An Art Degree Could Give You a Leg Up on the Robots
Submishmash, linking to article on Quartz
“Thanks, but I’m actually dating Julio. And Evan.”
We were sitting in Life Drawing 101 when I noticed the new guy roll into the back of class. He was sleek, with a steely look, although I couldn’t tell if it was actually titanium. So many of the newer bots are composites, it’s hard to tell.
He scooted up to the drawing board next to mine and the professor ambled over and asked him if he was enrolled for credit or auditing.
“i am enrolled full-time i just haven’t gotten my course slip from the bursar’s office,” the robot buzzed through a wire mesh grill where a human’s mouth would be.
“Okay,” the professor said, “but take care of your paperwork before class meets again on Wendesday.”
“no problemo,” the new guy said. Have to say, he didn’t sound very convincing.
“Oh, Gawd–not one of those tacky big-eyed robot paintings!”
I turned back to my work–the model was a little on the chunky side, and I don’t mean peanut butter or Campbell’s chicken soup. She was also downright ordinary-looking, but I guess not everybody can be starving-artist skinny. Matter of fact, I don’t remember many super-model slim types in Albrecht Durer paintings.
“Yeah, that’s uh . . . just great.”
“pretty hot, huh?” the little metal man said. Not sure what he was trying to accomplish, but some guys are like that, they think if they talk sexy you’ll get interested in . . . sex. I ignored him, but I kept an eye on his drawing technique.
It was terrible. We try to be accepting and open-minded and wishy-washy here at the New England Art Institute. You know, “Seriously, that canvas looks much better now that you put some paint on it!”–and similar self-esteem-building bullshit. But with this guy I couldn’t fake it.
“what do you think?” he asked me after he’d made a series of big looping swoops on his pad.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” I asked.
“go ahead I’m a hunk of metal, i can take it,” the thing said in a monotone that–nonetheless–betrayed just a wee bit of vulnerability.
“If I told you you had a nice body, would you hold it against me?”
“I think you need to work on your fundamentals. Sit in front of the TV and take the Jon Nagy Learn-to-Draw home art instruction course. Then, after a few months, maybe you’ll be ready for . . .”
“bwah!” I’d never seen a robot cry, but apparently they can be outfitted with artificial tear ducts that secrete saline solution under stress.
“Geez, don’t take it so hard,” I said. “Not everyone is cut out to be an artist.”
“that’s why they sent me here,” the little metal artist wannabe said.
The professor came over when he heard the bot’s outburst. “Who sent you?” he said.
“buzz off–I’m on break.”
“the guys at robot workers international union local 235,” the little guy said. “they read an article on-line that said artistic humans have a leg up on robots when it comes to high-wage skilled jobs.”
“So you’re an interloper,” the professor said.
“i can’t help it,” the robot said. “i face an uncertain future with you creative types horning in on the jobs that are rightfully ours to steal.”
Robot artist self-portrait.
“Look,” the professor said. “I don’t know why you think working’s so great. From the time you turn 16 and you’re scooping ice cream at the local soda fountain until you get that golden watch at age 65–or beyond–you face nothing but drudgery every day when you get up.”
I could see the little guy’s artificial intelligence running through an infinite range of possibilities. “so if i don’t like to work,” he said finally, “what do you recommend?”
“Simple,” the instructor said. “Become a professor.”
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