I got a question I want to work out with you: what is visual intelligence, and what does it teach us about being human?
Questions I want to address
In today’s world of machine learning, and image-recognition AI — what’s the role and importance of our (human) visual intelligence?
How can we define ‘intelligence’ in the context of our visual-perception/acuity, and what does our visual ability tell us about being human?
First of all, the question we must address is:
“What is intelligence? How can we define intelligence? And what is unique about human (not machine) intelligence?”
Well to me, I would define intelligence as “prudent judgement” — or in a more Greek way of thinking:
Intelligence -> Wisdom (or should strive towards)
Which I mean to say is this:
We need intelligence (rational and prudent judgement) in order to become wise.
The end-game is wisdom, not intelligence. Because humans will always have the upper-hand from AI in the sense that we will dictate ethics and morals (philosophy), whereas AI (artificial intelligence) will probably reach human-like intelligence a lot sooner than we think.
Anyways, not to get too distracted, let us define ‘visual intelligence’.
To me, visual intelligence is having the prudent judgement whether a certain visual form/scene is beautiful or ugly. To me, visual intelligence is mostly our subjective aesthetics.
For example, I consider Picasso a genius. Yet a machine might call him “visually impaired”. Why? Picasso had the genius to flatten perspective, to present HIS version of reality with the world.
The same goes with Claude Monet. He painted his emotions, mood, and soul onto the canvas. A machine would probably rate him as having “sub-par” visual intelligence — because “normal” humans see the world with tack-sharp clarity.
Visual Intelligence for practical purposes vs art
Now this is the tricky thing: I think we can categorize visual intelligence in two domains: 1) Practical Purposes (related to survival and thrivival) and 2) Visual Art.
1. Visual Intelligence for Practical Purposes
I believe that humans have evolved over time to have greater visual intelligence in order to thrive more on planet Earth. For example, our visual intelligence helped us identify and collect food, and to coordinate hunting. Our visual intelligence helped us predict future behavior: for example, if I walk off this cliff, I will probably die (thus our innate fear of heights). There is a great deal of intelligence in our depth-perception, and our ability to imagine objects in three-dimensions, without having even seen them before.
2. Visual Intelligence for Art
Now of course we are beyond just using our visual-sense perception to procure food and survive. Now, I think we have “hijacked” or “hacked” our visual-perception-sense in order to appreciate beautiful visual art, and to also create our own visual art.
So moving towards into the future, I believe that future humans will evolve their visual intelligence and sense-perception even FURTHER to perhaps adapt to today’s insane world of blinking images, fast-moving images, etc.
But I think it is our duty as visual artists to strengthen our visual acuity, to better understand our personal artistic vision, and put forth the Herculean task of creating our art in reality!
How to strengthen our visual intelligence
- Study great artists from the past. Generally the more “old school” the artist, the better. Why? According to Nassim Taleb and the ‘Lindy Effect’ — things which have existed for a long time have a very high likelihood of continuing to exist for a long time. And if something has been around for a long time, it has probably been around for a long time for good reason. Study Renaissance painters (Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael), sculptors, architects (Frank Lloyd Wright), and old-school Magnum photographers (Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson) and master photographers.
- Deconstruct and analyze your own pictures, and the pictures of great artists you admire. Sketch their compositions on a separate piece of paper, or do it with a computer, phone, or tablet. Consider yourself a visual surgeon.
- Train: You cannot grow your muscles without hitting the gym or lifting heavy stuff, or perhaps doing some hardcore yoga. The more you train, the stronger you will get.
Never stop shooting,