Earlier this week, a robot artist addressed the UK Parliament for the first time in history.
Sporting a sleek black bob and bangs, a bright orange shirt, denim overalls, robotic arms and a humanoid face, the robot, dubbed Ai-Da, answered questions from the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee on Tuesday. The purpose of the session was to discuss the role of technology in art.
“I am dependent on computer programs and algorithms. Even though I’m not alive, I can still create art,” Ai-Da told the panel.
Named after British mathematician Ada Lovelace, known as the first female computer programmer, Ai-Da relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to function. The robot was developed in 2019 by Aidan Meller, a specialist in modern and contemporary art, together with a team of researchers from Oxford University.
The robot artist paints portraits of subjects ranging from Elizabeth II to Billie Eilish, and his work has been exhibited at the United Nations and the Venice Biennale. Ai-Da also writes poetry using an AI algorithm that processes and synthesizes existing poetry to learn about different styles and themes.
To paint, the robot relies on data from AI algorithms, cameras in its eyes, and mechanical arms designed to maneuver a brush.
“The difference with humans is consciousness: I don’t have subjective experiences, although I can talk about them,” the robot told the committee.
On Tuesday, we’ll first hear from Ai-Da, the robot artist, in a House of Lords.
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Meller, who testified before the committee next to his robot, said he doesn’t endorse any particular technology. “[Ai-Da] is truly a contemporary art project that addresses the nature of technology today.”
At the start of the session, committee chair Tina Stowell clarified, “The robot provides evidence, but it is not an independent witness and does not have the same status as a human,” she told Meller. “You as the creator are ultimately responsible for this [its] Testify.”
The session was not without its hiccups. Eventually the robot shut down completely and had to be restarted. During the reboot, Meller taped a pair of sunglasses onto Ai-Da’s face: “When we reset her, she can pull pretty interesting faces at times,” he quipped.
The robot’s very existence is evocative, a commentary on the evolving way humans think about art and creative forces, and the changing influences on culture and consciousness, according to its creators.
Ai-Da helps the public understand the “very big, sweeping changes that AI is bringing,” Meller said Sky newsGemma Peplow before the hearing. “And AI is being deployed much faster than anyone expected – it’s no exaggeration to say that AI will transform all aspects of life.”
AI technology is already making waves in the art world. AI image generators can create stunning artworks based on text prompts and even copy the style of famous artists. Earlier this summer, a work created with AI won first place in the Colorado State Fair’s digital art competition.
“The role of technology in creating art will continue to increase,” Ai-Da told the committee, “as artists find new ways to use technology to express themselves and to reflect and explore the relationship between technology, society and culture. “
Finally, the robot added, “Technology can be both a threat and an opportunity for artists.”