You may have seen a much smaller version of this piece from me before. This version can print out 6 feet wide. Below is a detail at “actual pixels”.
Here’s the eye:
And here’s the brain:
If you follow my work, you’ll recognize this as the same robot I created for my “Infinite Objectivity”, in which three robots are in a process of awakening, and being destroyed.
The theme is the same in both, but the newer one is an experiment in making larger digital brush strokes, a practice I thought I abandoned for more direct ways of rendering, but, I ended up returning to this image to finish it. “Infinite Objectify” has the same sort of “impasto” brush strokes, but you can’t see them until you get up close. Below are a few details from that piece.
Because people couldn’t see the brush strokes in the final image, because it’s just so big (about 12 feet wide, and it’s actually a triptych), I had the idea of making a much smaller image, in which the brush strokes are bigger, and then blowing it up and painting over it. I can’t just make very large brush strokes because it would really over-tax my computer. The first piece I did the more visible brush strokes on was the “Portrait of an Impasto Imposter”.
In the piece above I made large brush strokes on a small image, blew it up, and then painstakingly airbrushed over the original brushstrokes, which had been pixelated to all hell in the enlargement.
What about the content?
It’s a robot coming to life. It’s not that the robot has achieved intelligence, but rather that the intelligence has been awakened. It is “conscious” and not just intelligent (as in having a high capacity to process information). I’m skeptical that it’s possible to create artificial consciousness, though I’m very confident we could simulate it seamlessly, or nearly so. A simulation, however, is not alive, and when we are talking about being conscious, that’s what we are talking about.
My robot design, because it’s supposed to be constructed in order to achieve consciousness, has a large brain, split in two hemispheres. But this is also as if it’s mind were opening.
This theme of awakening is one I return to frequently, and you can see it in “Arrival”.
Back to the idea of whether or not we can create artificial consciousness. Generally, it appears that the people who argue that we can, also tend to reductionism. They reduce the human mind/consciousness to something like “firing neurons”, and then suppose we can replicate this process mathematically, and voila, consciousness will emerge. Or else, some like to say that artificial intelligence will just get so incredibly smart that it will figure out for itself how to awaken itself.
I see consciousness as a biological function rather than one of sheer intelligence. First came awareness, then awareness of awareness (or “self awareness”). We didn’t just get so smart that we reasoned out that we exist, or more heroically reasoned ourselves into existence, which is what we are asking computers to do. Consciousness evolved slowly over billions of years, along with increasingly sophisticated brains, as a survival mechanism and advantage. It is entirely bound up with physically existing as vulnerable, sensory biology. Well, unless it’s a spiritual thing, which, nonetheless only appears in biological creatures with highly evolved brains.
If I were part of a scientific team trying to achieve artificial consciousness, my strategy wouldn’t be to layer enough algorithms or achieve phenomenal computing power, through whatever means, but rather to start with a machine that is outfitted with sensory apparatus. I’m not sure at all that something non-biological could be alive, so, I’d start with some sort of cyborg, and try to connect the super-intelligence with the vulnerable, biological element, and the come up with factors in which it would need consciousness to survive. Now this is getting into the dark kind of sci-fi that I quite enjoy, but which can also horrify me. I really don’t like any experimentation on animals, for example.
Imagine the responsibility of creating artificial life on par with our own. We would be gods, and it would come with enormous responsibility. Not that we care as a species, which is obvious presently in our barbaric ongoing wars of opportunity.
We are a sad, sad, species in some regards, and my art about awakening consciousness tries just a bit to do just that, if you catch my meaning.
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