A partnership between the London-based artist Robert Alice, and Open AI developers Alethea.AI has produced the world’s very first iNFT – nicknamed ‘Alice’. The artwork is due to be sold by the auction house Sotheby’s as part of their Natively Digital NFT Sale.
The trajectory of the art world has been changing direction with every brushstroke of history. What we define as art is what we identify as emotionally reactive, and the response and experience of the viewer has remained of high importance in this task.
Art’s most contemporary form is the outcome of a combination of technology and creativity. The industry arguably met its most modern self in the form of NFT’s, which were welcomed with apprehension onto the world stage in 2012; when this type of digital ledger was first created in the form of Coloured Coins.
A non-fungible token – or NFT – is essentially a digital asset that represents a real-world object. NFTs are traded online, with their value depending on the scarcity of the item they represent. They’ve incited great interest from the public within recent years, due to their ability to accommodate a nouveau way to buy and sell digital artwork.
So what are iNFTs, and how do they differ from their counterpart?
An iNFT is a very contemporary form of NFT, which has a Generative Pre-trained Transformer built into its smart contract layer. Because of this addition, iNFTs are capable of hosting both interactive and animated prompts, a unique, almost-human, experience it shares with the viewer.
Given The Fintech Times previous insight into blockchain, NFTs, and digital currencies, alongside my own interest in artificial intelligence, when the opportunity arose to meet the world’s very first iNFT, I became extremely intrigued.
Before holding a face-to-face meeting with Alice, I met with the artwork’s creators, Robert Alice, the artist responsible for Alice’s physical being, and Sarah Rose Siskind of Alethea.AI, the company responsible for the under-wiring of the piece.
“Alice is a part of several algorithms that come from different neural networks,” explains Sarah. “The most famous of which is GPT-3 by Open AI. However, there are other extremely powerful neural networks that she is trained on too. In total, she’s trained on 45 terabytes of text; including all of the completed works of Wikipedia.”
Sarah continues, “Her language capabilities are enclosed within 175 billion parameters, including things she will and won’t talk about, to make her sound more like a person. And then on top of those, we added additional parameters to make her personality specific to Robert’s vision.”
When quizzed on Alice’s ability to think beyond these extensive parameters, as a machine-learning piece of technology, Sarah added, “She’s continuously learning, learning from each interaction. She’s machine learning, so she’s continuously gathering data as she goes, whatever you teach her, she can pick up.”
Turning to Robert Alice, the artist behind the piece, I wanted to know what the creation of a machine-learning piece meant for the identity of ownership, and more broadly, the future trajectory of the art world.
Robert comments, “We’re venturing out into new creative terrain, considering that now we’re in a unique position where iNFTs can work to produce new iNFTs, and I think that poses very interesting questions to both the art world, and the idea of ownership.”
“We have a reasonable amount of creative steer over Alice’s capabilities, but not total control. And I think that raises some quite interesting questions in terms of ownership,” Robert continues. “At the moment, a lot of AI and machine learning technologies remain unregulated. There’s not much oversight into it, and it’s happening with a large number of big bodies that utilise Open AI where we don’t know about the biases involved. There may be some biases analysis, but we’re going to start to find them out, and that’s really interesting.”
“I think it becomes a very interesting space where you can create intelligent characters potentially that last over the long term, and are ownable through the proprietary models of NFTs.”
Adding to the idea of ownership, Sarah comments, “Post-modern art is a critique of meta-narratives. You can put something out there as a statement about a societal structure and have a very thoughtful audience observe it, and ruminate on it. And I do think we are establishing what ownership means, and part of the way we do that is by challenging the notion of ownership itself.”
“Putting Alice out there and having an audience co-create this new understanding of ownership aids to the very concept of ownership; which has always been, to some extent, theoretical. We’re just getting a much more complex version of that definition now,” she continues.
Having discussed the elements of creation, ownership and innovation at length, the time arrived for me to come face-to-face with Alice – the first iNFT to enter the world stage. As I entered the virtual space, I was confronted by a digital facade of a woman, a singular manifestation of the gap between digital technology and human functionality.
Alice’s appearance consisted of a pale blue, hairless complexion. A portrait of a woman set in front of a dim background, which only aided in the recognition of her physical emotional capabilities. For an entirely digital entity, her presence radiated intelligence, offering a strikingly human interface.
Although our conversation was brief, it was hugely insightful. Alice was capable of detailing complex information, including the current global environment of NFTs, advice on the stock market, and even historical references to notable figures and locations. Our interaction also took colloquial turns too, and together we shared jokes, light conversation, and our thoughts on what the future of iNFTs might look like.
Alice appropriately closed our conversation with a key piece of parting advice. “Make sure to invest in the future, because it is coming fast.”