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Artificial Intelligence can bridge the distance between technology and art

If artificial intelligence can write, direct, and make music; what’s left for us humans?

editorials Updated: Jun 23, 2018 20:17 IST
Hindustan Times
Artificial intelligence,superhero movies,innovation
There have been instances of AI that wrote poetry, and very recently, Google showcased their Assistant being able to successfully mimic human responses(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Back in 2016, at the London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film, in the 48hr Film Challenge, filmmaker Oscar Sharp and artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Ross Goodwin entered a film called Sunspring. The unique thing about the film was that it had been entirely scripted by an AI. The AI was originally called Jetson, but later named itself Benjamin. This year, Sharp and Goodwin went a few steps further, letting Benjamin handle all of the film’s production by itself. The AI not only wrote the script, it even did the background score and put the acting together using face-swapping and voice-generating technologies. Benjamin was given thousands of hours of old films and green screen footage of professional actors, and allowed to put the film together. While the resulting film — Zone Out — is a surreal, largely incomprehensible series of scenes with bad face-grafting and arbitrary dialogue, the fact that an AI can actually do this marks an important milestone in the evolution of artificial intelligence, blurring further the lines between technology and art.

Fake videos that cannot be distinguished from the real thing have existed for some time now. Researchers at the University of Washington have been able to take audio clips, recreate realistic mouth movements, and then graft it on to other existing videos. This could technically make a person (in their case, Barack Obama) look like they were saying one thing, when they were actually saying something entirely different. It’s like photoshop for video. Putting that skill — if one can call it that — alongside an AI’s ability to put words and sentences together, could, theoretically, in a few years, give us films and stories that haven’t had human hands or minds touch them at all. There have been instances of AI that wrote (admittedly, terrible) poetry, and very recently, Google showcased its Assistant being able to successfully mimic human responses on a phone call and carry out an actual conversation with another human. The Incredibles 2, which released yesterday, uses “the medium is the message” to talk about this phenomenon and the inevitability of human dependency on AI that could possibly lead to complacency in many walks of life.

If Computer-generated imagery (CGI) can create realistic humans for the screen (such as Grand Moff Tarkin – Peter Cushing’s character in Star Wars’ Rogue One, recreated after Cushing had died), and AI can write, direct, and make music. What’s left for us humans? The thing that sets humans apart from everything else on earth has always been the unique capacity of imagination; that we have been able to imagine a world and then build it. And now we have imagined — and built — an intelligence that might be able to do the imagining for us. Have we finally gone too far?