Monday, October 10, 2016

Is Art For Humans Only?

Google's Deep Dream is amazing, if you haven't seen any of the pictures it generates I recommend checking it out. To talk about the results of Deep Dream is simple, it is psychedelic art.

Deep Dream was essentially made as a way to visualize what happens in a convolutional neural network. At the time of conception (and still now) much of what happens inside a neural network is invisible to us, a black box function analyzing data. The goal of Deep Dream was to visualize what happens by measuring change via a picture. By training it to recognize faces and classify images the neural network could output what it thought it was recognizing. However, what this led to was crazy art, Dali-esque images on landscapes and backgrounds. I could speak more here about neural networks and back propagation, but I would rather focus on another aspect of this program.

Ignoring the fact that Deep Dream doesn't actually do anything, it is still interesting as a thought exercise about what is art, and does this qualify?

In class we have had the discussion numerous times about what is intelligence and how do we classify it, and I think that art is a very poignant topic. It doesn't have a pure function for existence, it is more of an existential quest. The fact that we can have computers create art (or something close to it) is a very strong indication to me about how far artificial intelligence has come. You could argue that Deep Dream still needs a seed image, and that might not be wrong. But I think the process it follows greatly mirrors the human creative process.

The fact Deep Dream had to train on large amounts of data to be able to "create" this images is just like an artist has to train for years before they master their medium. Not to mention, years of living as a human also trains the brain in some way to process things visually. And then is having a seed image truly that different from an idea? Every artist has to start from some idea, some initial concept that motivates them to bring the brush to the canvas, or charcoal to paper. The style might be similar for every picture, but aren't all artists famous for a style they pioneered?

I think from some perspectives Deep Dream has more in common with a humans creative process then people would like to admit.

Note I don't think Deep Dream is totally there in all aspects yet; however, it is quite a significant step towards artificial intelligence. It isn't measuring things in purely in what is the lowest cost to get from A to B, instead it is actually creating something novel and interesting.

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