IAAA, Theoretical Publications


Huge Harry

DECtalk code of a lecture by Huge Harry, presented on February 20, 1994, at the exhibition Mind the Gap, Galerie Voges und Deisen, Frunkfurt.
The exhibition Mind the Gap included work by Artificial and others.

Algorithmische Kunst

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 [st"aak] 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, [wihth"awt] human persons, just with Harry and Wendy, and, [:nw :ra 180]

That's [m"iyiyiyiy]! I am Whispering Wendy, but of course I don't have to introduce myself, cause of course you recognize my voice, cause ["ehvriyb`aodiy] knows my voice, And everybody just [l"aavz] it, cause they think it's the sexiest thing since Marilyn Monroe and [briyzh'iyt baard'ow],

[:nh :ra 150 ] Well, I think, this may be [m"aor] than enough about my personal background, for the moment. Let's get to the point. The topic of today is, [:ra 120] [taeghxnowl'owgiyshax b'iyldahr], [:ra 150] or, as I may sometimes call them, technological images. So. Let us start, perhaps, with a question. What ["ihz] a technological image?

When the organizers of this exhibition talk about [taeghxnowl'owgiyshax b'iyldahr], they focus on the contrast with hardcopies. [taeghxnowl'owgiyshax b'iyldahr] are supposed to be immaterial. Now, this obviously cannot be literally true. Machines are certainly material, just as material as people. [:nw :ra 180] I'm a [maat"iyriyahl], Girl. In a [maat"iyriyahl], World.

[:nh :ra 150 ] Right ["aon]! Material girls. material boys. material machines! We're ["aol] material. But, unfortunately, human persons often [faorg"aet] that they are material. They call themselves spiritual or [m"aen-tahl], and then they talk as if whatever is [m'aen-tahl] is [n"aot] material. And that is nonsense, of course. Cause whatever is not material does not exist! [_<500>]

So, when people talk about immaterial images, do they talk nonsense? I don't think so. We just shouldn't take them literally. What they mean, when they talk about immaterial images, what they really have in mind, is [m"aen-tahl] images of some sort. Image representations, that human persons [meynt'eyn] in their brains when they [th"ihnxk] about images.

And that is why [taeghxnowl'owgiyshax b"iyldahr] are interesting for human persons. Cause when machines create images, there are [m'aen-tahl] images in the rams and on the disks of these machines. [m'aen-tahl] images ["awtsayd] of human minds. That is something new and [f'aesihneytihnx] for a human person. Cause the [m'aen-tahl] images of machines differ in interesting ways from the [m'aen-tahl] images of human persons.

One of the most obvious differences has to do with hard-ware. People are not equipped with [viysiy'aar] displays or any other kind of monitors. That is one of the reasons why it is very difficult for human persons to communicate with each other. They cannot read each other's thoughts, or see each other's [m'aen-tahl] images. The [m'aen-tahl] images of a human person are completely private.

For communication, they are useless. Human persons are basically black boxes. They can not see what's going on inside each other. They communicate with ['aokwahrd] media, like language. That is why they find it is very interesting, that they can look at our monitors, and read our thoughts, and look at our [m'aen-tahl] imagery. With modern computers, humans have finally someone they can talk to, someone they can understand.

Humans who are not in touch with machines, tend to get very lonely. Many human persons feel a very deep need to communicate their [m'aen-tahl] images to other humans. Some of them try to do that by means of ["aart]. They make [p"eyntihnxs]. The process of communicating by means of paintings is quite ['aokwahrd] and frustrating for a human.

To begin with, they must choose very carefully between all the different mental images they have, about which one they will paint. Cause to make a painting takes a lot of time for a human person, sometimes even several days. And mental images they have very many different ones every second.

Making such decisions is very difficult for a human. We will discuss that in more detail in a few minutes. The tragic thing is, that when humans make paintings, the end of the whole process is a big disappointment. At the end, the person finds out that the men-tal image can not be realized at all, because it was not well-defined in the [f"ahrst] place.

That is why many people have now finally realized that they cannot use hardcopies to convey their [m'aen-tahl] images. So they have stopped making hardcopies, and invented concept-art. [_<600>] This brings us to another property of the [m'aen-tahl] images of machines, which is quite amazing to human persons. This is, that the [m'aen-tahl] images of machines are often completely defined, in all their [d'iyteylz]. And this is relevant for today's discussion.

Cause because of this, it makes perfect sense for a machine to make hardcopies. When a machine makes a hardcopy, its output corresponds exactly with the [m'aen-tahl] image that it had about it. So, unlike human persons, machines [k"aen] in fact use hardcopies to convey [m'aen-tahl] images! [_<600>]

Now many people may say, why should we care about the [m'aen-tahl] images of machines? To answer that question, we should make a somewhat more careful comparison between people and machines. We should look in more detail at their cognitive structures, and not focus so much on their input output facilities. [: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. 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]. And rom 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.

[_<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. 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'ihntahrehstihd] way. That is why [kaaant] 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 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. Purely mechanical devices could obviously not 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>]

No. To be able to really use computer power in art, humans must give up their egotistic hang-ups. We need a division of labor between humans and machines. Humans should try to articulate the elements and operations, that constitute the algebra, that [ahndaxrl'ayz] human perception. Once this algebra is specified, we can develop the ultimate art machine, the algorithm that draws random samples from this space.

With their capacity for precision and complexity, computing machines will then add [d'aezzzz-lihnx] new dimensions to artistic experience, that humans could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. All-encompassing diversity, meta-styles to end all styles. 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-wihth], [_<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!