Technology is advancing faster than we realize, sometimes quicker than we have time to keep up and often created before there was a chance to debate its ethical and social ramifications. My art series #ArtAboutAI attempts to use art as a medium to raise awareness about advances in artificial intelligence in efforts to advance public thinking and debate on technologies that are changing our human experience from birth to death.
The Art Piece
The piece “I can complete you” explores the relationships humans are having and will have with artificial intelligence. It features friendly boxy shaped robot that is reminiscent of the retro futuristic robots shared in our collective imagination. The robot is composed of hundreds of square mirror rhinestones and heart shaped rhinestones shaped in a heart to represent its heart. It has a talk bubble where the robot tells the viewer “I can complete you” — the letters formed with heart shaped red rhinestones. The text forcing the viewer to grapple with the proposal that a machine, one with artificial intelligence, could possibly ‘complete’ an individual the way another human would. The red hearts suggest that the relationship could also be romantic in nature. Above the head of the robot is a halo made of champagne colored thin tipped oval shaped rhinestones. The halo invites the viewer to accept or reject the notion that technology is value-neutral. The mixed media of white textured paint, varied rhinestones shapes and colors are meant to pull the viewer into the details with each return to the painting to discover more visual layers.
The 3D printed frame continues the thought with the inner most frame juxtaposing human organ hearts and digital heart shapes converging outwards through circuit lines that take organic curved forms as if they were ivy vines. This is meant to show the emerging fluidity between humans and digital environments and technology. The next frame layers are cubes that visually complement the robot squares, but also elude to the data building blocks that are currently being laid out to create artificial intelligence as human as possible. Inside the frame there are two hidden secret compartments which can be found by following the heart outwards.
The Three Types of Artificial Intelligence and Human Relationships
At first glance this piece may seem to portray an unrealistic future. And if it were to be realistic, it would be a scenario that other generations would have to contend to, perhaps in another era in the 2100s. However, this is not true, human relationships with artificial already exist, here are the three forms that exist and are improving with each day.
Artificial Intelligence Relationships in the Cloud
This is a type of relationship that many people in industrialized countries already have. It’s the relationship with Amazon’s Alexa, with Apple’s Siri, with Google Go and other similar interfaces. I characterize these as relationships because they have access to our emails, schedules, shopping and daily routines, knowing more than spouses and close friends would know. They also have voice interface which makes it possible to interact with them as we interact with other humans.
Young children today are the first generation to grow up with ubiquitous AI. As they interact with various forms of AI they are also developing relationships with it. Amazon Alexa is a popular AI that kids grow up with and they are using her to take homework shortcuts, having conversations with her interests (mostly unresponsive at this stage), inviting her to sleep over parties, and allow her to be the arbitrator of disputes. In the adult realm AI mental health and wellness use cases are being developed. Romantically there are gamified digital sims that humans can have relationships that could be considered to the AI-Human relationship in the movie Her. It is also possible to curate the personality of your romantic AI companion to be passive, kind, domineering, cruel, jealous and/or intellectual. An even more interesting relationship will derive from artificial intelligence that has been created with an individual’s data, creating a digital AI clone of a real human. Deepak Chopra is the first public figure to digitally clone himself, and make his AI virtual self available for others to interact with and seek guidance from.
Artificial Intelligence Relationships with Humanoid Robots
Robotics is rapidly growing field which is experiencing tremendous innovation in manufacturing, medicine, agriculture and the military to name a few. It has also been quietly making advancements in replicating human bodies in mimicking hair, skin, eyes, movement and frame. Humanoid robots have been used as credible receptionists and are also purchased for companionship and sexual purposes. (note: there are a wide range of companion robots that do not have human-like form)
The documentary “Hi AI” does a wonderful job at observing human — robot relationships of all kinds without judgement or prejudice. Perhaps we may see Alexa take a humanoid form and be a nanny, or companion that keeps a loved one company in the hospital. With 47% of Americans claiming they feel lonely perhaps there is a robotic space to address this modern day epidemic of loneliness. It is likely that some people may even seek to marry their robot companions and include them in their will. In some countries marrying robots may alleviate the gender gap. Ultimately humanoid robots offer a new form of physical In Real Life (#IRL) AI relationship, an option that previously didn’t exist.
Artificial Intelligence Relationships that are Immersive in Nature
A type of AI-human relationship that may have been difficult to anticipate is an immersive one that takes place in Virtual Reality. I am not referring to being a passive observer in VR engaging with a form of AI avatar with a predetermined set of dialogue. Instead I am referring to entering a virtual reality space where there are character how have a story line that includes sets of emotional dispositions.
Characters who with artificial intelligence, natural language processing and cloud storage are able to dynamically engage with you and directly acknowledge humans in their virtual space. It would be like meeting up with a human who remembers what was discussed in the previous conversations and picks up where previous conversations left off. These characters can be from fictional and non-fictional stories. With time there will be copyrighted characters and AI-(medical, legal, romantic, therapy) Relationship-As-A-Service. Because this takes place in virtual reality, the bounds of what physically exists do not apply and this relationship can be experienced inside the bottom of a volcano, on top of a whale, in a balcony in a building the best virtual neighborhood on one of Saturn’s rings. Because these experiences are not realistic in the physical world, it does not mean that the memories, emotions and thoughts derived from those environments will not be real or lasting. Humans can interact with other humans in that environment and even with AI characters in that environment who can acknowledge more than one human in a conversation. An example of this is Fable’s Lucy. The founder of Lucy calls artificial intelligence as “the next great art form”.
These are the types of conversations my painting “I can complete you” hopes to bring about. Just as human relationships of all kinds help us grow, learn and explore different sides of our relationships, artificial intelligence relationships have the possibility to do the same thing. This is not something that is a part of an elusive future. It is very much in our present which has not yet gained critical mass. Now is the right time to more openly discuss our new relationships with artificial intelligence and thoughtfully ascribe the values we wish to place on this new and growing part of our lives.
Here is a short video with more detail of the art piece:
Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos (@Lkcyber) is a Strategy and Innovation Advisor who loves to experiment and push the bounds of the possible. She helps her clients posture themselves to make the most of new technologies in the context of changing and emerging trends. She is currently conducting strategic research on technology and the future operating environment for the J5 at the U.S. Special Operations Command. She addressed the United Nations member states at the CCW GGE meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and keynotes at technology and national security conferences. She speaks and writes on disruptive technology convergence, innovation, tech ethics, and national security. In efforts to raise awareness on AI and ethics she makes reflectional art #ArtAboutAI, and made a game about emerging technology and ethics called Sapien2.0 .