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Robot will address House of Lords for the first time about ‘AI threat’

 (Aidan Meller)
(Aidan Meller)

A ‘realistic’ robot will be the first of its kind to address the House of Lords next week, answering questions about whether artificial intelligence is a threat to creative industries.

The robot, named Ai-Da after the 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace, will give evidence to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee as part of an inquiry into the future of the arts, design, fashion and music industries.

Ai-Da, which was devised in Oxford by Aidan Meller, a specialist in modern and contemporary art, before being built in Cornwall by Engineered Arts, had previously painted a portrait of the Elizabeth II ahead of the Platinum Jubilee. The robot has cameras in its eyes and uses computer algorithms to process human features.

“Her abilities as an artist brings into question the foundations of the art world and the creative industries”, Mr Meller has said.

“Ai-Da’s maiden speech at the House of Lords will help us to understand how an AI robot sees the world and what that means for the future of creativity.”

Mr Meller did not respond to The Independent’s request for more information about how Ai-Da will give its answers.

Artwork created by artificial intelligence has been criticised recently as art communities have reacted to tools such as DALL-E or Midjourney which can create complex artworks based on simple prompts. The datasets these machines are trained on are scraped from the internet, often using artwork without artists’ permission.

Some artists fear that companies will use these tools without realising that they are trained through human creation, thus losing them opportunities and payments.

Moreover, the extent to which any artificial intelligence can contribute meaningfully to a debate is questionable as natural language processing – the technology by which AI delivers text and speech – is trained by humans, and therefore only mirrors what is input into it.

This effect has been demonstrated numerous times, such as when Meta’s artificially intelligent chat system appeared to post antisemitic remarks, or the way in which people have recreated dead loved ones using information from their social media profiles.

Many similar criticisms have been made about Sophia, a robot that has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia and responds to questions using scripting software.

“Many of the comments would be good fun if they didn’t reveal the fact that many people are being deceived into thinking that this (mechanically sophisticated) animatronic puppet is intelligent”, Yann LeCun, an AI scientists at Meta, has said.

“It’s not. It has no feeling, no opinions, and zero understanding of what it says. It’s not hurt. It’s a puppet.”