SCOTT DRAVES: Generative art is art work that has a process with multiple possibilities.
LUKE DUBOIS: I'm basically using a gizmo that's designed to help you do your taxes to try to make something that's equivalent to a Stradivarius violin.
WILL WRIGHT: They're really part of humanity.
I don't think you can separate humanity from these technologies and still call it humanity at this point.
SCOTT DRAVES: My objective is to recreate the essence of life in digital form.
LUKE DUBOIS: So generative art is a practice where basically you surrender control over some aspect of what's going down to a process.
So now I just have to come up with a really amazing way to take that information and visualize it, or turn it into music.
This century is the century of data.
That's going to be the defining thing.
Last century was the century of electricity.
What I'm really doing is essentially portraiture, right?
I'm looking at America.
And I'm looking at our culture.
And I'm looking at the data of our culture, and trying to make sense of it.
So like the last big string quartet that I did was a peaceful hard data where I took the casualty stream of the Iraq war and turned it into a six-movement string quartet.
So there's a movement for all the dead men, and for the dead women, and the dead children, and the dead soldiers, and the people who have gone missing, and the people who have become refugees.
So what you do is you take the timeline of the war, and you say, OK.
It's been going on for eight years now.
Let's say that eight years has to fit in eight minutes.
So that means we have 365 days worth of events in one minute.
So what's the tempo of that?
And how do we make it so that a day becomes like a measure of music?
50 people get killed that day, that means the string quartet has to play 50 notes in that measure.
And so that if you plot it that way, what you end up with is you end up with a musical arc that tracks the arc of the conflict, right?
There's this big crescendo at the beginning with the invasion.
And then it drops off.
And then there's this slow crescendo as the insurgency builds.
And then it drops off.
And then there was the sort of 2008 surge.
And then it ends.
The reason I did that is because the Iraq war is the first conflict in the United States where we have more data than knowledge.
More of us know the numbers of that war then have any experience of it.
SCOTT DRAVES: Most people think of the computer as your slave.
It does what you tell it to.
But for me, that's not very exciting, because you tell it to do x.
And then it does x.
And there's no surprise.
There's no punchline.
In its simplest form, the electric sheep is a screen saver.
There are about 450,000 users.
And when you're not using your computer, it connects to the network, and thereby to all the other users.
All those computers work together as a supercomputer to render these animations.
As everybody is watching the screen saver, you can interact with it and respond to it.
And it uses thumbs up for life and thumbs down for death.
And the images that are more popular mate with each other and reproduce.
They have children.
So the images evolve in order to satisfy the desires of the audience.
In addition to the screen saver, you can download the genetic editor.
And you can tinker with the design, and make your own, and then upload it back into the system.
It gets rendered by the network and shows up on everybody's screen.
And if they're popular, they will start interbreeding with the evolved ones.
My objective is to make people realize that there can be a soul in the ones and zeros.
Just like one cell might be simple.
But a billion of them creates a mind and has some kind of spirit.
Computers are the same way.
One computer is mechanical.
But a million computers, if they're programmed and if they're organized correctly, can create something truly magical.
Humanity is being transformed by our technology in a really interesting way.
It's kind of amplifying not only our individual creativity, our expression, but it's also allowing us to group together the specialized online communities.
These are almost like higher level brains, higher level than any one individual that are capable of the things that no one individual could do.
In Spore, the whole game, this galaxy of literally millions of planets.
Each one of those planets has a complete ecosystem, with creatures and plants.
A huge wide variety of creations.
We wanted the average person to be able to create an asset almost level with a Pixar artist.
And so they did it by manipulating a fairly small number of variables.
And their computer from that point figured out how to texture it, how to animate it, how it sounded.
All these different things that normally would take weeks to fill in all those assets, we taught the computer to do that in a matter of seconds.
Spore in some sense becomes this kind of collective fantasy between all the different players.
Everybody's kind of building their own fantasy world, their own fantasy creatures.
But at the same time, those fantasy creatures and planets and whatnot are going up to the net and populating other people's worlds.
So at some point you kind of move out of your own little local fantasy and start interacting with other people's creatures and races, et cetera.
We're finding out there's this really deep partnership that we have with computers.
Humans are really good at kind of minding our own intelligence into a useful format so we can reuse it.
And so that partnership, I think, is turning out to be kind of a surprise.
LUKE DUBOIS: Every culture will use the maximum level of technology available to it to make art.
We've been thinking about the concept of AI for so long that maybe one day computers would act like people and replace us.
That's a really interesting creative challenge for musicians, for artists, to try to negotiate that space of like, we've got all these gizmos.
But what does that say about us?
SCOTT DRAVES: If we realize that the machine is really part of us, then that will enable our merger with the machine, and ultimately with each other.
And I think our future would be much brighter.