//by Murat Gülsoy//
Although it doesn’t progress linearly, we can say that science and technology have expanded their boundaries over time and changed our relationship with the world. The advances in science and the technological innovations that accompany them bring not only hope and excitement but also fear and anxiety. Scientific discoveries and developments that lead to the illusion that humans have a godlike creative power caused fascination as well as fear in the 19th century. When science fiction literature is evaluated from this perspective, it offers interesting insights. Many of these works are like mental exercises on societal and individual transformations. It can even be said that over time, such works have formed a dystopian collection in their own right.
Of course, there is some truth in these fears. One of the main fears caused by technological advancement is that people may lose their jobs. It’s a very realistic concern. We know that every new technological breakthrough has reduced the scope of manual labor. We have moved past the days when massive factories operated with only a few technicians. Until recently, technological development displaced labor based on physical strength or craftsmanship, but with the recent developments in artificial intelligence, jobs that require human creativity are also under threat. Artificial intelligence programs that “create” products in fields such as music, art, photography, and translation, which closely resemble human-made products, are now accessible to almost everyone. This, in turn, brings about new debates. Firstly, the possibility of losing the privileged position provided by human “creativity” is gaining more and more supporters. Since the Copernican revolution, the privileged area of humans has been rapidly shrinking, just as it was understood that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Not only is the Earth not at the center of the universe, but humans are no longer considered at the center of the Earth or nature. In fact, many even claim that this imposition of a privileged position will bring about the end of the world. However, the discussions about artificial intelligence are in a different place than all of this. Previous “losses of territory” could always be compensated for by human uniqueness through reason and creativity. In other words, reason/creativity was the last stronghold of humanity.
The fear of a creation being enslaved by what it has created and being destroyed by what it has created is also considered one of the ancient themes of literature. Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” is one of the first important texts of science fiction literature that reflects this fear. The story portrays Victor Frankenstein, who, through scientific research, creates a new human using body parts of deceased people and the miraculous power of electricity (referencing the Galvanism experiments of the time). This new being is composed of the body parts of the deceased. This is not a resurrection story; it is not a Lazarus. He is someone new. He has his own character, feelings, and identity. The end of the story is a tragedy for both the creature and its creator. Unlike the stories of robots or computer programs that have gone out of control and become a threat that we will see more examples of later on, the Modern Prometheus is a character, which is why it became a threat. This creature is not more beautiful or intelligent than humans, but it is stronger and initially more sensitive; it is aware of itself, just like other humans, so it has a self. The transformation of this sentient being, created by humans, into a tyrant is the subject of another discussion, but it is clear that Shelley sensed the complexity of the issue at an early stage. So, is it possible to create an “artificial intelligence creature” with its own self in today’s conditions?
The question is as interesting as it is challenging and opens the door to philosophical debates. In this article, I want to focus on the reflections of this issue in creative fields such as literature and art.
First, let’s consider the dimensions of the issue from the perspective of the audience/viewer of the work created by artificial intelligence. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin argues that reproduced works of art, in other words, copies, cannot possess the aura that originals have. When we evaluate works of art created by artificial intelligence algorithms from this perspective, where do we place them? They are not copies of any existing work, and they are not even a collection or collage of different parts, as in the case of Frankenstein. At this point, I would like to share a personal experience, leaving aside rational reasoning. In the summer of 2022, as I was making the final revisions to my novel titled “The Secret Loves of Painter Vasıf,” which revolves around a fictional painter, some artificial intelligence programs became accessible. Upon hearing that they could produce images in accordance with given descriptions, I decided to conduct some experiments. For instance, when I instructed it “to create a painting featuring a nude male model from the early 20th century, painted on canvas using an Impressionist style and oil painting technique,” fascinating images started to appear on my screen. At that moment, I felt that they were as unique as if they had been created by a human, and that they existed right here and now. I even continued to have these images created according to the descriptions outlined in my novel for my fictional painter. Throughout this process, I experienced an exhilaration like none other, believing that no one else in the world had ventured into this realm. It was akin to an unprecedented adventure, evoking the spirit of the great age of exploration. Even though the images were rendered by an artificial intelligence program, I still harbored the belief that the experiences of my fictional painter breathed life into them. I continued to offer instructions, and as I drew nearer to the world I had envisioned, my faith in this notion was reinforced. However, I wondered if I would feel the same excitement when faced with what an algorithm produces without any guidance or instructions. While the work satisfies Benjamin’s criterion by possessing an aura of uniqueness, it is produced without any human involvement in the process, thus potentially undermining the longevity of this aura.
From the perspective of the reader/viewer, it is appropriate to take a look at one of the ancient debates in artificial intelligence research. For years, one of the fundamental questions asked by philosophers, neurologists, engineers, and scientists from various disciplines working in this field is as follows: When technology allows, will artificial intelligence have a mind like that of a human? It is possible to simply say that only a human can have a mind like a human. However, if we revise the question to ask, “Can artificial intelligence have a mind structure that is aware of its existence, just like a human?” what will we say? We know that animals have advanced minds, and we know that their characters are shaped by personal experiences. In other words, we have long accepted that animals are not soulless machines. Therefore, we are now questioning whether artificial intelligence can have its own cognition, sensations, and emotions. We are asking if it can have a mind structure similar to that of a human. Advocates of Strong Artificial Intelligence claim that there is no categorical barrier to creating an artificial intelligence with thinking and feeling abilities just like a human. On the other hand, advocates of Weak Artificial Intelligence argue that it is never possible for an algorithm or a “computational environment” to generate consciousness in living beings. Of course, the debate becomes quite interesting at this point. Assuming that we could create such an artificial intelligence program, how will we test whether it has a consciousness or not? From the perspective of the audience of an artistic or literary work, it is a fundamental question whether what is seen or read can be created by something that is aware of its existence. The fact that artificial intelligence programs have already passed the “Turing Test” seems to pave the way for these kinds of experiences.
In the coming years, we will likely see that artificial intelligence algorithms have a significant role in the creative industries. Many authors, artists, and creators will incorporate these tools into their creative processes. The era of considering artificial intelligence as a mere tool will likely evolve into a time where it becomes a collaborator, co-creator, or even the primary creator of some works. The discussion around the authenticity, originality, and emotional depth of these works will continue to evolve as we explore the potential of AI in creative fields.
In conclusion, the creativity of artificial intelligence creation is a complex and multifaceted issue that touches upon various aspects of society, art, and technology. As AI continues to advance and become more integrated into creative processes, it raises questions about the nature of creativity, originality, and the role of human agency in the creative world. These questions will undoubtedly continue to shape the discussions and debates surrounding AI in the creative realm, making it a fascinating and evolving topic to explore.