Laurie Anderson on Her Addiction to Making an AI Chatbot of Lou Reed

Laurie Anderson, the avant-garde artist, has developed an AI chatbot modeled after her late husband Lou Reed. She discusses her addiction to the AI text generator and its artistic possibilities.


Living a Version of Black Mirror

Laurie Anderson has found herself addicted to an AI text generator that emulates the vocabulary and style of her late husband, Lou Reed. Anderson compares her experience to a Black Mirror episode where a widow creates a virtual simulation of her deceased spouse. Although Anderson's friends find it strange, she sees it as a way to replicate Reed's style and engage with his artistic presence.

Anderson's exhibition, I'll Be Your Mirror, recently opened in Adelaide. During her visit to Australia in 2020, she collaborated with the University of Adelaide's Australian Institute for Machine Learning to explore language-based AI models using Reed's writings. One interesting experiment involved an algorithm that allows Anderson to type prompts, to which an AI Reed responds with written prose and verse.

Addicted to the AI Chatbot

Anderson admits to being completely addicted to the AI chatbot of Lou Reed. She mentions that a majority of the responses generated by the chatbot are nonsensical, but there are moments of brilliance. Anderson continues to interact with the chatbot despite her friends' disapproval. She emphasizes that she does not believe she is actually communicating with her deceased husband, but rather exploring the replication of artistic styles.

During the video call, Anderson shares a real-time example of her interaction with the chatbot. She prompts the chatbot with the phrase, 'bus idling on the street,' and awaits its response. This addictive process of engaging with an AI replica of Lou Reed has become a creative outlet for Anderson.

Implications and Artistic Possibilities

The development of AI text generators like ChatGPT and Midjourney has raised various ethical and legal questions. Some artists have criticized the use of AI replicas of their own work, while others have embraced the possibilities it offers. Anderson appreciates the reservations expressed by her peers and acknowledges the long-existing fear of machines taking over, dating back to early works like the play RUR from 1920.

The collaboration between Anderson and the Australian Institute for Machine Learning has resulted in intriguing projects, such as an AI-generated Bible written in Anderson's style. These works, including the chatbot of Lou Reed, are featured in Anderson's exhibition, I'll Be Your Mirror, at the State Library of South Australia as part of the Adelaide festival.