You know what I think?
Salon has an article today about the possibility that most unskilled service jobs will become obsolete, the workers replaced by always improving robots. There was a discussion in Slashdot a while back about this very topic as well. Robert Reich has a few quotes about how this means short-term pain for the suddenly unemployed workers, it opens up the possibility that all may someday work in the allegedly rewarding knowledge, idea, or creative sectors. (Or whatever the buzzword is now.)
That's all very interesting, and fun to speculate about. But what caught my eye was a link to an article in Popular Science about robot heads designed to duplicate human facial expressions. In its obligatory science-writing-human-interest passage, the article alludes to the inventor's prior experience as a sculptor, and attributes his success to this artistic sensibility.
Well, to me that makes perfect sense. What artists do is to wield powerful, unquantifiable intuitions about extremely complicated systems. Most people would be able to tell you whether a robotic human head is lifelike or uncannily "off." A critic of sculpture (or acting) might be able to tell you the whys and hows of its success or failure. But only the artist will be able to complete the final step, which is to solve the problem of making something convincing out of what is essentially clay. By the time the computer scientists have that quantified and figured out--well, the job of "computer scientist" will already have gone the way of the automated supermarket cashier.
--Melissa O, at 06:14