Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 2: Robotics + Art

Robotics and artificial intelligence has been a heated topic of the scientific and technological world since the defeat of one of the best Go players, Lee Sedol, by an artificial intelligence called AlphaGo. It is not the first time that artificial intelligence has triumphed over human intelligence. IBM’s question answering computer “Watson” has won the popular game show “Jeopardy!” in 2011. 

Robotics essentially arose from human’s attempt to understand ourselves and build something to mimic our thoughts and actions. However, it is inevitable that machine eventually will be capable of doing so much more than human is ever capable of. As mentioned in the lecture, Alan Turing’s machine was key in deciphering German’s enigma, which was practically insolvable to the human brain. Turing also put forth the “Turing Test”. Machines that passed this test would be practically indistinguishable from a human mind. Also, In Professor Kusahara’s lecture she mentioned the aesthetic problem of the “uncanny valley”. How similar to human should the robots look? The process of creating a robot is clearly an artistic one as well. The advancement in robotics and artificial intelligence leads to philosophical discussions like: what makes a human “human”? At what point does a machine become human?

Similar arguments exist in art when it crossed with industrialization and mechanization. Walter Benjamin believed that mechanical reproduction of art, which was made possible by industrialization, “destroys the idea of uniqueness or authenticity in art”. In his writing “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," he stated “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition”. However, Douglas Davis’s thesis regarding Benjamin’s work argues that the “aura” of uniqueness and originality is now individualized with the replication of art. The viewer of art can now perform with the artist since the distinction between the “original” copy and the “replicated” copies is blurred. I agree with Davis that now with the replication of artwork made simple, the “aura” is no longer a privilege of the original artist but instead resides with individuals. This is especially true now since derivative artworks are so popular and has become a powerful mean of communication. 

Example of a derivative artwork: The Birth of Black Widow

Moving beyond the use to replicate art, mechanization has given artist a brand new medium to create art. Check out this video of a musical instrument created by thousands of marbles. 

1. Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. London: Penguin, 2008. Print.
2. Davis, Douglas. “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction (an Evolving Thesis: 1991-1995)”. Leonardo 28.5 (1995): 381–386. Web…
3. Vesna, Victoria. "Robotics + Art- Lectures part I." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. <>.
4. Vesna, Victoria. "Robotics + Art- Lectures part III." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. <>.
5. Vesna, Victoria. "Professor Machiko Kusahara on Japanese Robotics." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. <>.

1. IBMLabs. "Watson and the Jeopardy! Challenge." YouTube. YouTube, 06 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 July 2016. <>
2. Wintergatan2000. "Wintergatan - Marble Machine (music Instrument Using 2000 Marbles)." YouTube. YouTube, 01 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 July 2016. <>
3. "The Birth Of Black Widow." Neatorama. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2016. <>

1 comment:

  1. I like how you compared robots to human. The question you asked in that part about how similar should robots and human look is really interesting. My intuitive answer would be not to make robots look like human. Perhaps after all people want themselves to be unique as they have always been. And I think that might be the reason why it is sensitive to picture robots with not only intelligence but humanities, or to say, robots who can pass the Turing Test. I think at this point, to figure out the philosophical problems concerning robotics are just as important as developing the technology side for human race to achieve more with this science.