This past April, engineer Alex Reben developed and posted to YouTube, "Deeply Artificial Trees", an art piece powered by machine learning, that leveraged old Joy of Painting videos. It generate gibberish audio in the speaking style and tone of Bob Ross, the show's host. Bob Ross' estate was not amused, subsequently issuing a DMCA takedown request and having the video knocked offline until very recently. Much like Naruto, the famous selfie-snapping black crested macaque, the Trees debacle raises a number of questions of how the Copyright Act of 1976 and DMCA's Fair Use doctrine should be applied to a rapidly evolving technological culture, especially as AI and machine learning techniques approach ubiquity.
Questions like, "If a human can learn from a copyrighted book, can a machine learn from [it] as well?," Reben recently posited to Engadget. Much of Reben's art, supported by non-profit Stochastic Labs, seeks to raise such conundrums. "Doing something that's provocative and doing something that's public, I think, starts the conversation and gets them going in a place where the general public can start thinking about them," he told Engadget.
To that end, Reben creates projects like Let Us Exaggerate, "an algorithm which creates gobbly-gook art-speak from learning Artforum articles," Synthetic Penmanship, which accurately mimics a person's handwriting, Korible Bibloran, an algorithm that generates new scripture based on its understanding of the Bible and Koran, or Algorithmic Collaboration: Fractal Flame, which blurs the line of creatorship between human and machine.
"I start with a program which generates phrases for me to think about, for example 'obtrusive grass,'" Reben explained. He then thinks about the phrase while an EEG and other sensors record his reactions. That data is then fed into an art generating algorithm to create an image. "The digital version uses IFS fractal generation where the color palette is chosen by the computer from the phrase used in Google image search results," he said, "then displays different versions for me to choose from by measuring my reactions to the images."