Aesthetics and the Age of BMIs

I’ve written about Artificial Intelligence a lot in this venue. I have presented the potential danger that unconstrained amoral emergent artificial intelligence may pose. I have mentioned the alternative of building Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) that allow us to merge with machines, hopefully before they achieve emergent AI on their own.

Another concern has crossed my mind of late. It is the question of what it means to be human. Is it really as great as we imagine it to be? Is it something that will be compromised by merging our brain function with computer prosthesis? Will empathy survive the transition from biochemical thought processes to electronic ones?

And what about sensory perception? Will enhanced perception change our perspective on the universe and out place in it? Will we be overwhelmed by the volume of stimulus and become incapable of exercising our human judgement regarding the virtually unlimited possibilities that become apparent as a result of it?

I begin to appreciate the concerns of the Luddites when the industrial revolution threatened the way of life that they enjoyed with no clear promise of what it would be replaced with. I’m not taking a Luddite stance here, just saying that it is understandable what they were feeling given the context of the current looming AI revolution.

This concern began when I started thinking about the contrast between rational writing processes as opposed to intuitive ones. Intuition is a result of poorly understood electrochemical activity in the brain. I believe it is an inherently perceptual phenomena and is predominantly emotional instead of rational, at least in its human embodiment.

When you hear music or see a painting the emotions that well up in you are far from rational. You can think about the reactions and try to analyze them. Analysis doesn’t go very far toward allowing an artist to create a new work that has similar profound effects though. At least it hasn’t up until now.

Perhaps the availability of direct brain communication will make artistic endeavors seem archaic, something practiced by folk archivists for the sake of remembering what narrow bandwidth our communication channels had prior to high fidelity BMIs were available. I think there will always be something special in the process of translation from a personal thought or feeling into a physical manifestation of that experience.

Will artistic expression be given a broader canvas upon which to manifest itself with the advent of high fidelity BMI interfaces or will it fade into obscurity due to lack of interest? Only time will tell. I think it’s important for us to start thinking about such matters before they become fate accompli.

Perhaps a new generation that has never known a time before BMIs will not see a need for artistic expression. I think those of us that have grown up before BMIs become a reality will always value artistic expression as an external abstraction of our feelings that exists outside of ourselves, available for interpretation and re-interpretation by each person that perceives them.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.