The ominous robots that populate the realms of “The Terminator,” I Robot,” “Westworld,” and “Blade Runner” typically spring to mind when people think of artificial intelligence. For many years, science fiction has informed us that artificial intelligence is frequently employed for evil rather than good.
But we don’t normally equate AI with art or poetry, but Ai-Da, a highly lifelike robot created by Aidan Meller in Oxford, central England, spends her time doing just that. Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic humanoid robot artist, and she performed poems she produced using her algorithms in honour of the famous Italian poet Dante on Friday.
The performance took place as part of an exhibition commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death at the University of Oxford’s famed Ashmolean Museum. Ai-poetry Da’s was inspired by Dante’s epic “Divine Comedy,” which she read in its entirety, allowing her to use her algorithms to take inspiration from Dante’s speech patterns and create her own work utilising her own data bank of words.
Ai-Da’s poem was described was “deeply emotive” by Meller and includes the following verse:
“We looked up from our verses like blindfolded captives,
Sent out to seek the light; but it never came
A needle and thread would be necessary
For the completion of the picture.
To view the poor creatures, who were in misery,
That of a hawk, eyes sewn shut.”
Meller said that Ai-Da’s ability to imitate human writing is “so great, if you read it you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t written by a human” and told CNN that when Ai-Da was reading her poem on Friday evening, “it was easy to forget that you’re not dealing with a human being.”
On June 5, 2019, Aidan Meller poses with Ai-Da during the opening of its first solo show in Oxford.
“The Ai-Da project was developed to address the debate over the ethics of further developing AI to imitate humans and human behavior,” Meller told CNN. “It’s finally dawning on us all that technology is having a major impact on all aspects of life and we’re seeking to understand just how much this technology can do and what it can teach us about ourselves.”
One of the most important lessons Meller and his colleagues have learnt while working on Ai-Da is that the project has shown them how “robotic we are as humans,” rather than teaching them how “human she is.”
As Ai-Da has learned to copy people based on their activities, Meller claims that the experiment has revealed exactly how habitual humans are, and how we prefer to repeat acts, words, and patterns of behaviour, implying that we are the ones who are robotic.