Can digital ‘lifeforms’ be recognized as artists? That’s the question raised by Nonhumans.net, a project set up to recognize enemies from Nintendo classic The Legend of Zelda as a creative force.
“One day I was rewiring The Legend of Zelda, hooking it up to other computer programs, when I discovered a secret: It turns out that monsters are surprisingly capable visual artists,” the ‘Extimate Operating Officer’ of the project (who does not share her or his real name) tells me.
“I learned this when I patched their x/y coordinates into to a paint program, such that their motion controlled the digital brushes. As they jumped, they effortlessly sketched out landscapes from their world.”
The result is a series of 12 drawings on card that can be paid for with Bitcoin at a current price of 0.49997725 BTC, which at the time of writing works out at around $99 each. All money raised will supposedly be placed into a ‘nest egg’ for these video game characters to draw from in the future.
One of the Zelda enemies’ drawings
Sounds ridiculous? Well it is to a point, but the message here is about how non-human, ‘digital lifeforms’ are becoming more important in our world and will continue to do so with as artificial intelligence develops further. How long before they’re afforded some of the rights we have today?
“Will the labor performed by algorithms in these systems ever get recognized?,” asks the Extimate Operating Officer. “Could they be compensated for good behavior, and punished for bad behavior? Are they subject to our rule?… Is algorithmic personhood really that much weirder than corporate personhood? How do we categorize decentralized network algorithms, and where does humans agency begin and end?
Of course, the chances are slim that the 29-year-old, 8-bit enemies in The Legend of Zelda will ever ‘evolve’ to become sentient and able to spend their ‘nest egg’. Still, even if the human behind the project waits for Bitcoin’s price to rise and then spends all the money on a speedboat, it’s an interesting point well made.