Rise of the Robots - Crafts Magazine Fall/Winter 2023
Short article on so-called Artificial Intelligence and creativity for Crafts magazine.
In his 1994 article The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology, social anthropologist Alfred Gell suggests that the power of great objects of human art, craft and ingenuity lies in their technical accomplishment. The profound spiritual resonance of great religious artworks, for example, is a result of them being incredible human achievements that the viewer might struggle to comprehend and so attribute to divine forces, just as the astonishing skill of a glassmaker, woodcarver, a potter or embroiderer might appear to be supernatural.
A similar process has been well documented when it comes to artificial intelligence and predictive systems: the apparently superhuman virtuosity of machines when playing ‘complex’ games such as chess or ‘Go’, or when recognising images and interacting with humans, imbues them with seemingly superhuman prowess. This is often exploited by tech companies, which draw on magical or mystical terminology in describing how they work. This is, perhaps, why engineers and tech companies are attracted to art: it allows them to activate enchantment as a way of demonstrating the power of AI. As Gell identified: if machines can make great art or craft they must surely meet, if not exceed, the human.