Nautilus

I Am Not a Machine. Yes You Are.

I’m trying to explain to Arthur I. Miller why artworks generated by computers don’t quite do it for me. There’s no human being behind them. The works aren’t a portal into another person’s mind, where you can wander in a warren of intention, emotion, and perception, feeling life being shaped into form. What’s more, it often seems, people just ain’t no good, so it’s transcendent to be reminded they can be. Art is one of the few human creations that can do that. Machine art never can because it’s not, well, human. No matter how engaging the songs or poems that a computer generates may be, they ultimately feel empty. They lack the electricity of the human body, the hum of human consciousness, the connection with another person. Miller, a longtime professor, a gentleman intellect, dressed in casual black, is listening patiently, letting me have my say. But I can tell he’s thinking, “This guy’s living in the past.”

Miller is sitting at a simple table in a dim and sparsely furnished apartment on New York City’s Lower East Side. It’s an Airbnb place that’s keeping him housed while he gives talks in bookstores and colleges in the city about his latest book, Miller is the Virgil of art and science writing, a guide through the underworld of artists employing scientific practices like, features artists like Austrian sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae, who studied quantum physics. One Voss-Andreae work,

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