The Bank of England’s chief economist predict that half the UK labour market could be automated within the next 20 years. Most experts agree that there are certain human qualities, like creativity, intuition and interpersonal skills that would be difficult to recreate in a machine and therefore roles that requires these skills would seemingly be safe from automation.
By using machine learning and a genetic algorithm I have created a robot designer that generates new pottery designs. An industrial robot arm throws the designs on a pottery wheel using a silicon human ‘finger’, thereby eliminating the need for the ‘human touch’. The human's role in the production is demoted to menial tasks such as preparing and carrying clay and looking after the machines.
The project aims to go beyond the practical aspect of technological unemployment and to ask what happens if a robot takes on the role of an artisan? What does that mean for our notion of craft as something unique and handmade, in opposition to machine-made? What does artificial intelligence mean for design and authorship? Can machines ever truly replace us?
Photo credit: Tom Mannion | Styling: Lou Blackshaw