You can spell “artificial intelligence” without “art,” but you’d be wrong

You can spell “artificial intelligence” without “art,” but you’d be wrong

Sep. 7—Artificial intelligence, despite its unnatural description, is nonetheless known as a form of intelligence. What exactly is “intelligence,” though? Some say—and by some, I mean the unknown contributors to Wikipedia—it refers to “capacity for abstraction, logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.” Whew! That’s a lot of human activity and thinking that relies on our intelligence.

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy describes intelligence as “the capacity to deal flexibly and effectively with practical and theoretical problems.” Maybe both of those are too ethereal to grasp, so you may want to follow the lead of Fred Sanford whose idea of intelligence seemed contra his feelings about his own son’s merit, who too often heard Pop explain, “Y’Big Dummy!”

You have intelligence as do all those with whom you interact. You may not sense it during those interactions but suffice it to say that merely learning and using language seems to imbue a level of intelligence into the human actor. We humans being the naturally intelligent types.

We’re so incredibly intelligent in fact that long ago we aspired to create unnatural intelligence, now commonly accepted, and quite celebrated, as artificial intelligence. Now, deduction may require our human intelligence to perform, but that product of intelligence was where humans began seeing an opportunity to create artificial intelligence. I’ve explained how there were signs of this coming as far back as the ancient philosophers, such as during Ancient Greek life when automatons were stamped into its currency.

It’s a little more reasonable to look at early computing machines as the forerunners to what we see going on in AI today. By using electrical machines to process 1s and 0s into performing mathematical equations, the modern birth of AI set its pathway in the 1950s. Go back to the definitions above and you can fit a computer’s operations into the general idea of intelligence without much wordsmithing.

Today AI is deployed in countless areas of modernity. When you Google anything, AI works in the background to display hopefully useful results. You really don’t need to be hopeful, though, since I’d bet that you rarely need to scroll past the first page to get the returns you’d hoped for. Look at those results next time. I just Googled, “Google AI,” which netted nearly five billion URLs and all I could hope for surely was included on those first 20 or so links. That’s AI’s power, nearly immediate according to the attendant report that those billions of web pages were identified in just 0.75 seconds.

It was the power of AI that pushed IBM’s Watson computer past Ken Jennings and lesser “Jeopardy!” players. Artificial intelligence is steeped into all sorts of gaming from the type that goes on in Vegas to the games your kids are playing, as well as those you playf on any device. The technology is infused in countless, more important facets of life from medical care, to critical infrastructure controls, to agricultural practices.

Most, if not all of the areas and functions of life that we think of being influenced by AI are in the sciences category. I’m relying on a truly big-picture distinction between sciences and the arts. Go through that short list of where you experience AI above and they’re all science-y. This makes sense. I won’t ask the question “What is science?” because that would have us disembark onto an entirely new, complicated discussion. Sciences, logically, rely on the performances of the scientific method, which requires repeatable results to be considered reliable and valid.

To conduct some scientific experiment, whether processing 1s and 0s or solving a crime through forensics, we need that repeatability. Otherwise, you’d be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting new results, which is another classic description: Einstein’s witticism of “insanity.” Art, on the other hand, can be validated by its most learned critics only when new results appear, or are heard, or tasted if you’re of the set, as I am, that the phrase “culinary arts” is valid.

Maybe, though, that distinction is going the way of Ancient Greek life. Take, for example, the fine arts competition in Colorado’s State Fair that just ended its 150th anniversary in Pueblo. The Fine Arts Exhibition is “one of the longest-running and finest traditions of the Colorado State Fair” according to its website, which I found thanks to AI. The event’s mission is three-pronged: “Quality, Quantity, and Diversity.” I had to look up inquisitively on the point of “quantity,” but I’m no Coloradan, so that’s none of my beeswax.

In fulfilling its mission, the Exhibition this year awarded first place awards in various categories: Emerging Artist, Photography, Jewelry and Metalsmithing. The category that earned the Colorado State Fair and its Fine Arts Exhibition international press this year was Digital Arts/Digitally-Manipulated Photography. Certainly, that category isn’t quite as historic as the Fair or the Exhibition.

The worldwide media storm came on the heels of the first place winner of that category in the Fine Arts Exhibition, “Theatre d’Opera Spatial.” Jason Allen entered the piece. Allen, a game designer, entered it but did not exactly create it. He created what created it, so in that sense, I suppose, Régina and Léopold Magritte created one of my favorite paintings, René François Ghislain Magritte’s “Treachery of Images.” René’s parents, Régina and Léopold created him, and he created the piece, so like Allen, they created art.

Allen’s creation was reliant on a text-to-image AI program called Midjourney, a program not of his creation, actually. A Midjourney user inputs text, and its AI engines translate the text into images. This demonstrates either the beginning of an arts and sciences merger, or the end of some art critics’ otherwise goodly reputations. It might be worthy to ask anew, “What is art?”

Ed Zuger is a professor of cybersecurity, an attorney, and a trained ethicist. Reach him at edzugeresq@gmail.com.

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