Do GIFs have a place in serious publications? Where the hell is my giraffe emoji? Do androids dream of electric sheep? The digital world is presenting us with questions we never could have imagined we'd have to answer — and maybe we don't.
But there are also those brand new mind-boggling questions of a much more down-to-earth and practical nature that maybe we need to start thinking about. After Dutch researchers unveiled The Next Rembrandt: a computer-generated painting bearing every resemblance to the 17th-century artist, the website The Conversation asked: "Should robot artists be given copyright protection?" At stake, beyond our ability to discern between a man-made and an algorithm-fed work of art, is the status of machines as legal entities and creative forces. This follows a debate over whether a monkey could claim a photograph copyright.
The issue isn't limited to the rise of Michelangelos 2.0: A software engineer from Colorado has recently fed into an artificial intelligence network George R.R. Martin's five-book series, on which the HBO show Game of Thrones is based, in order to have an algorithm write a sixth installment of the series:
Jon rode the dragons in a steep circle, buried fingers in the sand and there a burnt slope. "With a man should leave us clean, wench," he said. "Stop him. Is that much? Until you're at Winterfell simply get inside "em o" wildlings, or on the sound of a bastard dies."
True, the result is clunky — though I've met worse flesh-and-blood writers. And with the exponential progress in AI, deep learning and recurrent neural networks, books by bots (that you would actually buy) are hardly science fiction. Who, then, would be credited for the art created: the engineer who built the machine, the mathematician behind the algorithm, or the computer itself?
Give it a little bit of time, and AI machines will stop being mere copycats and may soon be able to paint masterpieces, compose music hits and write articles like this one — and there won't be any way for you to 00100001 tell.