In a fascinating article, “Art by Algorithm,” Ed Finn, Founding Director of the Center for Imagination and Science at Arizona State University, ponders how machines support as well as challenge human creativity. To dispel any fears that the author might be urging his readers to surrender to the inevitable dominance of artificial intelligence, I reproduce the closing paragraph below:
The remarkable precipice we stand beside now is one where our tools are, in a transformative way, just as plastic as we are. Our algorithmic systems are watching us, learning from us, just as we learn from them, creating the possibility for a complex dance of intention, anticipation, creativity and emergence based on individual people, algorithms, and the social and technical structures that bracket them all. This is terrifying and breathtaking all at once, and it’s [as] artists that we need most of all to make sense of a future in which our collaborators are strange mirror machines of ourselves. Aesthetics has always been the unforgiving terrain where we assess pragmatic reality according to the impossible standards of the world as we wish it would be. Computation is a parallel project, grounded in the impossible beauty of abstract mathematics and symbolic systems. As they come together, we need to remain the creators, and not the creations, of our beautiful machines.