The creativity of artifacts: oxymoron, paradox, or a new frontier?

By Claudia Fini, Chair Intern 

The seminar presented by Professor Maria Addolorata Mangione, MD, PhD is part of the third specialization course in Neurobioethics organized by the Research Group in Neurobioethics of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights. The seminar is characterized by a specific identity that addresses the implementation of artificial intelligence in the artistic field. It offers a reflection that combines sociology and philosophy to guide the application of artificial intelligence to the arts.

The expertise of artificial intelligence is exponentially improving. Digital systems have been equipped with increasingly sophisticated techniques for the analysis of situations of different orders and can reveal patterns even unknown to the human mind. In addition, these operations are carried out at speeds that exceed our cognitive abilities. We have gradually assigned a new position and a new vocation to digital technologies and their promises: that of enunciating the truth. This change has quickly led to an altered anthropomorphism driven by the continuous attempts to emulate human cognitive faculties and transcend their limitations. The phenomenon, however, remains fragmentary. Rather than accept the totality of human abilities and faculties, artificial intelligence is only concerned with the reproduction of specific tasks.

Artificial intelligence applications are being increasingly adopted to aid human decision making. Although AI has the concrete potential to improve human life and activities in countless ways, its implementation depends heavily on the trust placed in its performance. Human trust in technology is based on our knowledge of how these systems work and our assessment of their safety. To trust judgments based on algorithms, we must make sure that these are accurate and rational as well as safe and ethical. In this context, the Neurobioethics group of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights aims to provide answers to difficult ethical questions on the role of artificial intelligence and its relationship with humanity and society.

Aesthetics and art are apparently very far from those issues that directly involve the reality of existence. At the same time, however, these disciplines extend to a border area, namely the world of symbolic and mythical productions. The advent of artificial intelligence and algorithms in art meets a blank canvas, leaving ample room for a range of almost infinite possibilities. Despite the ability of technology to perform the purely procedural aspects that characterize a specific form of art, AI is not yet able to reproduce the genius and creative flair that characterizes each artist when committed to the creative process.

Rodin’s The thinker recalls that integral anthropology to help us shed light on a universal path for the elaboration of our reflections. It is a muscular figure, in which great attention has been given to the definition of the details of muscle tension. Rodin’s stylistic choices underline the close link between the intellectual activity and the body of the person, therefore the substantial union between the spiritual or intellectual soul and the body. Rodin’s The thinker reminds us that the person is the totality of body and spirit and cannot be traced back or reduced to one dimension.


AI and literature

Figuratively speaking, in 1967 Roland Barthes suggested that “the reader’s birth should be redeemed by the author’s death.” As artificial intelligence takes its first steps in narrative writing, Barthes’ metaphor might one day become a reality. An interesting project undertaken by Philip M. Parker, Marketing professor at INSEAD Business School, perfectly illustrates the literary applications of AI. Parker’s invention consists of a computer program capable of writing books on different topics in about 20 minutes. So far, hundreds of thousands of books have been created by the patented algorithm with Amazon listing over 100,000 books attributed to Parker’s business and ICON Group International Inc.

The system automates the writing process by creating information databases and identifying templates for the information to be packaged in the form of a coherent text. Since digital e-books and print-on-demand services have become very popular, topics can be listed on Amazon without being “written” yet. The system’s success (and cleverness) relies on the artificial emulation of the human literary process. Typically, this would have been done by several experts for each given subject requiring an exponentially higher amount of time and resources, all factors that are cut down to zero through Parker’s technology.

This prompts us to the question: can artificial intelligence produce creative works like a human being? Although a novel is a work of fiction, it is no secret that some genres lend themselves to predetermined formulas, such as romance novels. On the one hand, a novel written by an AI system would maintain its ultimate aim of entertaining the reader. On the other hand, to express not only original but deep personal content, investigations of a sociological statistical nature are not sufficient; what is necessary is a profound knowledge of the human soul and the dynamics of social relations. The very nature of human experience is found in literature, often represented as a crystallized emotion. The interest in AI is, therefore, reformulating the ongoing debate on what it means to be human, questioning our concepts of personality, imagination, and knowledge. AI is both the apotheosis of the logical scientific reasoning of the Enlightenment and, perhaps, also its damnation.



AI and painting

From the teardrop drawings of Pollock to Warhol’s pop art, artists have always been searching for new ways to advance their creativity. It could be argued that removing the human being from the artistic process could open up a new frontier of art where AI plays a central role for the overcoming of artistic obstacles. This new frontier of art, of course, opens the door to many philosophical debates about the concept of inspiration, experience, and copyright. The advent of AI in art could lead to a radical change in artistic and imaginative thought. Moreover, in an artistic environment dominated by artificial intelligence, it could be challenging to identify an exact creator. Although ethically dubious, this phenomenon opens the door to a future in which our imagination may no longer be the obstacle to the creation of art.

Harold Cohen, a former artist, and professor of the University of California of San Diego, started working on an artistic creation program called AARON in 1973, while he was a scholar visiting the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab. AARON’s ability to paint has improved year after year, learning more difficult and complex techniques from its creator. AARON learned to place objects or people in 3D space in the 1980s and was able to paint in colour from 1990 onwards. AARON does not paint with pixels, but through a machine that allows him to mix the paint and to obtain still lifes and portraits of human figures without photos or other human inputs as a reference. Over time his paintings have made their way into many of the world’s major art museums and into the hands of private collectors at the cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

If AARON has the potential to represent the future of art, the Ai-Da project appears even more futuristic. Defined as “the world’s first ultra-realistic humanoid robot artist” by its creator Aidan Meller, Ai-Da can draw creatively thanks to its integrated artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This production is possible thanks to its ability to receive visual data through cameras located in its eyes and virtual information processing algorithms that allow the establishment of coordinates for the realization of artistic work. Ai-Da can use a pencil or a pen producing sketches similar to historical drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Alan Turing.

The Ai-Da project is defined as revealing as its main objective is that of opening a discussion on the relationship between artificial and organic life. The very concept of life opens many debates in the world of philosophy and art. In these debates, the purely biological vision that life can be studied and identified exclusively by scientific and experimental disciplines collides with a multidimensional approach for which various levels of life are identified: animal, human and spiritual.

AI and music

The idea that music can be composed by artificial intelligence is intriguing as daunting to many. AI software for music production has reached such advanced levels in recent years that they have become routine tools used by producers to aid in the creative process. This development raises the question: Could artificial intelligence someday replace musicians?

Despite AI’s apparent novelty, it has long been utilized in music. In 1976 Ray Kurzweil presented a machine that could read the text on a page and pronounce the words aloud on the NBC Today show. The device was originally designed for the blind, but over time it became an innovative musical instrument based on artificial intelligence models. Kurzweil’s K250 synthesizer debuted in 1984 as the world’s first keyboard input instrument with the ability to generate the sounds of various acoustic instruments. Later, in the 90s, David Bowie helped develop an app called Verbasizer, capable of processing literary material and randomly reordering it to create new text combinations. While in 2016, Sony researchers employed a software called Flow Machines to create a Beatles-style melody, which was later used by composer Benoît Carré for the development of a pop song called “Daddy’s Car.”

The impact of these developments will profoundly affect all human endeavours, including music. Music will remain the communication of musicians’ emotions and human intuitions to an audience, but the concepts and process of music will undergo a profound transformation.

Towards a Bioesthetics in favor of integral human health

On January 8th and 9th our Director Prof. Alberto Garcia and our two research scholars Dr. Giulia Bovassi and Dr. Melissa Maioni will participare in the second seminar in Bioesthetics organized by the Bioesthetics Group of Study (Grupo de Estudio Bioestética – GEB) in Madrid.

Specifically, Prof. Alberto Garcia will give a lecture on “The self-transforming power of beauty in the behavior of the patient and the healthcare professional”. Dr. Giulia Bovassi will discuss “The vulnerability of the flesh as an expression of beauty” during the first panel and Dr. Melissa Maioni  “The inexhaustible desire for beauty as an effective cure in the experience of the disease” during the second one.

Moreover, the GEB  in collaboration with the International Bioethics Network, aesthetics, technoscience and biolaw, have obtained the resources to publish a second Monograph on Bioesthetics, which will allow the dissemination of our research during the year 2019, compiling the texts corresponding to the interventions of its members during the meetings of July 2019 and January 2020.

Read the full program following this link.


Meeting of the “BIOETICA Y BIOESTETICA” Group of Study






“Phenomenology of the aesthetic experience and its influence on human behavior and virtue”


  • Share moments of coexistence among GBE members.
  • Report the GBE’s progress during the year 2017 (activities, new members and publications).
  • Set objectives and common actions that we agree for 2018.
  • And above all … listen and talk about a topic of interest (the aesthetic experience) that can illuminate and provoke our vision on the subject and its impact on bioethics, as well as to inspire one or several future publications of the members as part of the GBE.


10:00 Welcome Presentation “The aesthetic experience”. Prof. FRANCISCO BUENO

10:45 Questions and answers.

11:00 Discussion and reflections on the aesthetic experience that can inspire and illuminate the elaboration of a future essay in which each one of the members of the GBE will explore, from their perspective and area of ​​interest, the theme of the meeting. Possibly some of the members can share, also, their essay that will be published in the book “Essays on Bioesthetics”

11:30 Coffee

12:00 Discussion and reflections (continued)

13:15 Progress report on GBE’s work. Prof. ALBERTO GARCÍA GÓMEZ and Prof. JAVIER BARRACA MAIRAL

13:45 Conclusions and joint work proposal

14:00 Lunch at the UFV


Read the program in Spanish 

Chair Director interviewed in magazine of Mexico’s National Commission of Bioethics

UNESCO Chair Director Alberto García was interviewed in the 20th edition of the Gaceta Conbioética, the magazine of Mexico’s National Commission of Bioethics. García highlights the social dimension of Bioethics, often forget in widespread individualistic approaches. He goes on to explain the history of the Chair and its ongoing mission of fostering the art of convergence and cooperation in global bioethics. García also recalls the Chair’s commitment to the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights and the fittingness of its location in Rome, the site of numerous human rights agreements. He concludes with a description of the Chair’s seven main areas of interest, with an extended account of achievements in the areas of Bioethics, Multiculturalism, and Religion, Neurobioethics; and Bioethics Global Art. To read the full interview, please click here.

Chair hosts Fifth International Bioethics, Multiculturalism, and Religion Workshop at MD Anderson Cancer Center

by Claudia Sotomayor, Research Scholar of UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was the host of the Fifth International Bioethics, Multiculturalism, and Religion Workshop and Conference. During three days Bioethical thought leaders from six major religions and ten countries gathered to analyze and discuss the “Bioethical Challenges in Neurogenomics from an Interreligious and Multicultural Perspective.” Previous workshops have successfully taken place in Jerusalem, Rome, Hong Kong and Mexico with the participation of more than 70 prestigious interdisciplinary scholars from around the world.


By gathering experts from Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, a rare space for dialogue was created where an atmosphere of friendship and respect reigned. Such dialogue and encounter allowed the participants to analyze the current bioethical issues posted by Neurogenomics, which is presently at a very exciting crossroad since recent discoveries have challenged the classic model of gene organization and information flow, and for these reasons are improving our self-understanding by providing biological descriptions of how man acts. However, the bioethical imperative remains to articulate how man should act within the relevant phenomenological dimensions described from the rich blend of multi-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

While each session allotted an hour to spontaneous dialogue in response to the three prepared presentations, the conversation inevitably spilled over into the coffee breaks, and shared meals. Each tradition brought up different and unique views that highlighted the importance of this topic. Dr. Alberto Carrara warned that the “reductionist interpretations of neuroscientific results challenge notions of free will, responsibility, personhood and the self which are essential for western culture and society.”

Dr. Ellen Zhang commented that “Buddhism will question scientism that reduces everything to materials while embracing science as a skillful means to help the world to be a better place.” The conversation was enriched by several topics highlighted by the Scholars like the relationship between Neurogenomics and the Islamic Law posted by Dr. Aasim Padela; the resource allocation problem noted by Dr. Mirko Garasic; and the analysis of the human afterlife form a Hinduist perspective explained by Dr. Deepak Sarma. With a great interest the experts expressed their concerns in setting up the limits to protect the dignity of the human person according to their own cultural/religious perspective.


Dr. Ruiping Fan proposed a familial ethical approach highlighting that “Confucianism holds ethical familialism, emphasizing the inherent value of family continuity, integrity, and prosperity, in addition to individual goods” and that “If this Confucian ethical familialism is taken seriously, we should not make individualist ethical guidelines for the research and application of neurogenetics.”

Dr. Leo Goodstadt, professor at Oxford University, explained in detail the human genome during his presentation. There was also an engaging talk on Public Health by Dr. Umair A. Shah, Executive Director Harris County Public Health Houston, Texas. These presentations where open to the public and encouraged participation of the outside community including public authorities, doctors and other healthcare personnel, teachers, university scholars and students. These talks also provided the scientific tools needed to advance the high level ethical reasoning of the Scholars.

Dr. Chris Durante, Professor of Religious Studies at the New York University, set the tone of the various sessions as academic coordinator of this workshop. Following his indications, participants sought to understand each religious tradition and their manner of arriving at moral norms without engaging in ill-informed, harsh criticisms. Without ignoring their obvious ethical differences, emphasis was placed upon finding bridge concepts that could stimulate continued dialogue and practical collaboration in realizing shared values.


To enlighten not only the mind, but the also the senses, Chair of the Bioethics Art Competition Yvonne Denbina, presented the winning pieces of 2011, 2013, 2015 of the Bioethics Art competition. The images transported the visitors to a deeper understanding of bioethics by the representation of the artists speaking through their images and words, to view the winning pieces visit the website: In this site, the information for the 2017 competition titled: A Portrait of Mother Earth and the Challenge of Human Ecology, is available.

The challenging experience of navigating through a complicated and highly technical topic using the lenses of different religious perspectives enabled the participants to share values and attitudes that promoted the dialogue, which fulfilled UNESCO Chair goal of “Fostering the Art of Convergence and Cooperation in Global Ethics.” To continue the international discussion on the various themes raised at the Houston gathering and to prepare for the 2018 workshop and conference, the Fellows participate in the ongoing blog:, where interested thinkers are welcome to participate and contribute.