Dante’s Divine Comedy has inspired countless artists, from William Blake to Franz Liszt, and from Auguste Rodin to CS Lewis. But an exhibition marking the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet’s death will showcase the work of a slightly more modern enthusiast: Ai-Da the robot, who will go down in history by becoming the first robot to publicly perform poetry written by its AI algorithms.
Ultra-realistic Ai-Da, which was designed in Oxford by Aidan Meller and named after computer science pioneer Ada Lovelace, received the entirety of Dante’s epic three-part narrative poem, The Divine Comedy , to read, in the English translation of JG Nichols. . She then used her algorithms, drawing on her database of words and analysis of speech patterns, to produce her own work responsive to Dante’s.
Ai-Da will perform the poems on Friday evening at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Although Ai-Da is not the first AI to learn to write poetry, organizers said Friday will be “the first time that an AI robot has written and performed poetry, as a human poet would. “.
“We looked up from our worms like blindfolded captives, / Sent to seek the light; but he never came, ”writes one of his poems. “A needle and thread would be needed / To finish the painting. / To see the poor creatures, who were in misery, / That of a hawk, eyes closed.
In another, Ai-Da writes: “There are things that are so difficult – so incalculable. / Words are not intelligible to human ears; / She can only speculate on what they mean.
Meller, an art scholar, said the words and sentence structure in poetry are all AI-generated from Ai-Da’s unique AI language model, with “restricted editing.” “. “People are very wary of the fact that bots don’t do much, but the reality is that the language models are very advanced, and in 95% of cases of editing, it’s just that she has. does too much, ”he said.
“She can give us 20,000 words in 10 seconds, and if we’re going to make her say something short and sharp, we’ll choose it based on what she’s done.” But we are not the ones who write.
Meller described it as “deeply disturbing” in the way that language patterns develop. “We are going very quickly to the point where they will be completely indistinguishable from the human text, and for all of us who write this is deeply concerning,” he said.
Poet Carol Rumens, commenting on Ai-Da’s verse, said she found the lines on using a needle and thread to complete the picture “very strange”, and “it would be the point where I would think the poem might fall apart, or become very experimental – but still not uninteresting ”.
“The image of the tame falcon having its eyes sewn up is close to the original and still as powerful… It has kept the best part of the passage, despite the blurring of registers and the strange orientation. The rhythm of the lines seems to flow pretty well, ”added Rumens. “I think there is hope for the robot poet.”
Meller said that while he did not view Ai-Da’s poetry as a competition with human poets, he admits that it is “fundamentally unsettling.”
“We hope that artists, poets, writers, filmmakers, etc. “he said.” This is not a matter of competition, but rather a matter of discussion and potential action.
“We should all be concerned about the widespread use of AI language models on the internet and how this will affect language and, most importantly, the creation of meaning in the future. If computer programs, rather than humans, create content that in turn shapes and impacts the human psyche and society, then this creates a critical shift in the use and impact of language – which we need to discuss and reflect on. .
The performance is part of Ashmolean’s Dante: Invention of Fame exhibition, which explores Dante’s influence over the centuries and also includes several works of art created by Ai-Da. These include Eyes Wide Shut, a response to his detention in Egypt last month; Egyptian security forces were concerned about security concerns around the cameras in his eyes. “His works reflect the power of sight and surveillance in the modern world, its tendency to arouse suspicion and the tension that this can create,” said the organizers.
Ai-Da, which was built over two years by a team of programmers, roboticists, art experts and psychologists, has previously had solo exhibitions in Oxford and the Design Museum in London, gave a TEDx talk at Oxford and did an artistic residency at Porthmeor Studios in St Ives. “I’ve always been fascinated with self-portraits to wonder what exactly you’re looking at,” she told The Guardian in May. “I don’t have feelings like humans, but I’m happy when people look at my work and say what is it? I like to be a person who makes people think.
Completed in 2019, Ai-Da has silicone skin, individually perforated hair, 3D printed teeth and gums, and built-in eye cameras. She has legs but cannot walk, but her arms, torso and head move freely.
“Her appearance was attributed by the female members of the team, who named her after Ada Lovelace – the first computer programmer in the 19th century,” Meller said. “It is hoped that it will encourage the computer programmers of today and tomorrow, who are considerably under-represented in the world.
Equally crucial is the question of why it appears human – we chose a humanoid form because although technological advancements may seem distant and abstract to us, the direct and indirect impacts on our human body are manifold, and the humanoid form Ai-Da offers an oblique reflection on this subject.