Some thoughts about creativity and so-called ‘AI’

When Kubrick and Aldiss were talking about the early drafts of – you guessed it – the film A.I. (based on Aldiss’s Supertoys short story) they got to talking about how to make the ultimate big daft science fiction movie, to the point of actually setting out a basic structure.

And what that structure was, was Star Wars. Ruefully, Kubrick and Aldiss realised what they’d done and moved on to make the A.I. film, which [spoiler alert] is about a robot boy bought to replace another child who is in a coma. The robot boy is programmed to receive love, and a tender relationship with the mother develops. Then the biological boy wakes up, and the robot boy is rejected. It is a genuinely astonishing first act, and apart from Jude Law as a sex android and some weird robots in the future, is the only reason to watch it.

My point is that the robot boy CANNOT CHANGE. He is unable to move on and accept that he has served his purpose and is no longer required. This happens to humans all the time, and will happen a lot more thanks to the kind of upward-failing male psychopath loser who is always rewarded by our snivelling worship of economics, and who with the cunning of a rabid weasel sees the new algorithms rattling about as a way to stave off the day when his incompetence is exposed.

In other words, we evolve. And by evolve I don’t mean store or munch through data quicker, because that is unworthy of our genius. I mean genuinely change through a unique process of creation, suffering, illogical stupid hope, and bloody mindedness.

Which brings me back to Star Wars. The reason it is my favourite film is that its creation, theme, and emotional resolution are ALL THE SAME THING. It was put together by young people with no idea what they were doing, and who literally had to invent an entire industry as they went along just to realise some crazy stuff about a boy who can manipulate the fabric of the universe with his mind, filtered through a Western/Samurai/World War 2/Flash Gordon odyssey that breaks all the rules by not even letting us meet the hero until almost 40 minutes in.

At the moment of ultimate peril, the hero abandons his computer because screw that machine crap, listens to the voice of an old madman that ONLY HE CAN HEAR, and trusts his instincts, truth, and the magic of creation to save the day for everyone (including the machines). The whole thing fizzes with demented creativity, because that is what it’s about. Form and content are one in the way a machine would not have the wit to even risk.

See how much more love I have for it than for the overworked A.I. – which despite its pedigree and heavy-handed symbolism isn’t really about anything (eg there is no act two).

And from that rant back to the silly little programs we’re all so worried about, which aren’t really AI because not only are they not sentient, they are little more than devices to manage databases (including copying the contents). They will end up doing what Kubrick and Aldiss tried to do, but without the humour and wisdom to see the truth of it.

Instead, what will be produced won’t even be a Star Wars knock off, but a frame-by-frame glossy remake, kind of like the 1997 re-release with computer graphics that somehow looked worse than a guy dressed up and some puppets. And… It will have all the soul of the prequels.

Now imagine that for everything. This outcome won’t be because database algorithms are bad, but because like all new technology only a few people know how they work, which makes stopping their abuse impossible until it’s too late.

The answer is, as always, rejection of false binaries and embrace of creative chaos. For the avoidance of doubt, ‘creative chaos’ isn’t a free for all that lets the Nazis get even more power than they already have. It’s the ferocious creation of the genuinely new, which is only possible with… [drumroll]… humanity.

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