Part human, part human-machine (hand)writing.
We are increasingly offloading a lot of our mental and subjective tasks to machines. In every such interaction, we effectively authorise the machine to momentarily substitute for our mind with its own intelligence, taking decisions and executing (its) plans on our behalf. We achieve an output and feel ownership of it, without explicitly knowing how we achieved it. We have become so accustomed to internalizing this substituted mind, that we do not even acknowledge its authorship in our tasks, let alone reflect on its influence in our everyday thoughts and actions. In this scope, we investigate how this relationship evolves, when the substitution leaks out of just the cognitive domain, and finds its way onto our physical body. For this, we create a handwriting system, where a machine moves our hand on a paper surface to write out its thoughts. How do we feel when our hand ‘mindlessly’ moves on the paper, but eventually writes something meaningful. What happens to our relationship with this other author of our everyday lives as it rises out from behind the surface onto the tips of our hand. How does our sense of ownership of the handwritten outcome vary, if at all? What’s the effect if our own thoughts and actions write all the content, half of it, quarter, none? Offloading how much control to the machine is enough? Also, a lot of entities and their intelligences are involved in writing this piece of paper- the user, the machine, the creator of the program, the various people whose text and thoughts for the part of the dataset- all that eventually makes your hand write something. This already happens in our everyday lives to some extent, often without us explicitly realising. However, once carried through a physical medium, does it make us more aware of the multitude of intelligences we inherit in our everyday, simple tasks?
How do we ultimately extend this experience to rethinking the balance of authorship and authorisation in our lives, especially as machines continue to grow in their intelligence?
Here are some photographs of the setup and people using the system at Ars Electronica festival:
Here’s a short video clip of (author)rise in action:
There is a XY Plotter beneath the surface, with a magnet attached to it. The interaction begins with a person writing for some time. Their writing is tracked and converted to text using a handwriting recognition system. The text is then as starting text for an LSTM i trained on philosophy texts. The computer generates a continuation the text the human wrote. This generated text is then fed into another LSTM trained on handwriting to convert the text to handwriting. The handwriting data is then converted to GCode which makes the plotter move, thereby making the ballpoint pen the user is holding above the surface move with the magnet.