The special role of arts in the day and age of machines
Author: Kapil Viswanathan, Sangita Jindal
Source: Live Mint (https://www.livemint.com/opinion)
Art has witnessed the evolution of human progress over centuries and it is our ability to appreciate beauty through art that set us apart from other living species & machines. In a changing world of data, Artificial Intelligence and autonomous machines, the arts are of greater significance than ever before. Arts can motivate thinking that is non-linear, breaking stereotypes and existing paradigms and that is what we need today to solve the deep, reflective and purposeful consideration of problems facing our world today.
Today people will have to adopt new tools like Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence to improve/enlarge their artistic expression. In future, it will not be only humans that create arts as now machines/AI can create music/ songs by studying thousands of popular tunes. The implications of machine-created art and new media are complex and several. But one thing is for sure—it will add to the richness of the universe of the arts, which humans can enjoy and appreciate.
“From cave paintings during the stone age to subway graffiti in today’s cities, the arts have consistently borne witness to the complex journey of human progress. The ability to appreciate and create beauty in various forms sets us apart from other living species and machines—it is what makes us human. The 6th century Sanskrit poet Bhartrihari, in his Neeti Shatakam, opines that a person devoid of poetry, music and arts is veritably an animal. A thousand years later, the bard, Shakespeare, in The Merchant Of Venice, similarly derided “the man who hath no music in himself” as someone fit for treason and not to be trusted. In more recent times, when Winston Churchill was asked to cut government spending on the arts during World War II, his purported response was, “Then what are we fighting for?”
Art is much more than the display of a skill; it is a way of imaginatively exploring and responding to social situations, political crises and technological innovations. Whether it is Picasso’s Guernica or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, an impassioned work of art or literature carries within itself the capacity to explore and expose the status quo, in this case the brutality of war. Movements like Cubism and Abstraction have held a mirror to the changing face of our civilization—the atomization of the individual and the fragmentation of life itself in the mechanized 20th century. At the centre of changing technology and altering art forms stands the human being, whose own technologies of the self are constantly and continuously transforming.
In a changing world of data, Artificial Intelligence and autonomous machines, the arts are of greater significance than ever before. The culture of instant gratification and shortening attention spans are at odds with deep, reflective and purposeful consideration of problems facing our world today. Harvard University’s former president Drew Gilpin Faust boasts of an arts history class at Harvard where students are compelled to gaze at a painting for three straight hours. It’s not difficult to imagine the impact this would have on fast millennial minds. John Hennessy, the iconic former president of Stanford University, in an address to Stanford’s academic council, emphasized the role of the arts, interwoven with other disciplines such as technology, in helping students think creatively and imaginatively in solving complex problems….. Google’s project Magenta has already written a song by itself, without any human input. It developed a taste for music by studying thousands of popular tunes, and taught itself how to create a new tune. Aiva (acronym for Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist) is the first machine to be recognized as a composer by a music society, the 150-year old SACEM in Paris. Ahmed Elgammal, a computer scientist at Rutgers University, has created an algorithm to produce original paintings, based on an aesthetic it develops by studying thousands of paintings of different artistic styles. In a blind (poor pun intended) test with human subjects, he found that the paintings produced by his algorithm were preferred over paintings produced by human artists, including several from Art Basel, one of the top art shows in the world…. The arts have been an integral and defining part of the human journey. Whether we lived in caves or plan to colonize Mars, the arts represent the essence of humanity.