I didn’t mean for it to be, but this has kind of turned into a detailed account of how the the idea for The Creation of Artificial Intelligence was formed.
Early this year I read Origin by Dan Brown and promptly fell in love with Edmond Kirsch- “a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world.”
I remain convinced that Edmond’s character has at least been partially inspired by Elon Musk. Descriptions such as “Edmond has certainly never lacked confidence”, “a world- renowned maverick-a billionaire computer scientist, futurist, inventor, and entrepreneur”, “the man’s passion for books, and his capacity for absorbing their contents,” “a modern pop icon who moved in celebrity circles”, “Edmond Kirsch was said to inspire a fierce loyalty among those with whom he worked”, are typical things said about Elon, and fuel my belief. Elon is even mentioned in the book as one of Edmond’s friends.
The next month SpaceX conducted the historical launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, and I ended up doing a lot of reading about Elon and SpaceX. Being besotted with a fictional character is tough, and long story short I transferred my attentions to Elon, whom I was already very much in awe of. I’m getting to the bit about artificial intelligence, I promise.
Origin revolves around religion, science, atheism, quantum computing, and most importantly, artificial intelligence. I’d say there are three important, broad points of view when it comes to the discussion about artificial intelligence-
- The first, that AI will never develop enough to overtake humans in any capacity.
- The second, that AI will overtake humans and possibly turn against us. (Roko’s Basilisk is an interesting thought experiment.)
- The third, that AI will aid us in our evolution as a species, almost, you could say, merging with us, hence enabling us to ascend to a more evolved version of ourselves. Many say this has already begun, with engineers working on things such as nano-robots that swim through your blood to remove from it tiny bacteria or cholesterol particles. In fact, Elon has said that we are already close to being cyborgs, as our phones and devices are basically extensions of our arms these days.
I personally believe, along with Edmond Kirsch, that the third scenario is the most likely. Elon on the the other hand is concerned about how rapidly AI is being developed, and that we have reached a stage of no return; an apprehension which led to him co-founding Open AI, a non-profit AI research company that aims to promote and develop friendly AI in such a way as to benefit humanity as a whole. Another interesting and relevant company he co-founded is Neuralink, which is reported to be developing implantable brain-computer interfaces. Wait But Why reported in April 2017 that Musk said the company aims to make devices to treat serious brain diseases in the short-term, with the eventual goal of human enhancement.
In April, Chris Paine released a documentary titled Do You Trust This Computer, about the dangers of AI. I wouldn’t say it was revolutionary, but it was definitely interesting, dramatic, and informative – to those who are unfamiliar with the subject at least.
At this point I had begun exploring the idea of more scientific or technological influences in my artwork. I also read a quote by Mary Shelley from Frankenstein- “You are my creator, but I am your Master,” now quite popularised by those advocating against unregulated AI development. A quick re-read of Frankenstein revealed another fitting quote- “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel..” (the “fallen angel” referring to Lucifer. This is inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost.) (I found the entire book a potential eery analogy to the development of AI.) That quote coupled with my love for Renaissance art pushed the idea of an adaptation of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel mural into my head.
I learnt a lot about AI this year and truthfully it was because of Origin and the twitter buzz that was created after Do You Trust; I wanted to paint something that would include Edmond Kirsch’s vision, Elon Musk’s fears, and my desire to create something simple but impactful and something related to pop culture that wouldn’t go over people’s heads.
By the time I finished the painting it was end September, even though I had started working on sketches for it in July. I documented the entire process on Twitter, where I knew barely anyone would see it. I’m now attaching all the work in progress photos as well as the final painting here.
The first sketches
“We are now perched on a strange cusp of history, a time when the world feels like it’s been turned upside down, and nothing is quite as we imagined. But uncertainty is always a precursor to sweeping change; transformation is always preceded by upheaval and fear. I urge you to place your faith in the human capacity for creativity and love, because these two forces, when combined, possess the power to illuminate any darkness.”
“May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies. May our compassion keep pace with our powers. And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.”
– Edmond Kirsch