– No Tears in the Loss Landscape –
In her essay Does HAL Cry Digital Tears?, Rosalind W. Picard mentions how an intelligent compu-ter—HAL from 2001: a Space Odyssey to be specific—achieves aesthetic appreciation. As she reports, HAL expresses a certain judgment about a drawing made by his human friend; “that is a nice ren-dering, Dave. I think you’ve improved a great deal,” HAL declares.
Delving into the role that emotions play in the interaction between humans and machines, Picard highlights the breakthrough of a computer enjoying a pretty artwork. If emotions are important for the computer of the future, for its proper functioning in an efficient society, the very sophisticated emotion of aesthetic pleasure must be the end of the quest for this computer perfection; a true Eu-reka moment.
Picard adds that the mere realism of Dave’s drawing is of course not sufficient to justify the com-puter’s positive review of it. No proper art connoisseur would be content with a merely realistic drawing, and neither would a proper mechanised art connoisseur. The sophisticated HAL critic is more than an image matcher. HAL understands art, and takes pleasure from it. It even expresses an opinion: “what a nice rendering, Dave.”
Towards the end of her essay, Picard concludes with a classic question, that is whether computers can be creative. Interesting or not, this question swings with anthropomorphism. It asks us to think of an autonomous computer behaving like a real person, a replicant going to an art exhibition and fool us around with the perfect imitation of an exhibition goer. A fair achievement indeed, but should we really be content with imitation?
Text by Piero Bisello