Painted into corner by rise of machines

Local | 20 Apr 2017

Two fascinating articles I read centered around two men from very different fields.

The first one focused on US tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and OpenAI. He talked about how he sees it as inevitable that not only will AI - artificial intelligence - take over a lot of jobs, but more worryingly it will learn to become smarter than us with self-preservation goals, and eliminate us eventually.

Musk has decided to set out on a crusade against AI. When asked whether he wants to be the one to create a "big red button" to kill AI to stop it from inflicting harm, he says: "I'm not sure I'd want to be the one holding the kill switch for some superpowered AI, because you'd be the first thing it kills."

The second article profiled highly successful art dealer Larry Gagosian and his art empire.

In 2013 a sculpture by Jeff Koons, an artist Gagosian represents, sold at auction for US$58.4 million (HK$455.5 million) making it the most expensive piece of work by a living artist sold.

All the monetary values mentioned in that article seemed to be in the millions.

These astronomical figures for objects - with qualities perceived as subjective - mystifies this elite world of fine art collecting.

What makes art so expensive? One reason is that although a billionaire can easily buy another yacht or plane - he or she can't just order a Picasso painting when he wants - they have to bid with other equally wealthy buyers for the piece when it is made available in the market.

So the articles got me wondering: can AI ever learn to make art? Not just sketch a realistic drawing of a given object, but have an artistic voice of its own?

And if it can - will it be counted as art and priced as highly because it can create a limitless supply, as technically, it will never die? And at that point - what else will humans do that AI can't? It is a brave new world out there, and only time (or a smart AI) can tell what it will bring.

Gloria Yu is an artist, designer and citizen of the world.; instagram: gloria- yunotme

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