Will the arts be taken over by AI Robots?

Articles about Artificial Intelligence (AI) abound in 2016. Searches  on Google have reached a new peak this month from five years ago. On top of that, with the launch of the new Pixel phone, Google has also positioned itself as an AI First company – a transition from a decade of being a Mobile First company. With the other big companies like Apple and Microsoft also bidding to develop successful AI products such as Siri and Cortana, we wondered how if the world of arts and entertainment could possibly be better run by robots with Artificial Intelligence. Surely Artistic Expression is what distinguishes humans from robots?

Artificial Intelligence is the ability for a computer to think like a human. We’re far off from that at the moment. Experts predict 2050 as a time when we might be able to reach that if at all with billions of pounds being spent in the race to get there. The ability for a machine to beat Garry Kasporov at Chess was an early premonition back in 1997 that things might not always go the Human’s way.

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Here at HdK, we’re interested to know how it might affect our clients. With a number of our clients considering the Arts Council England’s Digital Policy and Plan guidelines while preparing their current funding application, this seemed like a suitable framework with which to consider AI. The guide highlights a number of ways a digital policy might be part of an overall vision for an arts organisation. One of these reasons is that technologies “create opportunities for innovation in artist and cultural practice“.

With AI, there has been a number of documented experiments of using AI to create art in music, the visual arts and dance.

The Google Brain team, in Project Magenta offer their first computer generated melody. The Piano based melody was completely self-learned from listening to other MIDI tunes. No rules or structures were given. Brian.fm is a startup from Chicago that uses AI to offer music streams specifically aimed at helping you focus, sleep or relax. The theory is based on research by neuroscientists. Algorithms create personalised playlists based on your feedback. But the interesting thing about Brain.fm is that the music is created by a complex music-AI engine. In fact, I’m listening to music to help me focus while I’m writing this very blog post!

Since 1973, Artists have experimented with Artificial Intelligence. Aaron is a computer programme that the artist and professor Harold Cohen pioneered.  Ben Grosser is another artist  and professor who more recently developed his own system. We’ve already established that real artificial intelligence hasn’t been developed yet so critics who question their results are perhaps missing a point – that we’re still on an incredibly complex journey.

There are two points of view,” notes Michael Jude, in an article with TechNewsWorld. “First, that art’s in the eye of the beholder – and second, that it’s an emotional expression of the artist or musician.

The first perspective allows the inclusion of art and music created by machine intelligence, while the second does not, Jude suggests.

I would say that an AI with sufficient training can create art, he goes on to say.Whether it’s great or not depends on the reaction of the audience.

With that thought in mind, what else is possible? Could whole award winning plays be eventually written with the help of AI? Again, it seems to be a matter of small steps. Crystal is a system that helps you write sales emails based on the recipient’s profile gleaned from their online presence. A small step perhaps to AI generated novels and plays? We’ll have to wait and see.

Other’s certainly believe that machines can make good art. But what is more imaginable is not that machines will be making true art on their own but how they work together with artists.

For those people who are actually interested in AI and interested in art, the real question is what will the two be able to do in concert,” he said.The answer is ‘a hell of a lot.’ And some of it is quite beautiful and extraordinary.

But its not just the opportunity to create art that AI offers us. What about areas of management in arts organisations? Back to the Digital Plan and Policy guideline from ACE and another consideration is how technology “can help you promote, create and share experiences with audiences online“.  Are early forms of AI available to help in this area? The obvious way that AI is starting to make an impact is in online promotion through advertisers such as Facebook and Google. It doesn’t feel that we’re that far from these channels building and optimising a campaign that intelligently seeks out the right people to target in the most efficient way. The lessons learnt during these processes could easily support offline choices.

Other narrow areas where AI can could start having impact is with dynamic ticket pricing or predictive customer service. Organisations will customer is likely to get in touch so organisations can be more prepared while Skype Translator can translate calls in real time with ticket buyers who don’t speak English.

The ACE guidelines also suggest we look for ways to save money by automating existing processes.  In Kevin Kelly‘s article on three recent developments that have finally unleashed AI into the world in Wired Magazine he imagines AI being “boring” services from a few big players similar to Amazon Web Service today but with added IQ working in the background and helping us do what we want in more efficient ways. It will enliven inert objects, much as electricity did more than a century ago.

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Small, specific tasks are already starting to employ AI technology. In the spirit of ‘every penny counts’,  X.AI and their virtual assistants Amy and Andrew help you save time by co-ordinating meetings. They claim that the average meeting takes 8 emails going back and forth. Using natural language processes, you copy them into an email to a client and they take over, emailing back and forth with the invited guest and checking your calendar until a time is agreed. Reviewers have said that the language is so natural that it isn’t obvious that it’s a robot.

We  have been talking about big data over the last few years but AI is going to become more relevant to us in the Arts and entertainment sector and now is the time to start thinking about the impact it can have in reaching our objectives. It’s unlikely that Robots will take over from artists, producers and managers – at least during the next ACE funding round – but there’s a lot of potential to help us do new and exciting things with support from our AI friends.

If you need help developing your digital policy and plan, drop Hans a line.