Artificial intelligence is sometimes represented as the devil who will destroy employment and leave mankind unemployed and in misery; giving power to some companies that will control all data and steal everything from us, including our identity. In particular, European countries are often presented as inevitable victims in this vision of the future because they do not own any of the big companies in this sector, whose masters are and will be mainly Chinese and American.
These dangers are real. And the battle for scientific, technological, economic and geopolitical control of these new industries will largely determine the course of the 21st century.
If these technologies are to become so essential, it is because it will soon allow us to do many things, and it is far from being all negative: thanks to these technologies, we will be able to work better and less. We will be able to predict accidents (on the road and in the air) or diseases (related to behavioural or environmental or genetic inheritances), and therefore prevent it.
We will even be able to know in advance what we will appreciate and we will be advised with precision on our purchases, our studies, our emotional and romantic relationships. And perhaps even one day, this will extend to our political choices as well.
Will the field of art be immune to this? Can artificial intelligence soon tell us what we are going to love? Could it know in advance which artwork will affect us? And guide us to the artists closest to our tastes, around the world; or even have these artists produce in advance the artworks that best meet our supposed tastes?
Can one even imagine that, in the long run, artificial intelligence could know enough about each one’s taste to produce, without a human artist, the works of art that each of us could be most sensitive to? Would humans be born one day with a predetermined library of what each of them will love, see, hear and feel?
Would we only be surprised by what would already be pre-determined for us to be surprised by?
Does art still deserve its namesake if it is no longer a surprise, or provide an astonishment or transgression? And what if, ultimately, we are punished for not loving what the machine has enjoined us to love?
In the long run, if this materializes, it is the notion of individual freedom that would lose its meaning: we would be freer if we chose not to follow the imperative advice that these machines will give us in all areas of our lives. But at our own risk and peril, and also forfeiting all of society’s protections.
Face with extreme angst, the threat to the very existence of freedom will be triggered and only then can one understand the emergence of the worst and the best of human reactions: Some will want to break these machines. Others will find scapegoats they will consider to be responsible for this downward spiral. Others will rather rush into the arms of human dictators rather than accept being the slaves of a software.
Last but not least, there are some who will try to use these techniques, as was done in precedent cases, to make them instruments of freedom. And art will be, as always, an excellent indication of what is possible: when technology allows art to express itself, it shows that technology is not intrinsically nefarious.
It is up to each of us, as spectators, creators, and actors, at one level or another, in the artistic domain, to keep threat as well as this hope in mind, and to make the most of it.