Art Teaches AI How to Create

The viral app of 2018 was Google’s Arts & Culture. Using a feature of the app, users could take a selfie which was then turned into data points. This would be compared by Google against millions of artworks to find an eerie match of your face in a piece of art. Most people deleted the app immediately afterward, but Google is up to more here than just a gimmick. In the app’s dashboard, hidden in the drop down menu on the top left corner, is Experiments. That’s where AI is meeting art and learning from it.

Collaboration between tech and creativity has many possible beneficial applications. Tom Simonite, senior writer at Wired, imagines AI that could creatively problem solve if the sensors in a self-driving car fail. Machines using biomimicry could create new drugs to treat diseases that were thought to be untreatable. When unique data can be created by AI, they can be taught to process health records without risking real patient data.

Training AI to be independently creative provides a path to that elusive bridge between natural and formal language. Google is encouraging artists to explore the potential therein. One such artist is Mario Klingemann, an artist in residence at Google Art & Culture. He is teaching machines to mimic our style, often with astonishingly realistic results, as in this clip:

Since spontaneity is something that computers have not yet attained without being fed many examples, Klingemann designs artificial neural networks to do this work. Tech journalist Chris Baraniuk says, “An artificial neural network consists of a series of interconnected processing nodes, a system loosely based on the human brain’s neural structure. In an artificial network each electronic ‘neuron’ takes in an array of numbers, performs a simple calculation on those inputs and then sends the result to the next layer of neurons—which in turn performs more complex calculations on the data.” (Scientific American)

The experiments Google is conducting with artists will one day be viewed in the same way we view art created by humans. AI that can independently produce art may be the type of AI we need to advance and improve life in new and original ways.

Reality Changing Observations:

1. Can you think of examples where humans have used ideas from completely different fields to create something new?

2. Who are some other artists working with AI?

3. What are some other positive applications for a creative AI?

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