Home > Article > Houston Artletter > They’re coming

I was in a grim mood yesterday, and I was thinking about whether intelligent machines would really someday take over from people, and if so, what they would think about our art. So much of what we like is conditioned by our peculiar human idiosyncrasies that to an outsider (like an intelligent machine) it might seem nonsensical, like the way squirrels when frightened by a car sometimes leap back into the road only to be squashed. To a cyber-mind, decoding our art would be like guessing at the motivations of wandering ants. To another ant, those jerky detours around invisible obstacles make perfect sense. Perhaps the second ant is silently applauding the first ant's clever and sensitive interpretation of the classic "random foraging" paradigm.

Smart-alec candy machines quiz you before they'll put out.

Oh, yes, they're coming. And, like this art and technology experiment at MIT, they're here to give us a hard time.

Notice the flabby, mis-shapen characterization of the physical world in this diagram. That's us. The orderly structure above is the mechanical intelligence descending to squash it. It's easy to see who "wears the pants" in this relationship.

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