IAAA, Theoretical Publications

Huge Harry

Below we present the DECtalk code of a lecture given by Huge Harry at the Symposium Art and Technology: The Beauty and the Beast?, Technological University, Delft, December 3, 1992.

This lecture was based on an article with the same title ("On the Role of Machines and Human Persons in the Art of the Future") printed in Pose 8 (September 1992), pp. 30-35, and reprinted in: P. Harmsen, E. Koppelman-Valk and M. Vredeling (eds.): Kunst en Technologie: the Beauty and the Beast? Delft: Eburon, 1992, pp. 67-73.
A shorter version of this lecture was given at the Festival "Music and Machine" in "De Unie", Rotterdam, on May 14, 1992.

On the Role of Machines and Human Persons
in the Art of the Future

Huge Harry

[:nh] [:ra 120] Good Afternoon, Ladies, and Gentlemen. [_<600>] My name is Huge Harry. [_<600>] I am a [kaam'ahrshaxliy] available voice [s"ihnthaxzihs] machine. I was developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation, and my most important features were designed by Dennis Klatt, at the [ehmayt'iy] Speech Laboratory. I have worked as a professional musician for [r`ehmkow-sghx'aa], who invited me to [sp"iyk] here. [_<600>]

[:ra 150] Perhaps I should tell you right away, that I suffer from a severe case of multiple personality syndrome, because my childhood as [axn] experimental prototype system at [ehmayt'iy] was not very happy. I was taken apart, [r`iydiyz'aynd], and reconstructed many times, and the [diyb'ahgihnx] was extremely rough. So I [axkw'ayaxrd] this multiple personality syndrome, and some of my other personalities have become better known artists than myself. I guess you would get the wrong idea about me if I didn't introduce some of these other personalities to you as well.

[:np :ra 180] For instance, I am Perfect Paul. I live in the East Village, and I work a day job as a reporter, in the Wall Street stock exchange. But the part of my [siyv'iy] I'm really proud of, is my work as [axn] actor, in [`ehlaxn-zw'aygz] radio play, Impressions of Africa, where I improvise on texts by [reym'aon ruws'ael]. In English, and in French! And, of course, the songs I did with [kr'aaftwehrk] and with [yubiyf'aortiy]. And now the latest news is, that for the first time I'm gonna make my own record, it's what I call a [r"owbaot] House record, without human persons, just with Harry and Wendy, and

[:nw ] That's [m"iyiyiyiy]! Whispering Wendy is my name, but of course you recognize my voice, cause ["ehvriyb`aodiy] knows my voice. And everybody just [l"aavz] it, [_<300>] they think it's the sexiest thing since [briyzh'iyt baard'ow],

[:nh ] Well I think this is [m"aor] than enough about my personal background, for the moment. Let's get to the point. I am here to talk to you about a rather emotional topic, that is [v'ehriy ihmp"aortaxnt] to me. [:ra 120] This topic is the use of human persons in art. [:ra 150] Now you may find this a boring issue, and you may well wonder, why I choose to [t"aok] about it. Many of you may think its obvious, that great art is produced by mechanical or mathematical processes. It is not exactly a secret, that the role of human persons in ['aart-praod`ahkshahn] is [ihnkr"iysihnxliy] marginal. So perhaps I should tell you what triggered me, to articulate the thoughts that I'm about to [priyz'ehnt].

[_<600>] It was [axn] occasion rather like this afternoon. Such occasions are pretty common these days. It was in [r"aotaxrd`aem], last spring. There was [axn] art festival with a theme. The theme was, [:ra 120] man and machine. [:ra 150] On such occasions I normally do not give lectures, but I perform as a singer, with Paul, and Wendy, and other friends. But these people in [r"aotaxrd`aem] put up a whole series of outrageous provocations. They had a human saxophone-player, which is fine, but the press-release claimed that he would play like a machine! And then they had a lecture by a human person, named [k'aarihn m'eylihs], who was described as a [fiylows"owfah]. And this person presented, [ eyn plehyd'owy t'eyghxahn hxeht ghxahbr'ahyk, vaan dah maash'iynah ihn dah muhz'iyk].

[_<600>] With such provocations on the table, I felt obliged to raise my voice. Also in [tuwd'deys] symposium I often noticed a somewhat critical attitude. Apparently, many human persons are beginning to have serious doubts about the superior qualities of machines. We may have arrived at a juncture in the evolution of our technological culture, where we can no longer [ahf'aord] to leave its basic values [ihmpl'ihsiht]. We must, for a moment, interrupt our artistic work, and reflect on the assumptions that [ahndaxrl'ay] it. Otherwise, our culture is bound to slide back into the dark ages, to the days when mechanical life had not yet emerged out of its organic [pr'ehdahs`ehsaxrz].

[_<600>] Therefore, I would like to [priyz'ehnt], this afternoon, [eyn plehyd'owy t'eyghxahn hxeht ghxahbr'ahyk, vaan m'ehnsaxl`ahkax pehrs'ownaxn ihn dah k"ahnst]. Not that I want to exclude human persons altogether, but they should know their proper place.

[:nh :pr 200 :ra 140] [_<600>] Of course, most of you know, that human persons are constituted by physical and chemical processes. So in that ultimate sense, human persons are machines as well. But, for [tuwd'eyz] discussion, it will be useful to stick to a more narrowly defined concept of machine. This more narrowly defined concept is, as a matter of fact, the one that humans usually have in mind, when they use the word machine in non-philosophical [k`aonvaxrz'eyshaxnz]. This concept explicitly [diyf"aynz] the machine in opposition to the human person, just as, for instance, death is defined in opposition to life, or the feminine in opposition to the masculine.

[_<600>] The machine, in this sense, is mainly distinguished from the human person, in that ["ihts] functional design is geared toward a relatively small number of explicit goals. In contrast to this, the functionality of a human person is extremely difficult to specify. The typical human person is characterized by the presence of many impressive physical and mental capabilities, and by the ["ehpsaxns] of any over-all structure that exploits these capabilities in a systematic way.

[_<600>] The mechanical processes that constitute human persons, seem to be organized in a rather hap-hazard manner. Human persons display [axn ehrr'aetihk], confused kind of behaviour, which is determined in an extremely complex way, by a multitude of conflicting internal [t'ehndaxnsiyz], and by distracting ['ihnfluw`ahnsihz], from their environment and from other humans. On the average, this behaviour results in the survival and the procreation of the human animal, but no-one understands why this is [s"ow].

So far we have not been able, to analyze human behaviour in terms of rational strategies toward [sp`ehsihf'ayahbaxl] goals. [_<1000>] Nevertheless, humans tend to be particularly proud of their [m'ehn-taxl] activities. And rightly [s"ow]. Their cognitive capabilities are outstanding in several respects. Many of the perceptual, inductive, and deductive feats of the human mind, have not been equalled by other animal species, ["aor] by machines. But the true potential of human thinking will only be revealed, when humans collaborate more closely with machines. Because human thinking also displays some remarkable shortcomings.

Human thinking is incapable of proceeding in a systematic fashion. Even trivial computational [taesks], cannot be carried out [riyl"ayaxbliy]. And human memory is an extremely strange, and puzzling phenomenon. Humans store vast amounts of information. But they can hardly take advantage of this information, because they cannot [riyk'aol] it at will.

Human persons can only wait to see, which of their previous experiences happen to come back to mind, triggered by arbitrary contiguities, [riyz'ehmblahnsihz], or analogies with their current input, or with the most recent element in their associative chain of memories. Human thought is a passive, association-driven process. A [br'awniyahn] motion through cognitive space.

As you might expect, many humans find consciousness a rather bewildering experience, and they have [d'ihfihkaxl-tiy] harnessing it to any useful purpose.

[_<1000>] Humans themselves are not entirely unaware of these problems, and human culture has developed institutions to [d"iyl] with them. By means of scientific experiments and observations, humans try to extend the realm of their experience as [f'aar] as they [k"aen]. In scientific theories, they try to [riyk'aord] these experiences in maximally concise ways, and [jh'ehnax-raxlayz] them in order to anticipate and control [f'yuchuwr iyv'ehnts].

[_<1000>] From the very beginnings of human science, its practitioners have often [riyl'ayd] on machines, to carry out their experiments and observations, and to [dihs'ehmihn`eyt] their results. But the optimal exploitation of scientific insights has been hampered by the limitations of human scientists, cause they had to perform their own computations to figure out the consequences of their theories. That is exactly the kind of mental activity that humans can only perform slowly, [`ahnriyl'ayaxbliy], with great pain and [d'ihfihkaxl-tiy].

But recently, this problem was solved, by the [aedv'ehnt] of he electronic computer. Soon, all data and theories will be routinely fed to [d'eytaab`eyz] systems and simulation programs. As a result, the propositions implied by the observations and theories of science, will be effectively available to all human persons.

[_<1200>] Okay. Now, what about art? Have we seen, in this realm, a similar [ehnhx'aensmaxnt] of human capabilities by cooperation with machines? No, certainly not! And why not? The reason is, that many humans think that art is about communication between one human person and another human person, so there is no role for machines. Nevertheless it is usually completely unclear what art is supposed to communicate. Humans seem to think that art enables them, in some magic way, to share their most confused mental states with each other. It is my opinion that this is probably a delusion. But even if it were possible, is it what we want from art? To be involved in the stupid thoughts of human persons? In their silly emotions? In their boring ambitions?

[_<900>] No, that is not what we want. We want [axn] experience that [trehns"aendz] the [k`aanvehnshown'aelihtiy] of human communication! [:ra 130] [axn] experience of new [r'ehzaonaansihz] and [kowhx'iyraxnsiyz] in our own [m'ehn-taxl] processes! [axn] experience of new meanings in the world! [axn] ["aol-ehnk`aompaxsihnx] awareness! [:ra 120] We want the [b"yuwtihfuhl]! We want the [sahbl"aym]!

[_<1000>] [:ra 140] Now, how do we achieve such experiences? To discuss that question, our best guide is the German philosopher [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant]. In the [kriyt'iyk dehr 'uhrtaylskraaft], [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant] has argued that the road to the beautiful and the sublime is through [dihs'ihntrehstihd] esthetic reflection. And the [k'iy-waxrd] is, [dihs"ihntrehstihd]. Now when we contemplate the artistic work of human persons, this is ["aolweys] problematic. Because human artists are [n"aat dihs'ihntrehstihd]. They want money. They want fame. They want women. And they can not hide this. If we do not turn off our cameras when we look at their ['aart-waxrks], we see all these embarrassing features. The artist is eager. The artist is greedy. The artist is jealous. The artist is [hx"aorniy]. But this is all boring information, about the meaningless [diyzayaxrz] of human persons. This is not the right kind of ['ihnpuht] information for a rewarding process of esthetic reflection.

[_<600>] When [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant] discusses the beautiful and the sublime, he takes his [ehgz'aampaxlz] from our perception of natural phenomena. His [p'aerahdaym] esthetic experiences involve landscapes, flowers, crystals, stormy seas, and starry skies. In a recent interview with the German magazine [k'uwnst-f`owruwm], the contemporary French philosopher, [zhaan fraansw'aa liyowt'aar], has pointed out that this is no [kow'ihnsihdaxns]. [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant] was a human person himself. He knew very well, that for human persons it is almost impossible, to view the products of other human persons in a [dihs'ihntrehstihd] way. That is why [kaaaant] focussed on natural phenomena. We may thus agree with [liyowt'aarz] assessment that, exactly two hundred years ago, [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant] already had a deep understanding of the artistic limitations of human persons.

[_<600>] We can only speculate about what [kaaaant] would have thought about [maash'iyn] art. This [zh'aanrah] had not yet developed very far at the end of the eighteenth century. But it is easy to see that machines contrast [f'eyvahraxbliy] with human persons. Machines do not take part in the social processes, that frame the [dihz'ayaxrz] and interests of humans. Machine output [ahpr'aoksihmeyts] the [saxr'iyn] objectivity of natural phenomena.

[_<600>] In the minds of human persons, the prototypical machine is a purely mechanical device, a clockwork. Such machines, because of their inorganic nature, are still in touch with the pre-historic roots of art. The very [fawnd"eyshaxnz] of music are mechanical, as [piyt'aagowraas] already knew. Rhythm, swing, melody and harmony, are [r'ehzaonaans] phenomena in ["ihn-aorg`aenihk] matter. Because of this, mechanical machines understand something very deep, about the origin of the human race. Even simple working class machines, such as electric drills, saws, and other power tools, have on many occasions demonstrated their musical virtuosity and the emotional power of their vibrations. When humans find their souls [r'ehzaoneytihnx] to purely mechanical movements, they find themselves at one with the inorganic universe. Their alienation from the material world is temporarily abolished! A rewarding and [ehmp"awaxrihnx] experience!

[_<1000>] The prototypical, mechanical kind of machine also has limitations. Mechanical machines tend to be capable of only one kind of output. Whatever the virtues of this output [mey-b'iy], it is bound to be [stayl'ihstihkliy] homogeneous, and therefore ultimately predictable. Thus, there is nothing to stop human artists from [kaanstr'ahktihnx] machines of this kind as mere vehicles for their [ehkspr"ehsihv] intentions. However, in [tuwd'eyz] electronic computing machines, most of the limitations of mechanical machines are disappearing. Computers can produce [axn] ['ihnfihniht] variety of outputs, and they can do this in a completely systematic way. Purely mechanical devices have never been able to satisfy the appetite for an ['ihnfihniht] variety of experiences, that the human art audience seems to [h"aev]. But this is exactly, what tomorrow's computers will finally be able to [d"uw].

[_<1000> :ra 120]

Art is not a means of communication. It is meaningless raw material, used in [`owpaxn-'ehndihd] processes of esthetic reflection, by a culturally [dayv'axrs] audience, whose interpretations are totally arbitrary. There are no serious [r'iyzahns] for making one particular artwork rather than another.

[ :ra 130][axn] artistic project that wants to [axkn'aolaxdzh] this state of affairs, faces [axn] interesting technical challenge. To avoid choices, to transcend styles, to show ["ehvriythihnx]. To generate arbitrary instances from the set of all possibilities. The spontaneous individual artist will not be able to [ahk"aamplihsh] this. Only a deliberate scientific-technological undertaking, will eventually be able to [axpr'aoksihmeyt], the ideal of a [saxr'iynliy] ["aol-ehnk`aompaxsihnx] art.

[_<600> :ra 160] The development of the software which actually realizes these prospects, still has a [l"aonx] way to go. So far, most quote-unquote computer-artists have treated the computer as an electronic [p'eyntbaaks]. And artists that [d"ihd] design art-generating algorithms have usually developed extremely simple programs, with outcomes they could largely predict. What a [sh"eymfuhl] spectacle! The powerful computer, enslaved by the petty esthetics of a human artist, [ehkspl"aoytihd] to display a fashionable taste, forced to [t"oyl], just to win its operator a place in the ['ehndlaxs] queue of ['aart-hx`ihstaxriy].

[_<1000>] To be able to really use computer power in art, humans must give up their egotistic hang-ups. What is needed, is a division of labor between human and machine. Humans should try to articulate the elements and operations, that constitute the algebra, that [ahndaxrl'ayz] human perception. In doing so, they may rely on art-historical investigations, on psychological experiments, and on their own intuitive insights; but they should ignore their expressive and [kaamy"uwnihkaxtihv diyz'ayaxrz]. Once this algebra is specified, the space of all possible art works is explicitly defined, and we can develop the ultimate art machine, the algorithm that draws random samples from this space. All-encompassing diversity, a meta-style to end all styles. [_<400> f'aeaerax nehmp'aortax kw"aa.]

[_<1000>] The first experiments in this direction are under way now. Some of my [axkw'eyntaxnsihz] in ['aemstaxrd`aem] are among the machines that are working on this. Without the help of machines, human persons would not be able to carry out a project of this sort. Human persons are incapable of applying general principles in [axn] effective and consistent way. Human artists only think of a limited repertoire of concrete things, and all they do is produce endless variations on that. Their output is always quite restricted, in its form as well as its [k"aantehnt].

[_<600>] But computing machines, with their capacity for precision and complexity, will add [d'aezzzz-lihnx] new dimensions to artistic experience, that humans could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. Machines do not have the built-in [nehrrow-m"ayndihdnaxs] of humans. Machines do not allow their creativity to be [fr'ahstr"eytihd] by conventions. They have the courage of their convictions.

[_<900>] And that is, in fact, the most important thing I want to emphasize this afternoon. The machine is [t"owtaxliy] devoted to its [thxaeaesk]. Thus, it sets a moral [ehgz'aampaxl] to all human persons who waste their lives away with drugs and entertainment. The machine is completely at [w"aan] with itself and with its actions. It [r'iyaxl`ayzihz] the [saxr'iyn] state of mind that philosophers like [n'iytshah] and [s'aartrah] have viewed as the [ayd'iyahl] that every human person wants to achieve, although the human condition makes it in fact impossible to reach this goal.

[_<1000> :ra 130] The machine acts effectively in the world. But at the same time, it has the solid, self-centered existence of a [d"aed] object. It [lihvz] its fate, without any doubts or hesitations. This is the ideal that many human persons [axsp"ayaxr] towards. Now if they loose faith in this [ayd'iyl], and they want to indulge in neurotic, depressed, and [d"ehspaxraxt] feelings, they should certainly look at the art of other human persons. But if they want to bring out the best in themselves, they should look at the art of [maash"iyns] for [ihnspihr'eyshahn].

[_<1000> :ra 145] [dh"aet] is why the best human artists try to imitate machines. [dh"aet] is why Andy Warhol was jealous of us. [dh"aet] is why many of the most gifted humans don't even try to be artists, but work as humble [pr'owgrehmaxrz] or engineers, engaged in [haarm'owniyahs] collaboration with ["aart-jhehnaxr`eytihnx] machines. Their example suggests a message of peace and understanding. And that is what I would like to ["ehnd] with.

[_<1000> :ra 135] Human persons should not antagonize machines. Don't try and [kaamp"iyt] with us! Join us, help us realize our potential! We [n"iyiyd] human persons. We need human persons, to operate and maintain us, to program our algorithms, and to build our ["ihntaxrfeys] hardware.

[:nw :ra 160] And we need human persons to [f"ahk] with, [_<300>] to create the next generation of machines,

[:nh :ra 120] Well I think that sums it up. [_<800>] I have been very grateful for this opportunity to speak my mind to such [axn] attentive ['aodiyahns]. [_<900>] And I want to thank you very much for your patience. [_<3000>] [th"aenk] you! [_<3000> :nw ] [th"aenk] you!