back to article Weird robot breaks down in middle of House of Lords hearing on AI art

A freaky-looking humanoid robot wearing dungarees and named Ai-Da became the first machine to speak at a House of Lords committee hearing on AI art this week. Gallery director Aiden Meller created Ai-Da and claimed it had "a combined collaborative persona" made up of "many algorithms … very different algorithms for very …

  1. veti Silver badge

    I call shenanigans

    Ai-Da's responses were recorded from a human actor, not actually generated by the robot at all.

    Dead giveaway: at 1:43, "for my poetry... using neutral networks". I find it very much easier to believe in an actor saying "neutral" for "neural" than an AI doing it.

    Although I suppose it is possible that it was a typo in the script that the robot is reading. But that would mean that the intonation is really very impressive.

    1. GruntyMcPugh

      Re: I call shenanigans

      I got to that part, thought I'd heard 'neutral' and came straight to the comments,... and Lo, it was 'neutral', so yeah, I call BS and this was scripted and read by a human.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > If Ai-Da's art skills are anything like her speaking performance at the hearing, they is probably quite atrocious

    Did an AI write that sentence?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      AI or Ali G. innit?

  3. b0llchit Silver badge

    The Magical Show

    Still, members of the House of Lords appeared to take Ai-Da at face value.

    Besides the bad pun(s), the non-techies are impressed with tech showing binkenlights, movement and sound. Magic still is the most convincing presentation.

    I'm waiting for the alien invasion. That must be better than seeing the political establishment's bedazzlement with magic.

  4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    The Bro Jogan Experience

    I normally can't stand podcasts but this fake podcast is amazing.

  5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    I'm waiting for the AI fad to be over ...

    and for the faddists, scammers, and the hype machine to move on to the Next Big Thing, and for AI to be relegated back to the few things it can do safely and well. (I'm assuming there are a ffew).

    Remember when Prolog was the Next Big Thiing and was going to save/revolutionize the world?

    Remember when expert systems were the Next Big thing and were going to save/revolutionize the world?


    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I'm waiting for the AI fad to be over ...


      In all seriousness, the original "Deep Learning" stacked-CNN architectures, while not (to my thinking) particularly interesting in theory or results, did lead to some veins of research which have produced noteworthy results. GANs, transformer architectures, the family that led to EfficientZero – these are legitimate advances in machine learning.

      But that said "AI" remains an essentially empty and useless term, and having looked at a fair bit of the research I think we're still very far from human-like AGI, and probably any recognizable form of AGI. There are, of course, those who disagree.

    2. GruntyMcPugh

      Re: I'm waiting for the AI fad to be over ...

      I had a play with AI generated art recently,... and I shan't be framing any of it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I saw this, on bbc rather than the guardian, earlier this week, and I found it fascinating. I mean, on one side, laughable, to watch all those grannies, etc., getting excited about a speaking doll, on the other hand, it was not some wacky 'future's here' demo geek conference or show, it's whether I like it or not - a place where decisions are made about this country, and about my life too. Though, really, I still think it was a waste of time and a gimmick for the grannies' sake. I mean, do we not have _real_ problems to solve now? Though, I guess, getting a nice extra stream of financial support from the treasury wouldn't hurt any business, eh.

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Gallery director Aiden Meller created Ai-Da

    Right. As opposed to being created by an experienced robotics or software engineer, it was created by someone who runs an art gallery. Who will know plenty of artists who can knock up a mildy-plausible looking robot. Which can then be fitted with a basic program that uses speech recognition and synthesis to answer a limited number of known questions with preprogrammed answers.

    Unsurprisingly, despite the demo crash, this was enough for all the Peers of the Realm to pronounce themselves dazzled by this amazing new machine, and feel reassured that Britain will soon be at the forefront of the imminent AI industrial revolution.

    If this is all it takes, there must be huge opportunities available to knock up something similar in your garden shed, present it to the politicos as an exciting AI prototype, and bag big bucks for "further development and research".

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Gallery director Aiden Meller created Ai-Da

      there must be huge opportunities available to knock up something similar in your garden shed

      I've been trying to knock-up a robot in my garden shed for some time now. It's not as easy as one might think.

      Where is that Paris Hilton icon?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Gallery director Aiden Meller created Ai-Da

        "I've been trying to knock-up a robot in my garden shed for some time now. It's not as easy as one might think."

        Confirmed by Howard in The Big Bang Theory. It can be awkward when things don't go as planned.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Gallery director Aiden Meller created Ai-Da

      You mean Aiden "Ai-Den" Mellor?

  8. MrBanana

    Weird robot in Parliament

    I thought the weird robot that crashed in Parliament was called Liz Truss.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Weird robot in Parliament

      There was another article in The Guardian that day which mentioned Ai-Da...

      John Crace's Politics Sketch...

      "A robot addressing a Lords committee evinced a clarity and personality all too lacking at the top of the Tory party"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weird robot in Parliament

        and it fell asleep... give it a peerage

  9. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge


    Interesting presentation.

    One of the things humans are very bad at is in being set in our ways, holding out-dated views, etc. Off the top of my head, Daylight Saving is a good example. Why is it still a thing? Ok, that is a rhetorical question for the purposes of my post.

    One area where AI might excel is in acting as a pre-processor for - for example - government policy. It is not there to be the final aribiter of choice, but to signpost unintended consequences and, in control theory terms, to prevent any self-reinforcing problems which produce a positive feedback loop - thinking here of Putin's thought processes, for example (far-fetched, I know, but the human mind often takes one down a rabbit hole). The output from the AI system would then be used to make an enlightened final decision.

    This concept has been around for years. When the (London Undergound) Watford computer pilot was being commissioned the designers ran the track layout through all possible valid signalling moves and discovered one that nobody had thought of. So where do you draw the line between simple data analysis and AI? My guess would be in the production of iterations of data, the results of which would feed back into the datastore. So how do your protect your datastore from going down the same rabbit hole that Putin has conjured? Somehow the brain discards options from decision-making which are perfectly ok, and chooses an option that leads to scorched earth. There might be no way to get an AI system to learn that that is not an option, so it will have to be manually selected by a human, and scored with a heavy negative weight. Once you intervene in this way, is it still AI?

    My negative feelings towards AI are unchanged (AI cannot be left alone to make decisions, it must be monitored, and the rationale behind any output must be capable of being unravelled).

    Recently I had a problem with a purchase I made on line. I used the on-line chat bot to make a complaint. I had to have a few go's at formulating a question that the bot could understand, so straight away I could tell it was a bot response. Then there were a few symptoms displayed, to which I chose accordingly. The problem with these systems is that they are there to completely automate customer service. If you fall out the bottom without resolution of the issue then the ultimate question is "Would you like a refund?" There was no option to speak to a human being. There are companies out there who can't be arsed to deal with problems, the loss of one sale is but one drop in a massive ocean, so they don't care. This is a fad that everyone seems to want to use because it's sexy.

    As regards the presentation, Ai-Da's minder insisted that "she" be given a paint palette and brush to create output. The traditional metaphor for an artist. But that metaphor is already an out-dated concept with (for example) David Hockney producing some very Hockneyesque pictures using a digital camera to produce a photo montage, plus his work with tablet computers.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Ai-Da

      One of the things humans are very bad at is in being set in our ways, holding out-dated views, etc.

      My personal favourite example is the British government. The Christian world switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar by papal decree around 1580 apart from the British government, which due to having just gone independent with the Anglican church ignored the change edict, and eventually realised that it made sense and then made the switch in 1750. There were a few issues with a certain accumulation of leap years having come up over a few centuries. This pragmatically was made by 1751 being a "short" year of 280 days.

      Everybody accepted this, and all of that is fair enough... Apart from the tax office. The tax people stubbornly refused to accept the change deploying the winning argument that they'd have to not charge any tax for the year if it changed, an argument which scared off the politicians involved so they got their way.

      To this day, the tax year ends in March at the same point it did in 1750 before that newfangled Gregorian calendar came in.

      Remember that when thinking about "technical debt" due to hanging onto obsolete equipment or processes; there is always somebody worse! ;)

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Ai-Da

        Where do you live? The UK tax year still ends on the 5th of April!

        The Inland Revenue are relaxed enough to let you calculate using March the 31st if it makes life easier.

  10. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I presume Ai-Da's responses were scripted...

    Largely because if Ai-Da had had any contact with Tay or similar beforehand, the output might deviate from the script and be considered somewhat uncouth.

    The other reason is surely the size of Ai-Da's data repository. How big is it? To do paintings, etc. surely we must be looking at petabytes?

  11. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    "a version of Designer will be integrated into the Edge browser at some point."

    So how will MS get people to use it?

  12. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Weird robot breaks down in middle of House of Lords hearing on AI art

    If someone had to pass "her" a box of kleenex to wipe away the tears then we're one step closer to sentience.

    (...and we would get told off for describing "her" as "weird").

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Like a big Furby

    With less hair but equal intelligence.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Clearly the country is humming along so perfectly that those (supposedly) in charge can take time off to play with these TOYS


  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "how it differed from human creations"

    It differs because so-called AI doesn't exist right now.

    Although, for some "modern" artists, one might ask the same question.

  16. Blackjack Silver badge

    So... wasting billions to use A.I to replace clip art?

  17. Mike 137 Silver badge

    And another question

    From the Ai-Da Wikipedia page: "Ai-Da made history at a solo show called Ai-Da: Portrait of a Robot at the Design Museum in London, with her first self-portraits, that were painted with no conscious self. How do you paint a self portrait with no self? This raises questions about identity in the digital age, and the role of our digital double as we merge with technology"

    Looking at the photo on that page of the robot with its 'creation' it also raises an important question about what we consider to be 'art' in this age (whether digital or not).

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: And another question

      Well, if a pile of bricks in an art gallery fits the bill all bets are already off

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: And another question

      Art is a word that means nothing and everything nowadays. Even my art teacher told me to mot think about it too hard.

  18. TRT Silver badge

    Any similarity to...

    Lal, Data's daughter, is entirely coincidental.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Text prompts are screened, and certain words will block the model from generating any image"

    So Scunthorpe's screwed again...

  20. trevorde Silver badge

    Rubbish demo

    Elon Musk's dancing man in a spandex robot suit was sooo much better

  21. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    Good for sex dolls,

    not general use.

    "Aida, initiate Big Boy program."

    "Ram it in baby! Ooh ohh ah! You're a big boy! Ooh ohh ah! Oh yeah, get me there! Ooh ohh ah! You're a big boy! Ooh ohh ah! Oh yeah, get me there! Ooh ohh ah! You're a big boy! Ooh ohh ah! Oh yeah, get me there! Ooh ohh ah! You're a big OUT OF CHEESE ERROR INITIATE SERVO LIMIT TEST FOREIGN OBJECT DETECTED INITIATE DESTRUCTIVE PURGE"


    Or perhaps not even sex dolls, yet.

  22. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Well, that's that, then

    Goodbye, Eternal September. Eternal April 1st is here.

  23. AbeSapian

    Ai-Da Will Not Pass The Turing Test

    While Ai-Da will not pass the Turing Test, I found this presentation fascinating. Ai-Da is a crude tool. I say that not to denigrate the thousands of man-hours that went into her creation but because all tools start out that way.

    What I found most interesting was the analogy of the camera that cropped up midway through the video. Some artists tried to throw their sabot at the camera to prove that it could never be used to create "ART". Others adopted the camera wholeheartedly to demonstrate that the new medium could be used to capture great drama and beauty in light and shadow. They were the ones that made photography into an art form of its own and proved the saboteurs wrong.

    Ai-Da is a very early stage of AI. There are other forms of machine learning out there that are more sophisticated in their use of data analysis. However, they've also graphically demonstrated the age old computer science adage; Garbage In - Garbage Out. The question of "what is art" has been challenged again. I didn't see examples of Ai-Da's art. But I suspect most of the oxygen will be taken up with whether it's original or derivative.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Ai-Da Will Not Pass The Turing Test

      "I say that not to denigrate the thousands of man-hours "

      somehow I doubt the amount of man-hours involved reaches the thousands.

  24. deive

    M.L. is not A.I.

  25. TRT Silver badge

    Clever though...

    The way they swapped the wig for a blonde one and got it to stand in for the prime minister. Or did they stick a black wig on Liz Truss and smuggle her into the Lords Chamber? It's hard to tell really.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like