|Posted by Ratin8tor on July 22, 2012 at 5:00 PM|
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now a few days ago I had a discussion with my friend about whether androids and robots could ever have souls. Whether they could ever be considered real or not. We also discussed what art is and how it should be defined. Which got me thinking: could a robot produce a piece of art? And if they could, what would this mean for the rest of the world.
Firstly, 25% of philosophy is coming up with definitions for something (the other 83% arguing about whether the definitions and statements are acceptable or not), so what is an accurate definition of art? Well in my book art is something that is created by an artist, created in such a way to reflect the artists vision and/or soul and/or imagination and that said piece of art invokes a reaction that fits within the artists original intent. For example, the artist makes a film that's designed to make you cry. You cry, thus the art fulfils the purpose set out by the artist. If an artist paints a picture that is suppose to be awe-inspiring and instead it leaves you lukewarm at best, then it has failed as a piece of art. Of course while this definition is not foolproof, with there being a few holes that others will point out that should be filled, it nevertheless does the job that is required for the rest of this blog.
Namely: could a robot be an artist? Can a robot have an artistic vision and/or imagination. Could the art it create produce an emotional response in line to what the robot is looking for?
To start with the first part: maybe. Lets presume that someone feeds a robot a bunch of classical music and asks it to observes patterns it finds in it (and I should mention that this actually has been done and you could probably find what I'm talking about thanks to Google). Said robot was then asked to produce a piece of original music, which it did. So is this robot (although I should be saying machine) an artist? Can it be defined as one? All it is really doing is analysing patterns and coming out with the best statistical response. Aka it makes good music because it knows what good music should sound like? So is this cold mechanical calculation art? If not, then how can we say that humans do it differently? We wouldn't have writers if people didn't know how to read. We wouldn't have painters if people didn't know how to see, or musicians if people didn't know how to listen. Humans recognising patterns in things all the time. To quote the Doctor: “I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there.” We do often make up connections between unconnected events. Art is no different. We create patterns in our heads the original artists may not have intended for their to be; and in turn use those patterns to create our own work of art. We notice a pattern in the way someone writes and subconsciously accept that as a way of writing our own work (which is why you can always tell when someone else is talking to you on Facebook, rather then the person they're pretending to be). So if our own art is just the expression of patterns we see that may or may not exist, how can we say that a robot is any different? If art is pattern recognition and by doing so you're an artist, then a robot must be an artist.
Of course the above paragraph morphed into answering the second question, about whether a robot can have imagination. As stated mere sentences ago, art could be seen as nothing more then pattern recognition, which a robot is brilliant at. Thus the robot is an artist. But what about imagination? Could a robot have it? What does it mean to have imagination? Well to us imagination is able to think in the abstract. To think of things that don't physically exist in front of us right now. Like how I can think about a banana in a plant-free environment. We can conjure up the abstract. Now lets imagine a robot can do the same. It can think of things that do exist but don't exist in their immediate vicinity. They would have to 'imagine' the banana exists. Of course they could only do this after they've seen a banana, but the same thing applies to us. But do we imagine things that don't exist? Well, yeah. We can imagine loads of things that don't exist. Unicorns, for example. They don't exist; and yet we can imagine them. Or can we? We can imagine a horse, we can imagine a horn, we can imagine it being purple. But if we didn't know what a horn was, could we imagine a unicorn? Or would we first know about the individual components before we make up the whole? A robot would be in the same predicament as us. So if a robot could imagine in the abstract, like us it couldn't imagine things that it didn't already have a basis of understanding in.
So for the final, and most crucial part of my definition: can a robot not only produce something that has an emotional response (since the previous two paragraphs can be seen as evidence that it can), but also have the response that they desired for it to have. Can a robot produce a piece of music capable of making men weep whilst also having the desire to make them weep? If they can not, if the robot only makes the music because it's programmed to and the final effect is not within their programming, then no. It can not be art. Otherwise we'd have to say that anything that the robot outputs is artistic on the merits that it makes us feel some emotion, even though the robot didn't create it to make us feel emotion. But what if the robot did create the art in order us to feel sad, in a calculated way? That is knew that pictures of dead babies would make us feel sad, so it drew life-like pictures of dead babies to evoke that response? Well then yeah, that would make it art, according to my definition. Which leads to the other question: does that mean the robot is now an artist? Or is it human?
So there you have it. My world view on art. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.
Categories: In Too Deep