We spend a lot of time trying to create ways of replicating the way humans behave. But why?
Have we ever critically analyzed why we need things done for us? Sure, some devices and machines actually do things better than humans, others save time. Others make our lives easier, but at what cost? Do we loose part of what it means to be human when we do this? Imagine what our lives would be like if we ate pills as meal replacements? (Not theoretically possible, because although pills can provide minerals and vitamins, they can’t provide calories). Our lives would become infinitely less fulfilled because we all but elude the taste, or feel of food.
Our perception of things is also different to machines. Humans see beyond the two-dimensional realm that a machine sees. We see depth in paintings, and the appreciation of the craft. Consider the painting below, Fugevilt (Wild Birds) painted circa 1660 by Dutch artist Jan Vonck (1631-1664). This is the partial description from the gallery in Bergen:
“This still life follows a Baroque formula for presenting dead animals, flowers and objects. The birds are on a table and seen against a dark background. They appear decorative yet are depicted with a large degree of realism. The artist’s skill is related to the richness of detail.”
The painting is a marvel with exceptional detail. Could a machine create a similar painting? From the “object” perspective of being able to replicate the painting, likely yes. From the intellectual perspective, no, because a machine cannot infuse the same aesthetic qualities an artist can. There are a load of articles on how AI can reproduce art, but it’s just not the same. Who cares if a machine can paint something? We have a planet full of talented people that can do that – *why* do we need a machine?
To me it’s the difference between reading a physical book and an electronic book. Both have the same content, but the physical book portrays the content in a more humanistic manner. It’s not just about reading the words, it’s about picking up the book, feeling its physicality, or triggering a memory of some sort. Electronic books just don’t have the same feeling, or character. Or maybe hand carving a spoon – sure I could likely program a CNC machine to machine a wooden spoon out of just about any material, but the hand-carved spoon has intrinsic value – it reminds us of our link to the earth (something far too many humans seem to have forgotten). It is an object which has both humanistic and tactile sensibilities, unlike the sterility of the machine-made aesthetic.
Machines and progress are all good and well, but if we loose what it means to be human, what does any of it really matter?
P.S. People would be better off spending their time designing machines that can autonomously clean up all the crappy plastic (that science helped create), that is now polluting the worlds oceans.