If Machines Make Art, Is It Still Art?

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A few days ago a fellow artist sent me a message on Instagram about a post he had saw that he thought I might be curious to see. In the message was a video clip of a person creating a drawing with an electric stippling pen. I don’t know if anyone has seen these pens (watch video below if you’re curious) but basically they’re an electric charged pen with a nib that rapidly goes up and down while releasing ink onto your drawing surface much in the same way you would use a regular pen in traditional stippling. It looks like a pretty cool, convenient and time saving art tool. But after watching the video, I was reminded of an MIT article that I read about teaching machines how to make art and I couldn’t help but wonder, exactly when and where do we draw the line between convenience and technology and express of the human spirit? As I thought about it more I couldn’t help but feel that the electric stippling pen was like cheating a bit artistically. To me, it’s akin to you grandma baking buttermilk biscuits from scratch compared to popping open a can of Pillsbury. Okay, maybe that’s comparing apples to oranges, anyways Pillsbury’s Grands are good as hell but I digress. At least with the electric pen, you’re still controlling the movement of the pen, so it’s not like it’s creating a drawing all by itself and you’re also still employing your own imagination to the artwork. But maybe it’s just me that’s haunted by this nagging, creepy feeling that gadgets and machines are taking over our lives and that in the process we’re losing something. What that something is, I can’t really put my finger on it but I’m sure two or three decades from now we’ll start to see reports and research papers coming out pinpointing what it is but it will be too late to correct the course.
Art has always been a form of human expression, so if we’re striving to teach machines how to be creative and make art, something that was once solely a human endeavor, can we still say that it’s art? When you take the humanness out of the equation of creativity is it still creativity or is it just an algorithm mimicking human creativity?
Needless to say, you won’t see me drawing with an electric stippling pen partly because I’m a traditionalist in that respect but also because stippling is my form of meditation that allows my mind and soul to slow down, which in this data driven, high tech, high speed, constantly connected, modern life we’re living, slowing down is something the human spirit sorely needs . And I don’t want some gadget taking that away from me.

My Phone Is Having Seizures

Pretty much, it’s on it’s last leg…I guess. It’s only two years old but in the tech world that’s equivalent to being a  dinosaur. Actually, the screen just keeps blacking out and although, with the help of a few Youtube videos, I’ve found some solutions but they only turned out to be temporary fixes. So I’ve succumbed to the reality that it’s time to get a new one. I suspect that these devices are designed to start malfunctioning around 2-3 years from reading through Youtube comments and noticing others were having the same issues around the same time with their phones. It feels a bit like a con that forces you to upgrade not because there’s some amazing function on the new phones that will ultimately improve your life but simply because the company and manufacturers need to keep making profit. Things are no longer built to last, they’re just built for consumption.

As someone who does most of her online activities on her phone, I thought being without it would be awkward at best, agonizing at worst. I’ve gotten so use to checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, eMail, ordering stuff through apps, and watching Netflix via my phone, I thought that not having mobile access would disrupt my daily existence. That clearly has not been the case. Actually my mind has been at ease. Although I can do all of those things on my laptop, which is more so a backup strategy for me, I’m really not too fond of sitting in from of my computer. So I’d rather do something else than crack open my laptop, unless it’s absolutely necessary, like right now. Instead, today, I did some reading, worked on some of my art, cleaned the bathroom, worked out, made chili from left over meat sauce and took a nap. It was a relaxing day with none of the anxiety that creeps in when your phone is “dry” or acting like a Pavlovian dog with all the constant blinking or buzzing from text messages, emails, “likes”, retweets and comments. Not that I don’t appreciate the engagement but I can’t help but notice how it’s conditioning me. It’s nice to just be with myself even if the “disconnection” was involuntary.

So I have a new phone on order and therefore waiting on its delivery. In the meantime it will probably be a few days before I do anymore posts, as I said before, I really don’t like sitting in front of this laptop. So until my phone gets here I’m going to just enjoy my “me time” with hopes that all of you lovelies are doing well.

On The Cusp Of An iRobot World

 

ibm-watsonThis maybe off topic…or maybe not, from what I typically post about; art, nature and the like. And I maybe late to the game on this but as an artist who is fond of the notion of humans as being a part of Nature and that we should reconnect, stay connected and sustain our natural environment, I find this move towards connecting the world of humans with machines in more varied and intimate ways a bit jarring.
Like I’ve mentioned before, the internet is a rabbit hole for me, I start on one topic and fall into another, which is how I stumbled across IBM Watson; an emerging cognitive platform that can understand, reason and learn. Such technology is obviously groundbreaking and you can’t deny the innovation behind it. So maybe I’m being a bit of an alarmist and jumping ahead of myself without giving much thought to how this could impact us in a positive way. Maybe we can use this technology to help build a more sustainable environment for our growing global population. But I admit, I’m very much influenced by Taoist philosophy, there’s always a negative lurking somewhere behind a positive, no matter how small, so I wonder what are the potential non beneficial aspects that such a technology could lead to? How can something like this, in any way, possibly undermine our lives if we don’t explore every thinkable scenario that such an innovation could lead to both beneficially and non beneficially to humans and all of life?

Here are a few clips from Youtube below for more insight. Let me know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments section. Welcome to the Cognitive Era.