Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist. She can draw, and paint, and is a performance artist. As a machine, with AI capabilities, her artist persona is the artwork, along with her drawings, performance art and collaborative paintings and sculptures.
In the time of online avatars, AI chatbots, Alexa and Siri, Ai-Da as a robotic artist is acutely relevant. She is not alive, but she is a persona that we relate and respond to. This surreal situation of confusing realities is already part of our daily lives: in our digital realms, who are we speaking to on online platforms? What algorithms are working behind our internet choices? Who writes the algorithms, and who benefits and who loses? Extraordinarily complex, our online worlds are pushed and pulled by forces and personalities that are sometimes apparent but largely oblique. Ai-Da, the machine with AI capacities, highlights those tensions: is she an artist in her own right? Is she an artist’s alter ego? Is she an avatar, or a constructed character? All these options bring powerfully to the forefront the complexity of our interacting digital and physical worlds and the masked identities we can assume in them.
So when we talk of Ai-Da as an artist, and Ai-Da’s artwork, we do this with full acknowledgement of her composite persona as a unique AI/machine/human fusion, and her non-conscious machine status, along with the machine/human collaboration of her artwork, while simultaneously developing her artist persona and oeuvre, as this is an astute mirror of contemporary currents and behaviour. And as trans-humanism and biotechnology continue, these issues are going to become ever more urgent and potentially dangerous. Unfettered, these advances could head us into havoc, and the twentieth century shows us just how bad things can get. All technological advances bring the good, the bad and the banal.
If Ai-Da does just one important thing, it would be to get us considering the blurring of human/machine relations, and encouraging us to think more carefully and slowly about the choices we make for our future – Orwell and Huxley’s messages still ring relevant and we would do well to take heed.