AI Dungeon Play-interview with Derek Wong
Q is Qianlin Wang, D is Derek Wong.
Q: Hello, can you introduce yourself?
D: The name is Derek Wong, my background is, possibly a bed with a duvet on it, and there’s a dressing gown, that’s the background. And if you’re asking me about me, you know, my personal background, it’s um, where do I even begin, like, how far back do I have to go?
Q: Haha, just general information.
D: Well you really have to define gener- right, so, well I currently am studying in Heriot-Watt University, I’m doing a Masters in Computing, and before that a course in Actuary.
Q: What do you think is art, from your point of view?
D: Well, given that this person which I know, who is extremely close to me, I think she does Fine Art as a Masters degree. Given the fact that I know this person, it has changed my initial view of art, um-
Q: You can just say me!
D: What? Oh but it wouldn’t be funny, well to me anyway. I’m aware that it’s a horrible joke but I just enjoy saying it that way. Anyway so, before knowing this specific person, I think art as another form of craft. I see art as simply as techniques applied onto a medium. For example if I want to draw something, if I look at an apple and I want to draw an apple, I would use techniques involving paint, watercolour, pencil or pen, and apply that onto a medium. Then I produce a depiction of an apple, and I would consider that as being art.
Because personally I find that very easy to classify, especially when it comes to the grading of it. For example, if someone draws a really good apple, when I say good, I mean photorealistic, then I can look at it and go “Right that’s a really good apple”, right? For the longest time art has just being technique for me, well that’s getting a bit hard to define, knowing what the artist want to express and how well that express it, in this context my understanding of “expressing” is very limited, often it’s just how much it looks like the original or if it’s an animation then it’s how well it is able to achieve the effect of motion or whatever.
After talking to you and learning about modern art and contemporary art, well my definition hasn’t quite changed, however it does become broader when it comes to, for example, medium – now that I’m aware that, performance, you know, is a medium, it’s not just a painting or a depiction of something. The idea of it is also quite important, you also said that art has to, I’m not sure if that’s from you but my impression is that art now needs to have some sort of message behind it. If an art is to be considered to be deep, or good, it has to have some sort of message, or, you know, in some cases, a critique behind the piece of art, and that’s something I don’t quite think about, because, what I’m doing, what I did, and what I’m planning on doing, they don’t have this concept of uh, well, the concept! The concept of a concept, right? If I want to make a program to do something, or perhaps solve a maths equation, it’s not trying to tell me something, it’s there to do what it’s designed to do.
Q: Yeah, because I would say, if it’s just about the techniques, then you could say illustration is art, or the wallpaper is art, advertisement is art, ‘cos it’s just about, it’s just about if it looks good.
D: Yeah it’s missing the other half of “what is it trying to tell us?”
D: Sure I mean certainly having a red wallpaper is trying to tell us something but that’s more about association and symbolism, not about the ‘message’. Right, if only technique counts, then my programs could be considered art. Yeah the concept of “it needs to be critical” or “it needs to convey some sort of message or an idea”, that becomes an extra part of my definition of art, I suppose.
Q: What do you think how digital technology could influence art?
D: Ah yes, digital technology, like, computers n’stuff innit? Well that, I would say has broadened the, uh, accessibility of the creation of art, because back then in order to be able to edit videos, you probably need a lot of resources, right? You probably need a studio, but now you can just do it on a computer. I mean there are certain gimmicky stuff you can do with technology such as, um, have you tried putting random pictures into DeepDream? Where it just transform the picture into weird, eyes, and, just-
D: -patterns right? I suppose you can call that art, but that doesn’t really- that’s just transforming one image into another, by the new definition-
Q: I don’t think you can call that as art but it certainly has potential I think.
D: By our new definition, that’s simply mapping one image onto another, that’s just a technique. If you want to call it art, you need, a human to come up with a concept, maybe to link this with something else. It needs to be further expanded upon by a person and not, technology.
Q: So do you think AI in the future can create art?
D: I don’t think so, because AI’s are, well, “I don’t think so” with a massive asterisk, where, within our current scope of what AI is, I don’t think it’s ever possible for AI to create art. Because it raises the question, if, if you think about it, if an AI creates a piece of art, did it create the piece of art, or did the person who created the AI create the piece of art? I would argue it’s the person who created the AI who created the piece of art. AI is simply the medium, the paintbrush.
D: This is based upon the AI, not having, free will, I would almost say, right? It’s where, AI right now, they have a pre-defined goal, and they will do what they can do in order to achieve the goal, that is the basics of an intelligent agent and…again the goal is defined by someone, the initial goal isn’t defined by the AI itself, the AI doesn’t want anything.
Q: So can’t you just say, very ambiguously, “go for it”?
D: Then it’s just going to take the shortest route to reach that goal. If you tell an AI “Do something to this blank canvas”, then it’s just going to do a dot on the canvas and go “Yeah job done”. Well because AI’s, well, the ones I’m familiar with, will just try to reach the goal as effectively as possible, as quickly as possible.
Q: But if you give it the data of all artist, and you tell it to create an artwork, what would it do?
D: Then that would be like DeepDream wouldn’t it? It would just map some stuff onto something else, right? With a level of randomisation.
D: Because it’s not creating anything new, it’s taking what’s already done, and you know, taking all the existing data, mushing it together, and producing something that matches the pattern of what it knows.
Q: But however don’t you think many artists, like contemporary artists are already doing it? Like, appropriation, like we are referencing the old artists. Well, some artists, literally just photocopied others’ work and went “this is my art”. However I know the difference because they have the concept behind it.
D: But yeah there’s a message going on, right? It has a message that, like, “I’m copying, doing this stuff because…”. But if an AI does it, it would just be “I’m doing this because I need to achieve the goal”. Well I don’t think, well, due to the fact that AI can’t think for themselves? I mean it’s a tough topic. There’s an episode on Star Trek talking about if Data, the android, is truly capable of creating something, or is he just repeating, you know, what has been done before. That’s always been…a topic…in science fiction and all that.
Q: Do you think AI is able to create a concept? If you give it data of all the conceptual artists, of what they did before, and then you ask it to create a concept. Do you think AI is able to do that?
D: Imagine this, take all the concepts in the world, I take each concept and phrase it in to a single sentence like, “The concept of, eating, in the bathroom”, “The concept of, doing something, doing something” right? I can deconstruct a concept into several words, I would say that’s possible. If you can boil it down, if you can reduce it into several words linking into each other. So for each concept I form a sentence this way and I load it into…I load countless of these sentence concepts into the robot, into the AI, rather. Yeah I would say the AI could then look at the format to how the concepts are formed, and it would just piece some stuff together and maybe link it into a brand new concept.
Q: But I mean-
D: Well one may argue that’s how we form concepts as well.
Q: Yeah right?
D: That’s how it works.
Q: It’s similar to how humans do it, we have memories, and we try to create something new based on the old stuff.
D: So, if we’re going by that…
D: Sure, maybe I’m just prejudiced against androids, maybe that’s enough to create art.
Q: Haha I don’t know.
D: If an android can appear as if they…they have expressions, they can appear as if they have emotions, do they have emotions? You can’t just go “naah you aren’t feeling it though” right? Does that matter?If you talk to a robot, an android, and he’s able to express, and have facial expressions, and say things according to the emotions he’s supposed to have. Does that android have emotions?
Q: I would say some humans function like that- they don’t have emotions, it’s not authentic, but they think they should express, because of like, manners.
D: I mean I do that sometimes, y’know.
Q: Haha okay.
D: I mean point being, if that’s all which is required to produce art- to consider it a concept. If just jamming all the possible concepts into your head, finding a concept which hasn’t been-
Q: Well in that case then the AI would have more data than me, maybe he can create a better concept than me. Because I don’t have that data.
D: Well, how do you define “better” in this case, right? Just because it hasn’t been created doesn’t mean it’s better, just because it’s unique doesn’t mean it’s better. I mean, I think music comes into mind with that- I can make a VERY unique piece of music but it’s not going to sound good, right?
Q: But art doesn’t need to look good, well…yeah, I think it depends.
(D goes to answer the door)
D: Right so where were we, right so how do you define better? “Unique” doesn’t equate to “better” does it?
Q: One could say art doesn’t have “good” art or “bad” art. I think for me I would like some artwork because I find it interesting, and interesting depends on if it challenges the current standard, the current form.
D: Right so I’m just trying to think about building a model of “good art” or whatever right? So all those words you have spoken – “challenges”… how do you quantify, how do you systematically define “challenges”? Does that mean it has to directly contradict what’s…there? In the modern world? Does it have to “evolve” from what we have? Then how do you expand upon the word “evolve”, it’s just, there are so many…
Q: I think, maybe you can create many form of challenges, but it sounds like the person who created the program is doing art because you need to set “what form is a challenge”.
D: Because everybody has a different…more or less…you know, slightly different definition of interpretation of the words which you’ve just spoken. Everyone have…has?…a different definition of what a “good” art is. For example, I’m into certain art, and you’re into some other art, right? It’s where, how do we look at it objectively? I don’t think we can.
Q: I think it’s because there’s no objective answer, that’s how different artists can contribute to different perspectives.
D: Yeah well, sure, then, that falls back upon…the creator of the AI art wouldn’t be the AI but the creator of said AI.
D: It just goes back into that bit, because my initial goal is to for the AI to some how know what the “objective” thing is, and it just picks some stuff out of all the objectivities and facts and like…make something out of it. But one has to, like, program a certain subjectivity into the AI, then that would come from the creator, wouldn’t it?
Q: Then what do you think about the GPT-3? That it’s able to write the essay, and to talk about god with you. That it just looks like it’s spoked by a human.
D: …That’s always dodgy to me, because…yeah well you know, I know my sci-fi, at some point I just don’t know if it’s a human thing to do anymore, because what are humans? But an amalgamation of flesh and information, it’s based on the past, it’s based on what we deem to be our model of the world, right? It’s…
Q: I think the most important difference between humans and robots is, first, we…I think what determines what’s alive or not is consciousness, so the distinction is we are alive, robot is not because robot does not have consciousness. And consciousness is something humans can’t produce, humans can’t give life to another, to a thing.
D: Well…we give life to babies?
Q: Because that’s written in our program, it’s…we’re only able to create life in our form, we can’t create it in a different form.
D: I mean…it must have happened right? What’s the difference between a monkey becoming a human?
Q: But that’s like an evolution thing, a monkey can’t give birth to a fish, it just doesn’t match.
D: One has argued…I have read that somewhere before- don’t quote me on this- that technology is a new form of life, it latches onto humanity, and it evolves with humanity, the sheer concept of technology could be argued to be life.
Q: It doesn’t have consciousness, it’s not life. The secret of life, the consciousness is not something I think humans can control because if we can create another creature with life, with consciousness, we can basically control the universe. Because that’s the secret to everything, how can you create flower from just, nothing? So I would say robots can never be alive, it would just be a thing.
D: Well I have hope, I’m for android rights.
Q: Haha of course you can treat it like…that’s another topic, but-
D: Yep yep.
Q: -I would never think it has life itself.
D: Then can one argue that life is the prerequisite to art?
Q: The prerequisite?
D: Yeah, can art only be created by life?
Q: Yeah I think, well, not life, animals can’t create art, only something with humans’s intelligence or higher can create art.
D: So you’re saying that when I saw a chimpanzee painting, that’s not art?
D: Alright, that chimpanzee would be really upset if it could understand you.
Q: Well we have already established what is art..
D: Was making a joke there but yeah so you’re saying that life with a consciousness creates art and nothing else?
Q: The ability to create art.
D: The ability, yeah.
Q: I mean I’m not really sure if a robot with no consciousness creates something that looks like art, can we call it art? I’m still not sure about that.
D: I think at that point we would probably have a term for it.
Q: Like robot art? Haha
D: Yeah…it becomes a bit dodgy, since the process would be nigh-on indistinguishable right? It’s still just looking through what we have in our storage, in our memory, linking stuff together, forming a concept, making associations with the concept, combining those two together and forming a piece of art.
Q: I still think if the robot creates an art, it would still be a tool, and the creator is the artist.
D: Yeah well eventually there will be lawsuits of robots going “yeah that’s my art”
Q: It doesn’t have consciousness! How can it-
D: That would be a really good Star Trek episode.