• petrichor
    "Can artificial intelligence be creative, can it create art?"

    Several questions immediately come to mind. Is all creativity art? Is all art creative? What is art anyway? Is consciousness, or subjectivity, important on the part of the maker of the thing in question? Can a non-conscious thing "express" anything? Can a non-conscious thing demonstrate aesthetic insight?

    It seems to me that the question of whether AI can be conscious is critically important here. And that is a very tough question, perhaps forever unknowable with any certainty, since subjectivity, by its very nature, cannot be verified objectively.

    Of course an artificial intelligence can do anything a human brain can, because an artificial intelligence can be as similar to a human brain as you want.zookeeper

    Is this true? As similar as you want? What about exactly identical? In that case, it would have to be an actual human brain.

    Are we talking a physically instantiated neural net approximating the function of a brain or a simulation of a neural net running on a conventional computer?

    At this point in our understanding, it isn't at all clear to any of us what consciousness is or how it comes about, no matter what anyone on any side of the ever-raging debate likes to think. When something is clearly understood, like the basic shape of the planet, there is usually a strong consensus. When there is no consensus even among the so-called experts on the subject, we can be reasonably sure that the issue is not well understood. I can't think of a feature of the actual world more puzzling at this point to us humans than our capacity for everyday, subjective, conscious experience. And my puzzlement here and claim that we don't know what it is or how it can be, contrary to what some might suspect, has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, a need to believe in an afterlife, or any such thing. I am mostly an atheist, mostly hostile toward religion. And I do not believe that my personal identity and point of view will survive the disorganization of my brain. Regardless, I have considered and researched the problem of consciousness for many years and am completely baffled by it and am aware of the general failure to understand the matter among the experts.

    We simply don't know yet if a brain is all there is to consciousness. Second, even if there is nothing in addition to the brain, we don't know if the actual substance of brain tissue matters. It could be the case that the architecture of the neural net isn't all there is to it. The suspicions of some that there might be something more going on inside the neurons, for example, or that some kind of quantum effects (knee-jerk reactions to my use of the word "quantum" fully expected) or some other unknown factor might be important can't be completely ruled out at this point. If any such thing is important, even if the functional architecture of the neural net exactly copies the connections and neuron-firing behavior in a human brain, it may be that such a neural net simulation written in Java and running on a smartphone is missing some critical condition for actual consciousness.

    In the first example I showed this was a program that learned what things were and is then instructed to produce an image of that thing based upon what it has learned.
    I think it is fair to say that is an example of genuine creativity because there is some motive there to succeed at producing the thing in question as an image.
    It does not simply copy and paste an image...it starts from nothing and eventually converges upon an image that resembles what it has learned is that thing.

    I am someone who has often been called an artist. I paint pictures. Sometimes I get paid for them. I can paint a very convincing likeness of whatever it is that I am looking at, including subtle human faces, perhaps the most difficult thing to convincingly represent. This is very impressive to most people who see what I have painted. But when I am fairly accurately copying appearances and making an oil painting that resembles a photograph of someone, I don't feel that I am being particularly creative. And it doesn't feel like art. Slavish copying of appearances, in my mind, is precisely the sort of painting that lacks creativity and art. The more accurate I am, the more stiff and the less artistic it feels.

    When I am doing that, I am a human camera, a human copy machine. It is a kind of algorithmic surveying. Imagine that you are given some line diagram and then you use rulers, protractors, and other tools to measure every point, every angle, and so on, and you painstakingly reproduce that on a sheet of paper, such that you get a convincing copy that is accurate to within very small tolerances. That's what I am doing mentally. I have developed a mental procedure for comparing and reproducing relative angles, distances, colors, and so on.

    People often breathlessly tell me about some of the portraits I have painted that I have "captured his soul!" They often comment that I must really have deep insight into the sitter to be able to capture their character like that. In my mind, I roll my eyes. They simply don't understand how I did it. I have done nothing so mysterious as that. A camera can do better than I did at reproducing a bunch of geometric relationships and it has no insight into the person's character. No insight is needed. I can convincingly copy any visual appearance. It is largely an algorithmic, mechanical process. It is generally no more artistic that what a surveyor does at a construction site.

    Further, all of this that I can do can be taught to most anyone, given some time. It is nothing magical. I haven't been touched on the head by the gods. It is a skill that can be learned and has nothing to do with talent, whatever that is supposed to be. It just happens to be a skill that few spend the time acquiring. Most people are skilled at reproducing complex mouth sounds that they have heard others produce. We don't call them creative or artistic, and we aren't terribly impressed, I think, mostly because such skill is almost universal.

    All that said, I do think that artistic things can happen in a painting, a musical performance, or some such thing. But this isn't to be found in the preciseness, the accuracy, the perfection, the detail, the amount of time it takes, the convincingness of a representation, or any such thing. As I see it, it happens when aesthetic feeling gets involved in a certain way. There is a kind of feedback loop between the piece and the creator. A machine can play a bunch of notes in precise time and with perfect pitch. It can play a Beethoven piece given the score. Even a player piano can do that. But can it do that with feeling? Sure, even a mechanical performance of a Beethoven piece can make us feel something, but can a computer hear and feel the music while playing it and expressively adjust the sound to enhance the feeling impact for an aesthetic effect that it desires to communicate to an audience, or even just to feel itself?

    There is something in a Jimi Hendrix guitar performance that I think a computer would be hard-pressed to pull off. A human guitar player hears the sound being produced and feels the emotional effect it is having and then further modulates the sound to steer that feeling in a desired direction to express yet more feeling. A painter, if not a complete slave to the subject matter and the need to be perfectly accurate, can do the same thing. There is feeling even behind the movements of your hand as you make those flourishes while signing your name. The art, at least in part, is in the endless micro-adjustments made throughout your gesture-making which are part of a feeling feedback loop.

    Feeling. It seems to me that a true experiential subject, a feeling agent, must be involved in anything that we might call art.

    Do computers feel? In the history of computing, do we have any reason to believe that a computer has ever felt even simple pain, for example? How might you program a computer to feel pain? Computers follow instructions. They execute procedures. Can you write a step by step program that would produce a subjective feeling of pain in the computer executing that program? Is there a way that you could arrange a gazillion dominoes such that when you set them falling, the domino arrangement feels pain?

    The Grand Canyon is beautiful and it moves us. But is it art? It was generated unconsciously by certain processes. You might even say that there is a certain complex algorithm behind it. Is it art? I don't think so. That which created it didn't intend for it to be felt that way and had no capacity to feel the effect of experiencing its form. This, I think, is somewhat analogous to anything a computer might do that might move us.

    Besides, it is humans that are programming the computers or training the neural nets to give a certain effect. We write the algorithm that generates something that looks like poetry. But was the computer moved by something and inspired to express its feelings? Did it carefully and feelingfully choose words for just the desired effect? Did it understand what it was saying?

    While performing Bach's Erbarme Dich, Mein Gott, can a computer feel the contrition?

    Listen to this performance by David Gilmour, especially the guitar solo at 4:37:

    If a computer "composes" or plays a series of sounds like that, is it pouring out its "heart"? Is it feeling all that emotion it is communicating? And how can there be communication of feeling if that which produces it doesn't feel it? Notice that all of those performers are apparently feeling something while they are playing. That, I think, is key.
  • Brett

    Marcel Duchamp said “I don't believe in art. I believe in artists.“ I take that to mean that art is that which is created by artists. His work “Fountain” (an old urinal) was art because he said so, he turned a urinal into a piece of art by his action.

    Being creative is not the same as making art. Children are creative in their playing. We all go through that. When we are making art we’re making creativity an “art”, as a verb. It’s an action that the individual makes. Duchamp made the urinal a piece of art by his creative action. You can decide to call it art when you see it, and some regard this as the step that makes it art, the viewer, but it became art immediately by his actions.

    An A. I. doesnt have the desire to take that action. Neither does anything else. The A. I. might do something creative, but it’s not yet art because the A. I. doesn’t chose to regard itself as an artist.
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