• Artificial Intelligence & the Absurd Part 1

Artificial Intelligence & the Absurd Part 1

Summertime and the holiday season is over. I am taking up my essay work again. The first part is slightly shorter than usual, but offers plenty of material and a preview to think about. You can look forward to subsequent texts on this subject in the next ART Letters.

The topic:
I would like to relate myself and my art to the currently much-discussed AI (artificial intelligence) and the apparently possible entirely new art-making that results from it. Also ChatGPT, which most people equate with AI.

Only recently, the scientist Sebastian Knapp from the University of Konstanz published his spectacular book "Mathematische Grenzen Neuronaler Netze" (Mathematical Limits of Neural Networks) and immediately received a highly respected scientific award for it. In it, he posits, among other things, the thesis: "Mathematically speaking, a neural network is nothing more than a function that maps a vector or a number back to a vector or a number and in doing so depends on a great many parameters." (Vector roughly sketched: vectors are defined by their length and by their direction, thus indicating by what distance and in which direction a point is moved).

With this quote, I would like point out that mathematics, or more broadly, rational thinking alone, is being applied here.

However, we know that it is primarily art which, by its very nature, is not at all inclined towards the rational, but its opposite, the irrational. The works of art of past epochs, in their culturally formative, convincing and impressive expressions, are always testimonies to the irrational creative power of human beings. Thus irrationality cannot be proven to be a dwindling stage of the rational, but rather a completely different form of the rational, and thus points to completely different realities than those that spring from the rationality of human beings.

Based on this and inspired by it, we should consider the question:

How does the absurd come into the world?

We are thinking about what is in disharmony with what is reasonable and appropriate. Colloquially, we would say: the "inconsistent".

Revering to an example a former essay, in the passage where I speak of the first encounter between the painter Wassily Kandinsky and the composer Arnold Schönberg. Kandinsky enthusiastically explains to his future friend the relationship of dissonance in art and that the "dissonance" (i.e. the contradictory) is the consonance of tomorrow and its "antigeometric, antilogical harmony and construction". Thus, a new freedom should enter artistic design. It all sounds like a vivid expression of a change in consciousness that should, must and, from today's perspective, did in fact take place in the future, as can be read in this essay. It is only with our ordinary consciousness that we noticed and do not notice it (e.g. abstract works of art, the theater of the absurd as a turn of the tragic).

The absurd plot breaks the usual experience in order to make the external world transparent.

The church father Tertullian wrote:

"Crucified was the Son of God; this is no disgrace, because it is.
And died the Son of God; this is credible because it is inconsistent.
And buried he is risen; that is quite certain, because it is impossible."

From Egon Friedell, C.H. Beck, Munich, "Cultural History of Modern Times"
(Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus or Tertullian for short (* after 150 in Carthage (now in Tunisia); † after 220) was an early, ancient Christian writer and the first Latin church writer).

As is well known, our inner life does not merely follow logical laws. Our experiences are fed by alogical reasons or events much more often than we assume.

One of the co-founders of the so-called "Theatre of the Absurd" Eugene Ionesco, whom I have already quoted a few times in former essays, breaks open the realm of a new reality, to previously unknown certainties, securities and distance from the rather oppressive reality of the material - and body-bound existence of human beings.

The Nobel Prize winner in physics, Wolfgang Pauli, stated in 1958:

"The will to power as the evil backside of the natural sciences! We explore nature in order to find fulfilment in thinking and feeling.
And when rationality is shipwrecked in the process (atomic bomb, climate destruction...), it is not recourse to reason (= rationality) that helps, but reflection on complementary pairs of opposites.
These for me are:
The linguistic fixation in favour of one half of such a pair of opposites is only the sure symptom that human wholeness has not been psychologically achieved or is even blocked."

(Wolfgang Pauli, A Short Portrait, vol. 1, Edited by A. Hermann; K. v. Meyen, Springer, Heidelberg).

The search for the absurd will take us back to the earliest beginnings of European culture. A long journey, to which this preview should pique your interest, showing the overriding decisive importance of the "inconsistent", the absurd as a sustainable cultural framework. I would like conclude with a question and a statement:

The question: would you consider it reasonable to build a city-state on tree stakes in a polluted and disease-ridden swampland, as was done in Venice?

And from Ionesco:
"You have to look out of the window in life, because in reality everything is different!"
(From "The Bald Singer")

In conclusion, I would like to think it possible that we are entering a territory with which AI can never be related, because it is characterised by irrationality.

"You need power only when you want to do something harmful,
otherwise love is enough to get everything done."
Charlie Chaplin