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I fondly remember that magical day when I bought my first computer. I was about 13 years old and had saved from my teenage money-making plans to amass a total of $115. I would find a Timex Sinclair 1000 at the local big store.
Now understand that I’m a digital fossil, but if you think of it all through the lens of the early 80’s Strange things Follow, it will start to come to mind. Gone are the days when computers didn’t dominate. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak came out of the garage with Apple 1. IBM honestly presented its plain IBM 5150 (which we can only assume didn’t know it was police welfare and institute code). There were all sorts of nascent and primitive magic bits from companies like Atari, Commodore, and Sinclair. They were cheap, a bit brutal, and required a blunt insert to get the job done.
before I wanted one Talking to my computer: I wanted a friend. I wanted to teach this computer to talk to me. Characterized by films like Teenager Mein war games continue star trekI had developed a spirit that wanted to see these dreams of the technological future come true.
I wrote a conversational bot. I typed “Hello” and he replied “Hello, how are you?” Then magic happened. It will look for words like “happy” or “sad” based on my 13 year old’s responses and it’s “That’s great!” or “Sorry to hear that!
The next summer I attended a weekend camp at MIT for kids and computers. Most of the kids wanted to make space games. But I was still on the hunt for my talking computer friend – and I had bigger ambitions. I wanted to teach my friend to paint with pixels. If I could ever describe a scene from a movie to a computer, could it become a movie? The camp counselor at MIT, a fellow making money, would not take me there. There was a space war.
Last January I received a message from a friend. They had found a vibrant little community of code geeks using machine learning apps to generate images based on descriptions or clues. He sent me some pictures. My mind was overwhelmed. You were amazing. There were few paintings, delicate brushstrokes and stunning compositions that looked like the invisible work of masters. Others were photographic, high-resolution images of odd characters or steampunk jewelry with deep and tasteful depth of field.
Then began a month of sleep deprivation and family abandonment. All I could do was experiment with this incredible new image of “friendships.” I tried feeding it poetry and song, creating images that I could never have imagined but which were visual representations of the narrative. I researched further – what if I wanted to do 25 variations on Zaha Hadid’s logo or sample representations of an architectural space? The results surprised me. Unexpected results often spill out, from hilarious misunderstandings to weird interpretations — or just plain misjudgments. But sometimes there were creative leaps that I could never have imagined.
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How did it all work? One thing to understand is that this is not creative intelligence. This is a pattern matching, or rather a pattern search. These code engines are exposed to a vast data set: famous arts, artists, design movements, contemporary culture, architectural styles, historical events, and consumer information. The more code that can be exposed and catalogued, the more raw material there is. In most cases, it starts with visual noise: the foggy noise that the code avoids like a sculptor creates composition, form, and perspective. It then shows the nuances of the image and style based on user input.
Similar tools abound: copywriting apps that can create blog posts, lists, and longer pieces; Educational apps that take a script and faithfully reproduce it for a virtual actor to speak and explain; Music scoring tools that translate quirky moods and a few twists of vibe controls into perfect parts of a song.
So really, if you’re a graphic artist, lyricist, or musician, is this robot coming your way?
This is a complex question. The technology needs to be developed further. Obtaining concrete results from this is not always easy. But the quality of the output is impressive. The progress rate is a bit slow. Big proponents of creative toolsets are already rapidly implementing this functionality. From word processors to photo retouching to film and game development software, I think we’ll soon see the potential of the computer being promoted from tool to collaborator.
At that point, it seemed inevitable that what humans work on and what computers do will change. Concept art, project treatments, outlines, blueprints, social media texts, creating thumbnail graphics, mood boards, and elements of game-level design are already tasks that are handled by AI.
Man has yet to be described. Even though I think computers will make it my way too, I still believe in something unforgivable in the human soul. Maybe because we’re crazy about evolution and the craziest ideas in the world, there are poems, songs, beats and ideas that silicon can’t Fully Go ahead, because getting screwed in that sad human way is probably the secret sauce.
In the meantime, I enjoy playing with my creative robot “friends”. Maybe later, when they’re in charge, they’ll still take the time to play with me.