An extremely clever and inventive robot has been designed to draw what it sees. Set with a high quality camera and a mechanical arm, Ai-Da is capable of replicating what the camera sees on paper by using the arm. A series of self-portraits are set to be displayed between May and June at the London Design Museum. Named after Ada Lovelace, a famous 19th century female mathematician, Ai-Da is given a feminine look and identity. This suitable name credits the engineering and programming that took place in order to produce such a device.
But is it art? Although the images created look artistic and do not exactly mimic the viewport, which is what one would expect if you asked a scanner to print a photo, the device itself has no emotional connection to the work it produces. By following a set of pre-written instructions, Ai-Da can produce a variety of image styles. The emotional connection between the observer of the work and the work itself is present, as a viewer I can feel and emote with the images but I know that there was no artistic agenda behind the production. At least, not from Ai-Da.
What about her designers, though? Did they have an artistic agenda? When admiring the work of robots we naturally congratulate their creators. It is surely the programming and engineering that has given rise to this collection of portraits. The device has no desire to produce, it simply follows an electronic signal. Some scientists believe that we humans are also simply following electronic signals, and our complicated brains create an experience which gives the illusion of self-governance. Anyone who has taken the high-road because of their personal feelings can put this theory to rest. It doesn't stand up in court, however if a robot does something of its own volition, we can realistically argue that it is the creator who is ultimately responsible.
Is there ever going to be a day when we can philosophically argue for the self-governance of artificial minds? Possibly, and if anything, asking robots to create art is one step in this direction. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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