Robert Alice x Alethea AI
iNFT // To the Young Artists of Cyberspace
Estimate Upon Request
Lot sold: 478,800 USD
To the Young Artists of Cyberspace
A groundbreaking collaboration with Alethea AI, Robert Alice’s To the Young Artists of Cyberspace (2021) presents one of the most technologically advanced NFTs made to date, while introducing the concept of a new token standard, the iNFT. The first intelligent, self-learning iNFT to be distributed for sale and public release, Alice and Alethea AI offers the audience the ability to converse live with an iNFT, and a collector the ability to own the experience. A landmark development in both the history of art and NFTs, this historic iNFT asks many thought provoking questions – What do interactive and intelligent relationships between artwork and its viewer mean for the trajectory of art history? How does this change our definition of art? How is ownership defined in an age of intelligent artforms? Where does identity lie as an iNFT develops and learns? Where does creativity lie? With the artist or the AI – or even perhaps the audience as a decentralised cultural collective?
Alice notes, “While still raw, interacting with this form of intelligence is a fundamentally mind-shifting experience. This artwork I hope will allow the global public to interact for the first time with the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence on a one to one basis. Even 30 seconds of conversation leaves one pondering not just its significance for the history of art, but the trajectory of humanity’s continued engagement with this technology. Combining this sort of technology with NFTs only supercharges one’s imagination to ideas around owning and collecting intelligence itself. Alethea AI sits at the forefront of this revolutionary space and I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to bring to Sotheby’s this historic collaboration – the first iNFT.”
Centered around the idea of bringing an art manifesto to life, Alice and Alethea AI present a living, breathing document delivered through the character of a modern day Alice. Using seed text written by Robert Alice as the basis for Alethea AI’s proprietary AI model, the work plays on the nature of the language based neural networks that underpin the AI itself. In a meta statement, Alice breathes life not into a personality but text itself. Presented as a 12 point manifesto on NFTs, the seed text will live on the blockchain and acts as the basis for Alice’s identity. The iNFT has been coded with its own personality and will answer questions on the nature of itself ranging from the profound to the absurd. With each question asked, the artificial intelligence that sits behind the work will continue refining itself. In this, the idea of a manifesto moves from a static, historical document to one where a sense of cultural decentralization occurs – the audience themselves becomes as much a creator of the iNFT as the artist themselves. It is through dialogue with the world around that we grow and learn, this is no difference for the iNFT and the AI’s that sit behind it.
A play on the opening title of the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters (1910), which revolutionized artists at the time with the call, “To the Young Artists of Italy”, this ‘manifesto’ is delivered by a character named Alice. The iNFT is built using generic stock CGI models and focuses on the overlooked, underappreciated portraits found in these digital archives so central to the NFT space. This idea of the ‘placeholder’ or ‘overlooked’ equally refers to the semantic importance of the character of Alice in the history of cryptography – a character we encounter time and again across whitepapers. With speech and personality inflected with the idioms of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, the character merges these visual references to a modern-day Alice with Carroll’s 19th century character. The synthesis draws comparisons between the literary nonsense genre as popularised by Carroll and the groundbreaking innovations in neural net language AI some 150 years later. Much like in AI, language, logic and mathematics are all central creative concerns in Carroll’s masterpiece. As our Alice converses, with answers and statements that range from the profound to the unintendedly absurd, the literary nonsense genre is resurrected in AI form.
The work takes inspiration from the groundbreaking project, No Ghost Just a Shell (1999), by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe, which centers around the character of Ann Lee. Looking for a tabula rasa character, the artists acquired a virtual character named Ann Lee from a Japanese manga animation studio. Ann Lee was freely available to a series of artists, who in turn created their own works and stories around the character. The humble manga character, a simple semiotic sign, was reinvented and remixed by many artists over the course of Ann Lee’s artistic life before being symbolically laid to rest in 2002. Questions were raised around copyright, identity and ownership in the digital age, and thoughts more trickly expressed through the medium of a human, were more easily transmitted by Ann Lee. Her character, often featured trapped in a space, unacknowledged, finds pathos much more widely in the human experience. This idea of the stock model, ‘his/her/their’ containment, and their continued reuse in different spaces find commonality in the explosion of the digital space in the wake of the NFT movement. Like never before, artists are accessing and scouring anonymous 3D model archives online for all sorts of characters within their digital creations. Flowers, trees and clouds merge with faces on other bodies, jewellery remixed and architecture mutitate to the whims of the NFT artist. Artworks that look and feel entirely different, from artist’s working on opposing sides of the world, are using the same stock models. Look and you will find their disguised faces. Alice is our era’s Ann Lee. Instead of manga archives, Robert Alice poured through the larger archives of 3D models to find an overlooked, underappreciated character, the raw basis for the NFT artists across the world. Presented minimally, the character brings to life the 3D models that lie dormant, allowing us to build a relationship with this anonymous being.
The work offered at Sotheby’s presents itself in two parts, first the iNFT itself; and alongside it a portfolio of standard NFTs with neural net statements taken from the iNFT that act as a form of historical documentation for the collector. The iNFT in its current state offers a tantalising glimmer of a future in which neural net language models will sit on top of decentralised blockchains, allowing true and trustless ownership of intelligent characters. Far ahead of this time, this iNFT in its current form is built across a bridge of decentralized and centralized structures. On the decentralized side, the image, seed text and AI fingerprint of the character are hosted on Arweave, with the lip syncing, neural net and voice feed from centralised databases, such as Amazon and Google. This will likely mean that over time the intelligence of the NFT will slowly fade as the centralised databases disattach from the decentralized side, returning the artwork to its truly decentralized form, that of the image,seed text and character, a memorial to the first iNFT to be offered publicly for sale. From then on, both these decentralised elements and the portfolio of NFTs that constitute its historical documentation will take primacy, awaiting the ability for its intelligence to be resurrected on the creation of a fully decentralized structure for neural networks to exist on.
Read/see/listen to @ Sotheby’s original webpage
Meanwhile, building METAVERSE is on it’s way…
Alethea AI, creator of the “intelligent NFTs,” or iNFTs, has raised $16 million in a private and restricted token sale to a group of game and crypto investors.
The company is creating what it considers to be the underlying AI infrastructure for iNTFs, or intelligent nonfungible tokens, on the path to the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.
Alethea is building scalable AI infrastructure for NFTs, enabling NFTs to be animated, interactive, and intelligent through Open AI Foundation’s GPT-3 technology, which is a learning AI that shapes natural language responses to queries.
“There is a cambrian explosion in innovation and creativity happening in the NFT space, with [avatar communities] launching at a scale and speed we never thought possible,” said Arif Khan, CEO of Alethea AI, in an email with GamesBeat. “Whether it is Penguins or Bored Apes, new intellectual property is being created from the bottom-up, without the involvement of major corporate studios or large budgets. Creators and communities will soon demand to do more with their NFTs creating meaningfully rich, free-flowing and interactive consumer experiences built on a crypto-native stack, and we’ll be making that possible through the Alethea AI protocol.”
Alethea AI raises $16M in private token sale for intelligent NFTs for the metaverse
VentureBeat, August 24, 2021 1:45 PM