“Exploring art can actually help
shape the technology that shapes us.”
“By combining AI and robotics with
traditional forms of creativity
we explore new definitions of
what is human and what is the machine.”
Sougwen Chung was a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab when she became fascinated by the way connected machines are transforming the future through workplace automation and AI.
This led her to wonder what will become of the "human hand" in this high-tech future.
The current conversation about AI revolves around dystopian vs. utopian futures. But she sees another alternative.
She advocates a collaborative future between humans and machines that creates an “organic” kind of beauty. Human mistakes combine with programmed accuracy to pave new avenues of creativity.
In this way, we can avoid the concerning prospect of runaway AI by asking, “Who do we want to be in control?” she says.
Chung, who is a Chinese artist raised in Canada, has spoken globally at conferences from Tribeca Film in New York to the MUTEK Festival in Montreal. She’s earned an array of international awards, including Japan’s Media Art Excellence Award in 2016. She’s also been Artist in Residence at Google, Eyebeam and Japan Media Arts.
So far, the internet has made giant strides “from dial-up to Uber,” she said. As technology grows ever more powerful, a key question will be how to make human creativity an equally driving force.
Research tends to focus on mechanical precision. Instead, it should aim for an imperfect interaction between humans and machines, Chung says. That includes allowing mistakes and human sloppiness that sometimes drives breakthroughs in life, art, and science.
Her project “Drawing Operations” showcases this approach. A robotic arm uses its neural net to study the artist’s drawing gestures, which have a unique style. The arm learns the artist’s visual style and creates its own version in a human/robot duet.
This collaborative approach melds the best of what’s human with the best of what machines can do. It creates a beauty greater than the sum of its parts. The result: fascinating “new ways of making,” Chung says.
While creating pioneering artworks, which range from installations to sculpture, drawing, and performance, she invites the machine into the human space. “I find adaptation to the errors and glitches in the process uniquely stimulating. Thrilling, even. It feels more true to how life actually is.”
©Prophets of AI