Most agree that AI will be the defining technology of our time, but our predictions tend to differ wildly. Either AI will become the perfect servant, ushering in a new era of productivity and leisure one weather report at a time (Hi, Alexa), or it’ll master us, consigning humanity to the ash heap of biological history (I see you, Elon).
But there’s a slice of gray in between we should consider: What if AI became a peer and a collaborator, rather than a servant or an overlord?
Let’s use art as an example. The history of art and the history of technology have always been intertwined. In fact, artists—and whole movements—are often defined by the tools available to make the work. The precision of flint knives (the high technology of the Stone Age) allowed humans to sculpt the first pieces of figurative art out of mammoth ivory. The Old Masters used camera obscura to render scenes of extraordinary depth. In 2018, artists work in every media available to them, such as fluorescence microscopy, 3D bioprinting, and mixed reality, further stretching the possibilities of self-expression and investigation.
The defining art-making technology of our era will be AI. But this won’t be the kind of artificial intelligence of our past imagination—it’ll be the augmented intelligence of the present. While “artificial intelligence” still evokes the idea of autonomous machines that, after a period of algorithmic maturation, will ruthlessly and inevitably surpass their human makers, “augmented intelligence” reflects the pragmatic truth of the situation: sophisticated technologies that enhance our capabilities, but still require human intelligence to define rules and steer the way.
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