Competing Visions for AI: Turing, Licklider and Generative Literature

Author(s): Schwartz, Oscar


In this paper, I will investigate how two competing visions of machine intelligence put forward by Alan Turing and J. C. R Licklider – one that emphasized automation and another that emphasized augmentation – have informed experiments in computational creativity, from early attempts at computer-generated art and poetry in the 1960s, up to recent experiments that utilise Machine Learning to generate paintings and music. I argue that while our technological capacities have changed, the foundational conflict between Turing’s vision and Licklider’s vision plays itself out in generations of programmers and artists who explore the computer’s creative potential. Moreover, I will demonstrate that this conflict does not only inform technical/artistic practice, but speaks to a deeper philosophical and ideological divide concerning the narrative of a post-human future. While Turing’s conception of human-equivalent AI informs a transhumanist imaginary of super-intelligent, conscious, anthropomorphic machines, Licklider’s vision of symbiosis underpins formulations of the cyborg as human-machine hybrid, aligning more closely with a critical post-human imaginary in which boundaries between the human and technological become mutable and up for re-negotiation. In this article, I will explore how one of the functions of computational creativity is to highlight, emphasise and sometimes thematise these conflicting post-human imaginaries.

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Schwartz, Oscar: Competing Visions for AI: Turing, Licklider and Generative Literature. In: Digital Culture & Society, Jg. 4 (2018), Nr. 1, S. 87-105. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/13527.
 author = {Schwartz, Oscar},
 title = {Competing Visions for AI: Turing, Licklider and Generative Literature},
 year = 2018,
 doi = {10.25969/mediarep/13527},
 volume = 4,
 address = {Bielefeld},
 journal = {Digital Culture & Society},
 number = 1,
 pages = {87--105},
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