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1981
AI, Augmentation and Art
  • ISSN: 2633-8793
  • E-ISSN: 2633-8785

Abstract

Half a century on from the ELIZA program, with the rapid and widespread emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) programs, we are now on the cusp of realizing Joseph Weizenbaum’s nightmare: an absurd world that is not only populated by machines that can convincingly simulate human communication in its various forms (e.g. writing, visual art, performance and music) but in which these machines are readily accepted as authentic replacements. Drawing on the existentialist language philosophy of Vilém Flusser, this article argues that to defer cultural communication to generative AI programs is to step outside the ‘great conversation’ of human culture and to be condemned to an unutterable nothingness. To demonstrate this, I analyse several illustrative examples including Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) language model, the text-based roleplaying game (Latitude 2019), and the art installation (Huyghe 2018). I argue that generative AI programs only appear to ‘speak’ in a language we understand while continuing to ‘think’ in the formal language of mathematics and that their communications are merely transliterations of numbers. As such, these programs are not bound by the same moral and syntactical rules that we observe and abide by in cultural communication, and in using generative AI programs, we may very well bypass these rules to express raw intention. Though mechanized in the form of technical images, such a mode of expression would be akin to the nonsensical cries of animals in that it fulfils a fundamental desire but reveals nothing of a consciousness within. By deferring the labour of communication to an AI program, the human retreats inward and disappears from culture as they ‘speak’ in one language but ‘think’ in another. Thus, the nightmarish future that Weizenbaum envisioned is one filled with illusions of artistic expression, projected by both machines and humans, and yet there is no evidence of humanity in such a culture.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • UKRI Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) (Award 2116337)
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/content/journals/10.1386/jpm_00002_1
2023-08-18
2024-06-24
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