The bizarre film about a cockroach written by an artificial intelligence

The bizarre film about a cockroach written by an artificial intelligence

In the animated film Surplus Intelligence by Chinese artist Miao Ying, a cockroach falls in love with the artificial intelligence (Ai) that has to monitor its behavior. There is only one problem: the Ai, who has the features of a man with the look of a movie star, has committed a crime in Walden XII, the fantastic and medieval country where the story is set: he stole the stone of the power of the village. The insect then sets out to mine bitcoin and save it.

Viewers could see in the plot a metaphor for the conflictual relationship that some Chinese have with the "social credto" system, designed to encourage citizens to behave in the way More appropriate. Or perhaps a reference to the devious techniques with which social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook affect our conduct and use us to obtain data. If the story at the center of the film seems a bit ridiculous at times, it's because Miao hired a secret collaborator to make it: the Gpt-3 text generation system, who wrote the script. It was Gpt-3, for example, that decided that the power stone in the village looked like "a Mexican burrito" (probably a side effect of all the advertising texts that Gpt-3 was commissioned to write).

The film, which lasts half an hour, is on display until the end of the year at the Asia Society in New York, as part of the exhibition Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity ("Immagine allo mirror: transformation of Chinese identity "). "Miao Ying's work offers a satirical look at what digital represents for China," says Barbara Pollack, curator of Mirror Image and author of the book Brand New Art from China. However, Pollack points out that Miao's works also celebrate the creativity that the policies implemented by the Chinese government stimulate in citizens. Miao's work Hardcore Digital Detox from 2018 invites viewers to experience what it means to use the internet on the other side of the so-called Great firewall that controls the web in the country, away from the bubbles imposed by eastern and western platforms. . Chinternet Plus (of 2016) instead explains how to identify a "false ideology". On the occasion of the release of the 2007 film Blind Spot, Miao annotated a Chinese dictionary indicating all the words that were censored on the Chinese version of Google at the time.

37-year-old Miao, who currently lives between Shanghai - where he was born - and New York, he is part of a generation of Chinese artists who integrate the aesthetics of video games and the culture of the internet into their work. Until the 1990s, Chinese artists often relied on smuggled books to learn about artistic movements and traditions that were not part of the centuries-old Chinese tradition. With the advent of the internet, however, a world has opened up: artists finally had the opportunity to discover trends and works from all over the world, influences that, however, arrived without a particular chronology or critical discernment. "This entailed two things for the Miao Ying generation: a reverence for what the internet could make known and a totally non-hierarchical approach to art history - observes Pollack -. Digital media represented the perfect way to communicate this type of collision between the original materials ".

Wired US met Miao to talk about how art is created with artificial intelligence and what it means to be a Chinese artist right now (the interview has been edited, condensed and translated for clarity). US: Tell me about the script for Surplus Intelligence. Did it come directly from Gpt-3?

Miao: It's almost a science fiction story set in the past, but it's about the technology of the future. I didn't change what the artificial intelligence wrote. In the beginning Gpt-3 generated a short story. We broke it down into parts and repurposed it to Gpt-3 in order to expand it, thus generating the film's chapters, and selected what made the most sense from numerous variations. Once I got the script, I made the images. Although it is not possible to write a long and exhaustive text with Gpt-3, it seems to me that at this moment we are in an optimal position. What he writes is interesting enough not to be too mundane, but it's still a little out of place. However, I believe Gpt-3 is evolving very fast. When I started working with its predecessor in 2019, Gpt-2 was still unable to write a coherent story. It took him only two years to become very advanced. I believe a lot of product reviews are written by the Ai.

In the film, the "shepherds" push the inhabitants of Walden XII to behave themselves. The protagonist beetle mines bitcoin to save his Ai, through a process similar to the ancient Catholic practice of buying indulgences to save a soul from purgatory. What do you think of the Gpt-3 script?

In the film I like the way you sit down and ask yourself: “But, what am I looking at? Why is the Power Stone described as a burrito? "[…].

My intention was to develop a romantic story. It is a form of Stockholm syndrome: you are not aware of the extent to which you are controlled by the algorithm. point that when the algorithm does something terrible, it tries to save it. I am very happy that the bitcoin part was written by Gpt-3, I believe it did it because it was a trending topic last year. very surprised.

He trained Gpt-3 using online translated Chinese novels, prayer books, American and Chinese ideology texts, and Walden Two, a 1948 utopian novel by psychologist B.F. Skinner. Gpt-3 as he did. used his sources?

Online novels are basically obscene fanfics, S&M novels similar to Fifty Shades of Gray. In the Chinese versions, instead of falling in love with a CEO, characters mostly fall in love with people of power The writing is bad and i chapters are infinite. I think all the romantic parts of the script stem from this. I have also uploaded books on American and Chinese ideologies, to suggest to Gpt-3 to create a kind of fantastic country. Sometimes you think he is talking about America and sometimes you think he is talking about China.

I really like Skinner's behavioral theory. His novel Walden Two theorizes that if you just reinforce positive behaviors, then it will no longer be necessary to punish people to force them not to do wrong. You reach an organic system where people only do positive things. This film is almost a simulation, as if Walden Two evolves after many, many versions. That is why the village is called Walden XII.

Why represent the villagers as cockroaches?

Because we are just a mass of data. It is as if we were cockroaches: there are many of us and it is very easy to be replaced.

In the film, the "shepherds" impose something like a social credit system on the population. The Ai have different personalities: a young migrant goth / punk worker who is part of the shamate subculture (Chinese transliteration of the English term "smart"), a nationalist wolf warrior and the intellectual the cockroach tries to save. How did you conceive them?

I wanted them to belong to different classes: superheroes, workers who are replaced by artificial intelligence, farmers, privileged etc. In reality they are inspired by both the American and the Chinese dreams: one emphasizes social mobility, the other makes China great again. In a dystopian future, big data can grant more power to the government, so that it can influence every day-to-day activity without having the feeling of being observed. And then, on the other hand, in the fantastic land of Walden XII there are Ai stupid inspired by the typical nosy neighbors who both write down in a notebook what the neighbors do. I was really impressed to see these super high-tech algorithms alongside the crude spying of their neighbors. Which method is more effective?

she You said that you and your peers in China have had access to about a hundred years of development compressed into a decade or two. How do you think this affects the generation of artists you are a part of?

I think it is a complex situation. It's like my elementary school, my middle school and my high school have all disappeared. It's like I've spent my entire life in a city, but if I go back I can't find any memories. I think most people feel less secure, as if nothing has roots, especially in Shanghai where many traditions have disappeared. But I also believe that for artists it is almost a privilege, because this kind of growth can only happen in China.

You attended the fine arts academy at the renowned China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where you have studied under the guidance of Zhang Peili, a pioneering Chinese artist who began experimenting with video art in the late 1980s. I have noticed that China has produced many excellent artists who work with digital and new media. Why, in your opinion?

I find it interesting that the Chinese adapt more easily to technology. In the United States, social media is not required if you are retired. There is no choice in China. Everyone uses WeChat [roughly the Chinese version of WhatsApp, ndt]. If you want to buy something in the supermarket for 50 cents or a dollar, nobody accepts cash and people get angry if you try to use it. My mom was teaching me how to use a digital wallet. She seemed to me to be the parent and she the teenager!

You have relatives who were in Shanghai during the lockdowns made necessary by Covid-19. One thing that struck me was the way people approached each other to help each other. She reminded me of the spirit of sharing that I saw after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Everything was organized on WeChat. The younger ones ordered food for the whole apartment complex. I think there is a real sense of collectivism in China, and that's what I always try to express in my work. You stick to what you know.

This article originally appeared on US.

Powered by Blogger.