4th Industrial Revolution: What it means for the creative arts

One of the debates about the 4th Industrial Revolution is that creativity may be something that is within reach of computer’s capabilities.

The ultimate test of such an idea might be to see if a computer could create something that humans would accept as a work of art.

Genuine artistic creativity, perhaps more so than any other intellectual attempt is something we associate exclusively with the human mind.

Creating a work of art is one of the those activities we reserve for humans and humans only.

It’s an act of help-expression, you are not supposed to be able to do it if you don’t have a self.

Embracing the possibility that a computer could be a legitimate artist would require a fundamental reevaluation of our assumptions about the nature of computers.

In the 2004 film I, Robot, the protagonist, played by Will Smith, asks a robot;

“Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”

The robot’s reply;

“Can you?”

This reply is meant to suggest that, well, the vast majority of people can’t do those things either.

In the real world of 2015, however, Smith’s question would elicit a more forceful answer: “Yes.”

In the above TED Talk, Blaise Agar y Arcas, principal scientist at Google, works with deep neural networks for machine perception and distributed learning. In this captivating demo, he shows how neural nets trained to recognize images can be run in reverse, to generate them. The results: spectacular, hallucinatory collages (and poems!) that defy categorization. “Perception and creativity are very intimately connected,” Agüera y Arcas says. “Any creature, any being that is able to do perceptual acts is also able to create.”

In July 2012, the London Symphony Orchestra performed a composition entitle Transits – Into an Abyss. <— [click on this link to listen to the song]

One reviewer called it “artistic and delightful.” The event marked the first time that an elite orchestra had played music composed entirely by a machine.

Music is not the only art form being created by computers. A professor at the University of London has built an artificial intelligence program called “The Painting Fool” that he hopes will someday be taken seriously as a painter.

Below is an original work of art created by a software.


I’m not suggesting that a large number of artists or musical composers will soon be out of a job but if computers can compose songs or draw, then it seems likely that they will soon be able to formulate a new legal strategy or perhaps come up with a new way to approach a management problem.

I had a meeting with my mentor yesterday and she says that the Stock Exchange uses artificial intelligence where once financial trading was highly dependent on direct communication between people, either in bustling trading floor or via telephone, today it has now come to be largely  dominated by machines communicating over fiber-optic links.

Automated algorithms are now responsible for a large part of Stock Exchanges around the world.

Technology is evolving faster than we are, at some point we may have to play catch-up to computers that we designed.



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