Artists share their Hopes and Fears for the future of AI
Just over a month ago, I hosted the first TECHnique Meetup event for artists using technology. It was hosted at IBM’s Southbank office in London, where we brought together some of London’s best artists, designers and creative technologists. As part of the event we had some talks, presentations and exercises exploring the theme of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
I was inspired to conduct some Design Thinking exercises at the event, having read Bec Evan’s article about her use of empathy maps last month. In this article, I share some of the insights that we gathered at the TECHnique event.
What does it feel like to create Art?
The first exercise that we did was to create an Empathy Map about what it is like, as an artist, to create art. Empathy maps are a way of capturing knowledge about people and their experiences. In our case, we decided to ask the artists in the room what they “Say”, “Think”, “Do” and “Feel” when they are in the process of creating a piece of art. This was only with a fairly small pool of artists, so it can’t be 100% accurate; however, the following summarises the thoughts of the artists in the room:
What do artists Say?
The artists explained that they talk in very positive terms about what they are going to do. They “listen” to the needs of others while proactively talking about how to get started, asking questions like “Why not?” and “What if?”. Then, more than anything they talk positively about wanting to get on with the work saying “Lets do this”!
What are artists Thinking?
While they are saying very positive things, they are thinking more theoretically and practically. They consider, “What is going on in different disciplines?” and what if “x” were “y”? They also think about the connection points that they might have with others, asking themselves “who is interested in this apart from me” so that they can collaborate with them.
What do artists Do?
Aside from the “making” part of their work, artists perform a lot of other activities. They research their topic, talk to people, gather their stories, test concepts and look to challenge people’s pre-conceptions about ideas. Throughout this, they battle with the question, “How can I present the things or images in my mind” to others?
How do artists Feel?
Artists generally feel very positive about their work, explaining that they feel “absorbed”, “excited” and full or “passion”. However, they can also question themselves, for instance one artist explained that they worry that “I don’t want to repeat myself.”
Artists and how they feel about Artificial Intelligence (AI)
From the above you can see that we have an idea of what it is like to be an artist. Yet, the main part of the TECHnique Meetup event was themed around Artificial Intelligence (AI), so we wanted to ask them about that topic too. Before we asked the audience to participate, we started with a few talks and presentations to introduce them to the topic of AI. Jeremy Waite (IBM Watson) gave a talk about AI and Creativity, a panel featuring Richard Adams, Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrøm, Tracey Gilbert and Joe McAlister discussed artists’ relationship with AI and Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrøm gave a demonstration of her Lumen Award winning AI art – FRANK.
Following that, as part of a general networking event, we asked the artists to share their Hopes and Fears about Artificial Intelligence.
Hopes for Artificial Intelligence
There were a number of positive feelings about the potential of Artificial Intelligence from the artists in the room. They explained that they could see the potential for AI to provide new ideas about us, to assist humanity, to provide better transparency and to help more people in a shorter period of time. It was also acknowledged that AI could help in particular industries such as music, health and in areas of safety prevention.
In terms of the creative industries, there was also a feeling that AI could help increase the understanding between cultures and to help bring more people together.
Fears for Artificial Intelligence
There were also some fears about the future of Artificial Intelligence. The artists questioned whether humanity actually needs it and who really benefits. There were also fears about it restricting creativity by it always suggesting the same resolutions to problems as it relies on historic data.
There was then a lot of concerns about AI machines being portrayed as one gender or another. Plus, there were some concerns about the discrimination that AI machines show based on the biases of their programmers. Plus, they were also fearful about who funds the creation of AI machines and their potential dominance, control over people’s privacy and manipulation of people.
These were just some of the ideas discussed at the TECHnique Meetup event. However, what really struck me was the interesting conversation that can be had between groups of artists and technology companies. If these discussions are anything to go by, then there is clearly a need for more opportunities to bridge communities of corporate technologists and artists.
Images courtesy of Joe Royle and Juliana Guariente.
Samuel is the Founder of Create Hub. He has a history of working with creative, innovative and entrepreneurial companies. He currently works as an Agile Project Manager at IBM, is a Trustee for the creative-business incubator Cockpit Arts and hosts the TECHnique podcast. All thoughts are his and not those of his employers.