Facebook, Twitter and TikTok feeds. Google results and ads. Retailer interactions. Government services. Traffic lights. Algorithms control—or at least greatly influence—our daily lives in a huge number of ways. The use of algorithms is certainly not new, but corporations and governments rely on them more and more to anticipate our personal decisions and manipulate how and when we consume information and ideas.
A recent article in The Conversation raised sobering questions about algorithm use.
In criminal justice systems, credit markets, employment arenas, higher education admissions processes and even social media networks, algorithms now drive decision-making in ways that touch our economic, social and civic lives.
But while there may be efficiency gains from these techniques, they can also harbor biases against disadvantaged groups or reinforce structural discrimination. In terms of criminal justice, for example, is it fair to make judgments on an individual’s parole based on statistical tendencies measured across a wide group of people? Could discrimination arise from applying a statistical model developed for one state’s population to another, demographically different population?
— Nicholas Diakopoulos, The Conversation
As concerning as that may be (SkyNet comes to mind) there are also a lot of interesting things coming out of the worlds of AI and algorithms.
Creating Art with Algorithms
I’ve been playing with algorithms and images via DeepArt, which uses algorithms to combine images and art styles. It’s a really fun, accessible way to experience some of the magic and wonder of what an algorithm can do. Here, I combined a photo of myself and my wonderful pit, Playa, with the style from one of my illustrations. Got a few minutes? Jump on and play with the platform, too.
If you want to go even deeper, AIArtists.org is a really interesting site for learning about and experiencing AI-created art and music. They say the following on their homepage—AIArtists.org curates historic works by pioneers in Artificial Intelligence art, and is the world’s first clearinghouse for AI’s impact on art and culture.
Creating Art with Algorithms – Original Images
Creating Art with Algorithms – Result
Algorithms and Music
Musicians and programmers Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin have created a music-copywriting algorithm designed to stop the never-ending list of lawsuits that occur when someone hears a hit and is convinced that the artist stole their idea. As there is a finite way to arrange musical notes and beats, the duo decided to copyright every available 8-note, 12-beat melody combination and offer them for public use.
The algorithm generates 300,000 unique melodies per second, then outputs MIDI files to a hard drive. That way, they can be considered “created as a work” and copyrighted.
As it turns out, I find the artistic possibilities of algorithms to be far more inspiring, and I hope you take time to explore them further. And best of luck as you traverse the murky waters of our algorithmic reality.