Humans today have become dependent on machines in more ways than one, whether they realize it or not. From the vehicles that get us to work and back to the smartphones in our pockets to the contentious AI that’s making headlines, our daily lives are affected and influenced by machines in all shapes and sizes, even those we can’t see. While humans created machines as tools of convenience, our relationship with them hasn’t always been sunshine and roses. Some people have even taken an antagonistic outlook on these man-made objects, especially when those machines threaten our way of life or our very lives. At the same time, however, man’s innate curiosity also gives way to awe, wonder, and sometimes even joy, expressions that are conveyed in these images that were aptly generated using the help of a machine.
Designer: Emilio Alarcón
Of all the modern technologies that are generating debates in all walks of life around the world, AI is probably right at the top. Although the concept has been around for decades, recent developments that have made the technology more amazing but also more concerning because of the implications of the misuse of highly advanced AI. Hollywood and popular media further exacerbate the situation, causing an almost negative bias against new machines in general.
“Machines that listen to human conversations” is a collection of images that try to turn the narrative around on its head in a poetic and almost subtle way. It is also poetic, but perhaps also a bit controversial, that the realistic-looking photos were generated using the popular AI platform MidJourney. Of course, it is just a tool like any other, and the iterative art process was still initiated, guided, and judged by human creativity.
The photo set revolves around scenarios where steampunk-like machines are literally inserted into the midst of human life. Sometimes they’d be in the middle of streets or sidewalks, while there are times when they’re attached to human heads. In some cases, the machines are left alone, but most of the scenes show humans interacting with the objects. Although the theme is explained as machines observing, listening, and accompanying humans, it is also as much about humans interacting with the machines with curiosity, wonder, and even delight, a stark contrast to the emotions generated whenever AI gets mentioned in the news.
There is also some poetic irony in how these images are the very examples of why AI is getting such negative publicity. If not for the artist’s own explanation, few would have realized that these are AI-generated images. These programs have come so far to the point that only very discerning people will be able to notice the difference. At the same time, however, the photos also express the reasons why machines can also bring us joy, piquing our curiosities and giving us more ways to interact and experience our world.