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The art world is now on the cusp of a new problem – computers creating works of art that might soon become near impossible to spot as fakes.
For the past few decades, artworks of famous artists have been scientifically decoded by physicists who have found beautiful mathematical patterns hidden in plain sight. Richard Taylor, a physicist from the University of Oregon, uncovered the repeating designs—fractals of grey, black, and yellow within the chaos of Jackson Pollock’s famous drip paintings.
Taylor had predicted way back in 1999 that computers could analyze the geometric patterns within the brush strokes to detect a Jackson Pollock fraud from an original. To prove his theories, Taylor and his colleagues planned to use the unique signatures they found to make a Jackson Pollock fake, good enough to dupe art experts,
“However, we concluded that to generate this work would represent the dawn of a new and unwanted era. So we shelved the plan.”
But as robots increasingly take on the duties of humans including interaction and care-giving, Taylor strongly believes the art world is headed straight for some troubling times when computers will start making such exceptional fakes that those machines which are built to spot these fakes, won’t be able to tell the difference.
“If a computer can fake a painting, can it also fool the computers designed to detect the fakes?”
“Can the programs designed to spot fakes stay a step ahead of the programs designed to generate them?”
Fortunately, Taylor and his team, apart from another one led by computer scientist Lior Shamir from Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, have been hard at work to safeguard the artwork from forgeries. Shamir has been able to teach computers to use fractal analysis to distinguish between real Pollocks and imitations. With a success rate of 93 percent, computers are now smart enough to spot fakes no matter how well they are crafted.
However, the same ability to spot a fake could be used to automate creation of artworks that could be impossible to be termed as fakes. Shamir believes that computers will eventually be able to create artwork indistinguishable from a person-made painting.
Many in the art circle however, have never believed the threat is imminent. While computers can certainly analyze a part of paintings to reliably predict its authenticity, they can’t reverse-engineer an entire masterpiece, much less, imitate the artists.
What’s concern-worthy though is the fact that a computer program can indeed create a piece of artwork that can pass for an original, but materially, things get more complicated, explained Daniel Rockmore, a mathematician from Dartmouth who applies mathematical models to artwork,
“Going from pixels to the actual painting strikes me as complicated. But you wouldn’t want to say it could never be done.”
At the rate which computers are gaining intelligence and understanding, it wouldn’t be impossible to see complex artwork created by a computer in the near future, being sold for a handsome figure.
[Originally published on INQUISITR, March 14, 2015]