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We are the Robots

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I’ve claimed for some time that machines cannot do what humans do, because they have no heart. They purely do what we program them to do. True. Yet if you watch movies from Ex Machina to Terminator, machines can turn to do what they want to do once we’ve programmed them.

It’s all about the instruction set.

I’ve then talked about humanity and the fact that the future will have machines learning to do all the things humans can learn, but not emotion. They have no heart but they can do art.

Examples are the things developing between robotics, artificial intelligence, art and creativity.

For example, Ai-Da. Have you heard of her, or should I say it?

She, if it can be called a she, began her career with abstract art but has now moved to self, if they can be called self, portraits and they are alarmingly good. “She is getting better all of the time,” said Aidan Meller, the force behind Ai-Da, the world’s first ultra-realistic robot artist, who is the subject of a display at the Design Museum in London.

She’s a robot artist, using artificial intelligence (AI) to create portraits of herself and, if I’m honest, they’re rather good.

Or there’s the example of vintage pop group Duran Duran, who’s latest video has been created by an AI engine called Huxley.

The band teamed up with a company called Nested Minds. They are a group of individuals who studied under Neuroscientist Karl Friston, who created 'Huxley' - a creative AI that exists in the cloud. Providing the lyrics, pictures, music and other information about the band, the video was created entirely by Huxley and was "untouched by human hands". Powered by technology that is uniquely based on the structures of the brain, modelling human intelligence and emotional engagement, Huxley created the video using random images it 'dreamed' up.

And, imho, the video is rather good (the song, well …)

Or there’s the Japanese AI engine that wrote a book. A book that was seen as being so good, it almost won a Japanese book contest.

The novella, whose title translates to "The Day a Computer Writes a Novel," was one of 11 AI-authored submissions to the third-annual Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award. The award is known for accepting writing from both humans and machines, but this was the first time it has received submissions from AI programs, Emiko Jozuka reports for Motherboard

“I was surprised at the work because it was a well-structured novel,” science fiction writer and award judge Satoshi Hase said at a press conference, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports. “But there are still some problems [to overcome] to win the prize, such as character descriptions” …

As Jacob Brogan writes for Slate’s "Future Tense" blog, the fact that the novel was “coauthored” by the AI’s human handlers says a lot about how far artificial intelligence still has to go. "The idea that a computer 'wrote' a novel about a computer evinces just how much humans involved themselves," Brogan writes. "While a monkey at a typewriter might eventually write Hamlet, it probably wouldn’t end up writing a play about monkeys writing Hamlet first, which is what seems to have happened here."


Then there are the bots that can write sonnets:

Last spring, a team of Duke students embarked on a class project to see if they could teach a computer to write Shakespearean sonnets that could pass for ones written by humans. One semester later, the algorithm they developed has won the “PoetiX” competition for computer-generated poetry.

And the movies where robots speak as though they are Robert De Niro in flawless German.

New deepfake technology allows Robert De Niro to deliver his famous line from Taxi Driver in flawless German—with realistic lip movements and facial expressions. 

And then, of course, there's Sophia.

Hmmmm … but the one thing the machines can’t do is play live at the O2 …

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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