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Machines as artists, writers etc

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 in Other

Recently, I have read a number of articles about AI and about how robots/androids etc might one day take over our jobs.

Since I’m a writer and/or proofreader/editor, I was reassured by a rather interesting list I found on the BBC news site. Creative jobs don’t seem to be immediately threatened.

However, that led me to consider what an AI/robot/android might be able to achieve.

I have heard that these days the news reporting isn’t just being oursourced to India or other third world countries, but is actually done by AI:s. Fair enough. I suppose collecting a few snippets coming from a news agency might be easy enough for anyone or anything to manage, though it is a bit unfair on people who want to get in on entry-level jobs.

However, would an AI be able to write a real story? What could be referred to as literature?

In Sweden, some writers of popular music have already let their computers do the writing, for fun, for a special effect (A real bloody schlager). Of course it can be done, if you, as a human, edit out the ins, ats, ons, buts etc and pick the most common words that actually make sentences.

I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to say: No! Not yet. Who knows about the future? When (or if) Google’s Singularity is here, then I guess all bets are off, but today, no way.

The same probably goes for works of art. Sure, I would like to say that elephants and primates (like chimps, gorillas and orangutans) can be artists just like children can be. Why not? They’re real living creatures with a lot more personal idiosyncracies than most people believe. And that goes for other ‘lower’ animals too. It’s just not my opinion, I base this on news articles reporting the latest science results. But a machine? Not yet anyway.

That reminds me of a very funny story written by science fiction author Arthur C Clarke. For a while, he was very fascinated by the idea of genetically enhanced primates (in this case chimps) and he wrote more than one story on this theme. This one was about a woman who fancied herself an artist and was severly annoyed by a neighbor who also fancied herself an artist/art critic etc. So she set out to make a fool of the neighbor, by teaching her own ‘simp’ (I think that’s the word – gm chimp) housekeeper (I’ll ignore my own reservations about exploiting and enslaving other living creatures for the duration of this blog post) to paint works of art.

The joke sort of backfired when it turned out the simp was far more talented than her art school educated employer.

So machines can be a lot of fun, but they won’t replace our creativity any time soon, that’s my best guess.

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