Welcome back to 2018, where we've been told many things in terms of the rapid development of artificial intelligence. Developers have promised to behave in order to prevent a blood and flesh culling at the hands of our potential robotic overlords, but science still moves forward. A.I. has now developed mob mentality as well as the ability to find Waldo. Filmmaker Tony Kaye is looking to cast an actual robot in his next movie, and in case that wasn't unsettling enough for all of you artists out there, get ready for this—the auction house Christie's has just sold something created by an A.I. for an insane amount of money. The robot revolution may end up being more artsy than we had imagined.
According to Vulture, the picture (it doesn't feel right calling it a painting, does it?) was billed by Christie's as being the "first portrait generated by an algorithm to come up for auction." The A.I. creation called "Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy" was estimated to go for somewhere between $7000 and $10,000. It ended up going for $432,000, so, good job science?
The item was created by a group of French students who go by the name "Obvious." The picture itself is nothing special, it really just looks like a generic white guy sitting in a generic bath of generic colors. There's a reason for that. According to Vulture, it was created by an open-source program called "GAN," which has been in use in the art world (for poster-making and such) for some time now. Obvious fed the computer 15,000 portraits that were done between the 14th and 20th centuries, and the program created an "optical common denominator" from that information. The printed image that resulted from this was apparently worth over $432,000 to an anonymous French person who bid via phone. Who among us hasn't done that?
The work isn't completely without a robotic handprint— the image below shows what could be some kind of signature. It could be something that Obvious stuck on there, but it could also be proof that the machine has become self-aware and is going to use its artistic profits to buy weapons and high-level access.
Vulture reports that the person responsible for bringing the work to Christie's in the first place just "thought it was cool" and did not know that it was made by a computer. Christie's has since told the New York Times (where the painting was compared to a Rembrandt) that this robotic bit of art was "a good way to ease buyers into works made with A.I." Yeah, we're not exactly "eased" about any of this, but thank you.
The image may be cobbled together with 1s and 0s, and Data wants to be a real human being, blah blah blah, but what really makes this work any different from a poster that you could buy in a museum gift shop? The frame? If we printed this French person some of our own art right now, how much would they potentially pay for it?
If you really think about it (and you probably shouldn't), isn't every work of art the product of an algorithm? The algorithm in question being, of course, the untold and ineffable artistic spirit of humanity? If that silly statement holds any truth, then this is far from the first algorithm-based painting to go up for auction.
The robots may not take your lives, but they may take your artistic grant money. Plan accordingly.