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Imagine going to IKEA to buy furniture. You’re redecorating your living space and you want new furniture. On the way out you see “art” and you decide that a few nice pictures are also needed, after all they show off your taste at it’s best. But, unbeknownst to you, the pictures you’re shown are chosen entirely by machine, a system that has catalogued your visit, understood in real time what you’ve looked at, picked up and examined and put back. A machine that has linked what you ate in the cafe with what you’re buying as furnishings and has made decisions about you based entirely on probabilities and then suggested and displayed the art it thinks you will like.  

Now go one step further. The machine looks at its vast database of information about you and about everyone else it has interacted with. It then looks beyond that at every other database that it has interacted with and further with ones that it surmises may be useful to access and probe. Now imagine that to go one step further, it then creates images that it “knows” you will like, with a degree of probability in the high 90s. Your taste will be categorised and commoditised and a machine will make art just for you. So, is that Art and what does it say about your taste and the state of culture? 

That is the near future of mass art. IKEA doesn’t quite do that yet but it will, within the very near future. Then, will you be quite as proud of the “art” you bought?

If this scenario sounds like so much typical futurology then remember that the process described above is already happening. It’s exactly what dealers do. Art dealers don’t promote good work, they promote work that they can sell to their network of buyers, if its good then that’s a bonus. The dealer has a database of buyers and art which they extract information from and then look to find art that will create the emotional trigger that gets someone to buy it. They are acting as a human big data/AI setup, no more no less. They often resort to selling the brand of the artist as much as they do their work.

The future will add one thing to this process. It will enable people to produce art directly via computer that is made as a direct response to the data and information to which it has access. And this will be on demand. So will dealers then have shows with their favourite software present or will the face of thy art become the programmer? And what about the customer, how do you feel about your taste being categorised by computation? 

So how about YOUR favourite artists, will you celebrate and lionise the “artist” HAL in the same way you do Banksy or the art buyer in IKEA?