Beautiful art by Samuel J Bland, digital collages composed from google image searches. Lacking intuition, the algorithm finds surreal patterns in mundane images. Mechanism in the articulation of a stuffed woodcock, the echo of a tiger from a fuzzy orange object in a plastic bag, these images percolate up through the digital froth of images and haunt these other, everyday objects, visual ghosts.
As I wrote before, when we imagine alternative/artificial intelligences, we tend to fixate on symbolic consciousness (i.e., the Turing Test) at the expense of what Lacan calls the imaginary, that layer of consciousness closer to animal ethology and the machinic. Consciousness emerges not just out of language, but out of a constant processing of images and environmental stimuli. Give the AI sense, then engage in a constant and distributed Turin reality-testing (Turin avec Freud), and see what emerges.
A haiku from the article: Senator Portman Sorts Ohio Fallout After Marriage Shift
“How does our algorithm work? It periodically checks the New York Times home page for newly published articles. Then it scans each sentence looking for potential haikus by using an electronic dictionary containing syllable counts. We started with a basic rhyming lexicon, but over time we’ve added syllable counts for words like “Rihanna” or “terroir” to keep pace with the broad vocabulary of The Times.” [More about timeshaiku]
Algorithmic serendipity, combing the everyday world for accidental poetry. An ancient Japanese form, ensconced in stark images of nature, culled from the digital jetsam of our era.
My own problem comes when you’re an Artificial Woman Artist. Computation is demanding the aura of artistry that was commonly associated with cognition. That’s tougher, because now we’re back in the Turing Test interrogation cells, and I’m a woman, and you’re a woman, while that other woman there, the machine artist, is claiming to be Yoko Ono or Marina Abramovic.
Bruce Sterling on Turing, including a “What if Turing had been German?” counter-factual. What I am particularly fascinated by, however, is the Turing Test, which I believe says a lot more about the values of the tester, than the intelligence of the tested.
Obviously, this is a problem at the heart of science fiction, from Asimov’s laws of robotics, to Dick’s dreaming androids, to Peter Watts’ Blindsight. But it is also at the heart of literature more broadly as well, even if it is not so explicitly thematized. From Frankenstein to a nineteenth-century sentimental novel with it’s female protagonist-children, the striving for recognition, the carving out of new forms of life, can be seen as the very function of aesthetics.
Sterling points out the way that Turing himself was in many ways, and even in spite of himself, an isolated figure throughout his life; his test for sentience, a good conversation.
He certainly would have understood the draconian length to which a society would go to truncate and exclude a form of life. Whatever its shortcomings, it comes as no surprise that he defines sentience not according to some universal (arbitrary) moral standard, but by the play of mutual recognition, reciprocal interiority, a relation established between two very, very different individuals.