Generative Art – Computers, Data, and Humanity | Off Book | PBS


Generative art is artwork that has a process with multiple possibilities. [you’re] basically using a gizmo That’s designed to help you. Do your taxes to try to make something that’s equivalent to stradivarius Violin They’re really part of humanity. [I] don’t think you can separate humanity from these technologies And still call it humanity at this point. My objective is to recreate the essence of life in digital form So generative art is a practice where basically you surrender control over some aspect of what’s going down? to a process right so now I just have to come up with a really amazing way to take that information and and Visualize it or turn it into music this century is the century of data that’s going to be the defining thing Last century was [a] century of electricity What I’m really doing is essentially portraiture, right? I’m looking at America, and I’m looking at our culture And I’m looking at the data of our culture and trying to make sense of it [so] [like] the last big string quartet that I did was a piece called hard data Where I took the casualty stream of the Iraq war and turn it into a six movement string quartet So there’s a movement for all the dead man and for the dead women and the dead children and the dead soldiers and the people Who’ve gone missing and the people who become [refugees]? Right and so what you do is you take the time line on the [war]? And you say okay? It’s been going on for eight [years] now. Let’s say that eight years has to fit in eight minutes so that means we have to have 365 days worth of events in one minute [so] [what’s] the tempo of that you know and how do we make it so that a day becomes like a measure music Fifty people get killed that day that means this drink word has to play [fifty] notes in that measure Right and so that if you plot [it] that way What you end up with is you end up with a musical ARc that tracks the ARC of the conflict right? This is big Crescendo at the beginning right with the invasion And then it drops off And then there’s a slow crescendo as the insurgency builds and then it drops off and then there was the sort of 2008 surge ends the reason I did that is because The Iraq war is the first conflict in the united states where we have more data than knowledge more of us [know] the numbers of that war that have any experience of it Most people think of the computer as your slave now. It does what you tell it to but for me That’s not very exciting because you tell it to do acts, and then it does x and there’s no surprise. There’s no There’s no punchline in Its simplest form [the] [electric] [sheep] is a screensaver there are about four hundred and fifty thousand users, and when you’re not using your computer it connects to the network and Thereby to all the other users all those computers work together as a supercomputer to render these Animations as everybody is watching the screensaver. You can interact with it and Respond to it and it uses thumbs up for life and thumbs down for death and The images that are more popular mate with each other [and] reproduce they have children So the images evolve in order to Satisfy the desires of the audience in addition to the [screensaver] you can download the genetic editor and you can tinker with the design and Make your own and that upload it back into the system It gets rendered by the network and shows up on everybody’s screen And if they’re popular you know they will start interbreeding with the evolved ones My objective is to make people realize That you know there can be a soul in the ones and zeros just like one cell might be simple But a billion of them creates a mind and has some kind of spirit computers are the same way you know one computer is mechanical but a million computers You know if they’re programmed if they’re organized correctly can create something truly magical Humanity you know is being transformed by our technology in a really interesting way, you know it’s kind of amplifying Not only our individual creativity our expression, but it’s also allowing us [to] Glue together Specialized online communities these are almost like you know [high-level] brains higher level than any one individual that are capable of things if no one individual could [dip] in spore that you know the Whole game is a galaxy of literally millions of planets each one of those planets has you know complete Ecosystem of creatures and plants Huge wide variety of creations we want you know the average person to be able to create an asset [almost] level of a pixar artist and So they did it by manipulating. You know a fairly small number of variables and the computer within that point for you Have a [text] [read] how to animate it how it sounded all these different things normally it would take Weeks to kind of fill in all those assets. We taught the computer to do that you know no matter of second sport in [some] [sense] becomes [this] kind of collective fantasy between the whole different players your buddies kind of Building their own fantasy world around fantasy creatures At the same time [those] going to [see] creatures and planets and whatnot are going up to the neck and populating other people’s worlds So at some point you can move out [of] your own little local fantasy and start interacting with other [peoples] creatures and races ETC or finding out is that there’s this really partnership that we have with computers? Humans are really good at kind of mining our own intelligence into a useful format that we can reuse it And so that partnership. I think you know is turning out to be kind of a [surprise] Every culture will use a maximum level of technology Available to it to make art we’ve been thinking about the concept of AI for so long one day computers would Act like people and replace us That’s a really interesting Creative challenge for [Musicians] for artists to try to negotiate that space of like we’ve got all these gizmos But what does that say about? if we realize that the machine is really part of us then that will enable our merger with the [machine] and Ultimately with each other and I think our future would be much brighter

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