Does the prospect of artificial intelligence make us doubt the authenticity of human intelligence or is it forever a copy or fake version of human intelligence? Give reasons for both arguments. If you have the opportunity watch the film Bladerunner as a fictional account of the problem. Look up the term ‘uncanny valley’ as another prompt to thought.
What a challenging question – a discourse that makes me wonder how this can be related to art and my art practice. Besides science-fictions stories, films and games, is there a direction towards Visual Culture? I could see this in context of Baudrillard’s notion of simulation and the third level of simulacra. And what I can see most is the appearance of non-human aspects in human form, like the outer shell that superficially can be perceived as authentic human. Perhaps it is a dream or just an opinion that we live orselves in a dreamworld (like the film Matrix). What seems for me more interesting is what make one belief that something artificial is perceived as human (simulacra), and not as a copy of human.
The human body in postmodern discourse:
As noted in my earlier posts the postmodern notion of the human body as being ‘fully integrated with contemporary concepts about the integration of technologies into bodies, creating cyborg bodies that are part machine and part human… Fragmentation, malleability, fluidity, and the possibility of “reprogramming” the body.. become the dominant metaphors for conceiving the body in this context.’ (Sturken and Cartwright, 2009, p. 326) Here it seems the conception of how to make a human body less human.
The film theorist Vivian Sobchavk critized Baudrillard for the notion of simulation and of a ‘technologically augmented and simulated body’ . Sobchavk sees Baudrillard’s failure to acknowledge the vulnerability of the lived body.’ (ebid, p. 310)
Human beings do not consist merely of thought (Plato, Descartes) or information (Transhumanists). Aspects I explored in previous post. Human life is characterized by a physical, mental, emotional, personal, and spiritual entity and an integrity that need to be considered (Spiekermann ed al., 2017)
The question of whether artificial intelligence challenges the authenticity of or represents merely a copy of human intelligence can be seen from various perspectives. Those, who praise or fear artificial intelligence are often just taken one aspects isolated from a wider context e.g. Transhumanism.
As mentioned before the Turing test was once considered as an indicator for human versus machine thinking. People took or take thinking as the criteria for intelligence. Whereas, thought is just one part of human intelligence (others are: emotional intelligence, Nous – Greek term for mind, reason, understanding, Intellectus, ‘Gestimmtheit’ / mood, sense of meaningfulness, ability for ethical decisions (Spiekermann ed al, 2017). One of the more interesting aspects that resulted from the Turing Test is the human’s capability to simulate machine answers. A kind of Turing Test is also applied in the film Bladerunner, a questionnaire that should distinguish artificial, human-like entities from ‘real’ humans.
Mori’s concept of likeliness and artificiality of entities resulting in different human sensations and affinity can be experienced through the behaviour and thoughts of the protagonists in Bladerunner. The full likeliness of the ‘nexus’ replicants to human beings are the material of interrogation of human versus artificial intelligence. The capability to evoke human emotions by the protagonist (femme fatale) Rachel, an artificial replicant, is challenging Deckard’s assumptions and beliefs in what is human and what is not. Besides human emotions, it is the capability of memories, of having and creating ones that blur the distinction between human and the replicants.
For the viewer the film has two perspectives: One of being fully absorbed by the story and its effects, a very much traditional theatrical response, a notion that in Modernism was denied, see Brecht’s alienation drama. The other perspective is that of a knowing viewer, a distant or alienated position of being aware of acting. Thus the resemblance of replicants and their human emotions are not a question of what is human or not, but the replicants are humans as they are played by human actors.
That seems to be a typical challenge or limitation of visual art, to represent on the one hand an abstract idea, written here by the writer P. K. Dick. And than the physical realization of that idea through a film with real human actors (also fiction are presented by non-fictitious people). The common sense of the viewer can differentiate between both realities. One might see the challenge dating back to Plato and his conception of reality where all but the idea i.e. all physical representations or paintings of the idea, are a remove from reality, And this seems to be true as well for Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where strong visual images are produced to illustrate an idea.
Another aspect of artificial intelligence, or intelligent algorithms, is the context in which they are constructed. The developers are creating something for a purpose, e.g. image recognition, and the neural structured ‘deep learning’ algorithm is coming up with some results. Where the question of understanding how the result was obtained is different from the facts that a result was provided. Basically, this states the fact that understanding human behaviour is not the same as technically replacing human thinking (Kaeser, 2017)
- Artificial intelligence is intelligence in a narrow sense of functional thinking
- Human being and intelligence is more than rationale thinking and includes aspects of emotional intelligence, sense for meaningfulness and ethical decisions, as well as as sense of Nous, mind and understanding.
- So called ‘irrationale behavior’ is a limited view based on conventions of thought and language
- The notion of simulacra as a reality beyond originals and models can be persuasive, but is merely a rationale thought denying physical realities.
- Binary thinking, of artificial versus human, is conveying a Promethean ideology based on linguistic metaphors. It intrinsically denies aspects of naturalness. A robot is a robot is a robot.
- I find this discourse quite challenging and mysterious, questioning a relevance to art practice. Nevertheless, it also enables a reflection of one owns beliefs and assumptions. One can find always arguments pro and contra, but to live in a real world requires more than argumentation. At least for me.
- What I take away for me are basically three main aspects:
– Simulating artificial intelligence with human beings (film, theater, Turing tests etc.) are kind of paradox, as the real people will always behave consciously or sub-consciously as human beings.
– Likeliness and familiarity are aspects that can make one feel comfortable but also having uncanny sensations. Whether it is imagination or natural fear, I don’t know, but certainly an aspect I already explored with my personal project for POP1.
– Emotive reactions and re-calling memories are truly human conditions for responding and understanding self and others.
Excursus: Bladerunner by Ridley Scott (1982/2010)
Bladerunner by Ridley Scott, based on the novel by P. K. Dick (1968) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is a collage of film noir, graphic noir, femme fatale, and a vulnerable hero. describes a dystopian postmodern life on the base of decaying ruins of modernity, a worldview predominant in the 1980s.
This film is quite postmodern, on the one hand for its production methods (intertextuality, collage and that the movie exists in multiple versions with the ‘Final Cut’ originated from 2010). It is also postmodern as it the narrative embraces an un-canny transgression of human beings and beliefs and human’s creation of artificial intelligence. A sense of the Greek mythodology of Prometheus comes through. Prometheus the Titan who stole fire from the gods from the Olymp and gave it to humankind. Plato articulated in his Protagoras that Prometheus (the pre-thinker) defined attributes to humans after their creations by gods. Interestingly, Ridley Scott made in 2012 a science-fiction film named Prometheus. In Bladerunner the creator is featured by Tyrell, the head of the corporation that produces the replicants. The replicants in Bladerunner were programmed to exist four years before an internal program ‘destroys’ them. They are constructed with all human features but human emotions. (synopsis available here)
Excursus: The Uncanny Valley in Robotic Design (Masahiro Mori, 1970)
A term coined by
are grouped by gender, social class and personal traits. The hair is made from human hair and indicate as well specific human traits. They represent specific roles in society. The affinity for the puppets are high because of the distance in between audience and puppets and the likeliness to humans.
He further explains that movement is an additional aspect in human sensations and affinity. Moving objects typically increases affinity sensation. Whereas items that are close to the uncanny valley and suddenly move, increases an eerie sensation. In that sense he places dead people, corpses at the bottom of the uncanny valley, although they are not moving.
In the final words Mori expressed his hope that
‘We should begin to build an accurate map of the uncanny valley, so that through robotics research we can come to understand what makes us human. This map is also necessary to enable us to create—using nonhuman designs—devices to which people can relate comfortably.
- Mori, M. (1970) Uncanny Valley ,[Illustration], Available from: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/the-uncanny-valley [accessed 20 July 2017].
- Bladerunner – Final Cut (1982) Directed by Scott, R. [Blu-Ray],
- Bladerunner synopsis [User created content] Available from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/synopsis?ref_=ttpl_pl_syn [accessed 20 July 2017].
- Kaeser, E. (2017) ‘Auf der Schwelle zum ‘“Maschinozän”’, In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 22 June 2017. [Online] Available from: https://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/mensch-und-algorithmus-was-geschieht-wenn-kuenstliche-neuronale-netzwerke-sich-selbstaendig-machen-ld.1302218[Accessed: 25 June 2017].
- Mori, M. (2012a) ‘The Uncanny Valley’, in: IEEE ROBOTICS & AUTOMATION MAGAZINE. [Online]. Available from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6213238 [accessed 15 June 2017].
- Mori, M. (2012b) ‘The Uncanny Valley: The Original Essay by Masahiro Mori‘, in: [Online]. Available from: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/the-uncanny-valley [accessed 15 June 2017].
- Spiekermann, S., Hampson, P., Ess, C. M., Hoff, J., Coeckelbergh, M. and Franck, G. (2017) ‘Wider den Transhumanismus’, In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 19 June 2017. [Online] Available from: https://www.nzz.ch/meinung/kommentare/die-gefaehrliche-utopie-der-selbstoptimierung-wider-den-transhumanismus-ld.1301315 [Accessed: 20 June 2017].
- Sturken, M. and Cartwright, L. (2009) Practices of Looking : An Introduction to Visual Culture, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.