session website. AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Visual Arts) claims to produce emotional soundtracks, and they are actually really good! Anyone can jump onto their website and use their preset algorithms to compose music in a pre-defined style. Visit their Youtube channel and tune in to their “Soundtrack Music composed by AI” playlist for more styles (I have listed one of my favourites from their rock genre down below). Take a listen to these songs and have your own AI concert in your home this evening!

Daddy's Car in the style of the Beatles, Sony CSL, 19 Sep 2016

The Brain Worm Polka, Bob Sturn, Recorded on Dec. 28, 2018

On the Edge, AI Generated Rock Music Composed by AIVA. 23 Oct 2018

[1] IBM Watson was created as a computer system that could compete at the human champion level of the American TV show, Jeopardy! To do so, they developed the DeepQA project. To read more about the project development, refer to: Ferrucci, David, Eric Brown, Jennifer Chu-Carroll, James Fan, David Gondek, Aditya A. Kalyanpur, Adam Lally, J. William Murdock, Eric Nyberg, John Prager, Nico Schlaefer, and Chris Welty. 2010. “Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project”. AI Magazine 31 (3), 59-79. More on David Ferrucci:
[2] Arthur I. Miller, The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI-Powered Creativity (Cambridge & London: The MIT Press, 2019): xxvii.

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