HOW LANGUAGE CAN HUMANIZE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

A recent study, Who gets credit for AI-generated art?, conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Max Plank Institute for Human Development, explored how responsibility and credit should is allocated when Artificial Intelligence (AI) creates art. The study found that the result depends on whether people perceive AI as the creator of art or a tool used by artists. They found that people who humanize artificial intelligence are more likely to overlook the involvement of artists. The language used in presenting information about AI significantly impacted people’s perceptions. We were interested in taking a closer look at how language can humanize artificial intelligence.

Edmond de Belamy

The researchers focused on a portrait titled Edmond de Belamy, which was created by Parisian arts collective Obvious, with an algorithm’s help. In October 2018, the portrait sold at Christie’s Art Auction for $432,500 – 40 times the initial estimate of $10,000. 

At the time, Christie’s Auction House marketed the portrait as created by artificial intelligence, and the media portrayed it as the first work of art not created by humans. They adopted anthropomorphic language to increase hype for the work: “This portrait … is not the product of a human mind. It was created by an artificial intelligence, an algorithm defined by that algebraic formula with its many parentheses”. The media entertained and further stressed this narrative, which emphasized the autonomy and agency of the AI. 

Who Gets The Credit For AI Art? 

Many individuals were involved in the portrait’s production, but the profits went only to the art collective. Questions have, therefore, risen surrounding credit and responsibility allocation- who gets the credit for AI produced art? 

“Many people are involved in AI art: artists, curators, and programmers alike. At the same time, there is a tendency – especially in the media – to endow AI with human-like characteristics. According to the reports you read, creative AI autonomously creates ingenious works of art. We wanted to know whether there is a connection between this humanization of AI and the question of who gets credit for AI art.”

Ziv Epstein, MIT Media Lab

While AI played a role in creating Edmond de Belamy, the portrait would never have been produced without humans’ involvement. The portrait was the outcome of the creativity, effort, and decisions of many human contributors. Still, in advertising the piece, the humans were cut out of the art’s creation, and the AI was referred to as having human-like characteristics. When AI achieves something grand or causes an issue, how is that responsibility attributed to the human involved?

AI as a Tool vs. AI as an Agent

The study focused on two main questions: 1) How do people think the credit and responsibility should be allocated to those involved in the creation of AI art; and 2) How do these intuitions vary based on people’s perceptions of the humanness of the AI technology. 

The researchers used different approaches to describe the process of artwork creation. They then asked the participants to decide how those involved in innovation should be recognized, finding that the participants who perceived AI as human-like assigned more responsibility. In contrast, others viewed it as only a tool. 

The results suggest that perception can be actively manipulated depending on how language is used to humanize AI. If it is described as merely a tool used by humans, individual humans get more responsibility and credit. However, if it is described with human characteristics, then the AI and the technologist who wrote that code get more recognition and responsibility.

The Use of Language 

It is possible to manipulate whether people humanize AI by altering the language used to report and describe AI systems. 

“Anthropomorphizing AI is risky because it can reduce and shift accountability among humans. It may prevent the public from holding individuals responsible for their actions.”

Ziv Epstein, MIT Media Lab

As AI technologies become more integrated into our lives and decision making, it is expected that they will become highly anthropomorphized. This is why it is important to understand the psychological process behind AI absorbing the responsibility of technological actions. It is even more important for artists, scientists, and the media to be aware of their words’ authority and for the public to be discerning in the story they consume. 

Journal Reference: Who Gets Credit for AI-Generated Art?. iSciencedoi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2020.101515.