I am indebted to a friend for the following question: How did the two Russian suspects in the Skripal case get their visas? Given that the UK government almost immediately accused the Russian state of involvement in the case and has since – it seems positively – identified the two suspects as GRU agents, what checks were made when they submitted their visa applications? Isn’t it fair to assume that if we know foreigners are secret agents then their entry into the UK would be flagged up and perhaps explanations sought at the point of entry? They were not, after all, travelling with diplomatic immunity. It makes you wonder what the people staffing the passport desks are actually doing when they scan your passport. Perhaps it just brings up a page from the Beano on their screens.
An article in Apollo magazine wonders whether art created by artificial intelligence (AI) can really be called art. If anyone can answer that question, they may also be able to answer the question ‘What is art?’ And as we all know, the answer doesn’t really matter, what really, really matters is how much some idiot will pay for something or other in the auction room. But the use of AI in art creation isn’t really anything new – it is merely another iteration of mechanisation, which has been around at least since the birth of photography. I think photography did more than anything else to act as the midwife of modernism and its many offspring. Capturing realism in paint seemed a little old hat when the lens could do the same thing so much quicker and cheaper. It wasn’t long before artists sought new forms of realism (e.g. the Impressionists) before it dawned on them that reality wasn’t what it always used to be anyway (e.g. Surrealism). Now anything goes in the post-modernist era and things made by machines (perhaps starting even earlier with a urinal) may be classed as art. However, I doubt that the conveyor belt that delivered that urinal knew it was a work of art, and I doubt that an AI machine will know that it is creating a work of art either. Perhaps something can only be called a work of art if its creator knows that it is a work of art.