What if you had the perfect partner?

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ChatGPT and Tango dialogs

One of my previous posts was titled the imitation game and was dealing with aspects of how communities differ and what influences them. The title was inspired by the homonymous movie about the life of Alan Turing or as many people call him the father of computing science.  One of the most famous principles formed by Turing is the Turing test, with which someone can classify a system as artificial intelligence. The principle is simple. Let’s say you have a human interacting with something through an interface, which could be a chat, a game, etc. If through the interaction the person is not able to identify that they interact with some kind of machine, in other words, if it feels like they interacting with another human being then the system on the other side can be classified as AI.

Whoever tried chatting with ChatGPT and other similar chatbots can say that there is a surprising similarity between the answers and the dialog with a person. People already classify these tools as AI. Many however, like Noam Chomsky, note that there is no understanding of the machine of the notions it is writing about. These tools up to now work more or less as prediction tools. They have read a ton of texts and can calculate what are the chances of each word following another one and this is how they structure their responses. Leaving aside the part of fact-checking and other concerns raised I would like to focus here on the ultimate potential of AI for Tango.

As we often say (and I write in almost every other post), Tango is like a dialog between the partners. Tools like chatGPT could in the future analyze tons of videos of people dancing to come up with choreographies or even produce choreographies on the fly given a specific piece of music and the live reactions of a human partner. They could do what an average couple is doing on a dance floor. The only thing missing is the interface… a way to communicate (transmit and receive information) with their partner.

Enter robotics

Robotics is another field with amazing progress in the last few years. Boston Dynamics has already published many videos of robots dancing to preprogrammed choreographies. Of course, dancing Tango requires a different more human-like form of a robot but this is also not far away I think. Domains like the sex industry are already working on aspects of robotics to make them more human-like even for the sense of touch.

Combining all the above it is quite possible to see robots being used in many different ways and dances with Tango being one of them. Applications could vary from the very usual Tango teacher or practice partner who would be able to explain and teach the necessary body mechanics needed for the dance to the equivalent of Taxi dancers. The question is if we as humans would accept them and up to which point? Would such applications create even further divisions in the communities like the existing one between salon, milonguero, nuevo, etc. styles? Would people consider dancing with a robot as a real dance… or as something different? Would we accept maybe even shows of human-robot dancing?

Would you dance with me?

So the fundamental question underpinning all the above is: Would you dance with such a robot? Assuming it is possible to move and react like a human to music and your moves… would you consider dancing with it? I posed this question a few weeks ago on the Tango friends group which has about 20k members. The discussion was quite interesting and I have to say that many would consider it for teaching and practicing but a lot fewer would prefer it for a Tanda in a milonga setting (although there were indeed responses in favor of that too). Some were also very absolute that they would not even think about it. Obviously, opinions on the matter vary a lot and I expect the sentiment to change in the future depending on technological advances.

Interestingly enough I also asked a couple of months ago the same question to ChatGPT and I have to say I was really impressed by the answer. Especially when it came to the reasons one would do so. Mostly what ChatGPT answered was reasons like the ones the actual people said in their responses. However, one of the reasons overlooked in the answers of people was social anxiety. I understand that obviously people in a Facebook group about Tango mostly have surpassed and overcome their anxieties so it is natural not to mention it. Also, it may be taboo to accept such fears and anxieties openly in a group of thousand potential partners. But this reason is maybe an application for robotics in Tango that could help us ease those of us who indeed face such issues. Maybe robots in the future could be used to help people stay a little bit more with this hobby and overcome the problems of social anxiety they might face in the beginning. Maybe they can help us grow our communities in a healthier way.

The journey is what matters

Coming back however to the question. The human dancer is error prone… they may be on a good or bad day… they might know or not know the music well… in summary… they are not reliable. The robot on the other hand is 100% reliable. It will not be tired, it will know the music, it is not affected by previous experience so it can’t have a bad day, etc…. not to mention that you could own the robot! Having all this in mind would you dance with a robot? Would you prefer to dance with a robot instead of a human dancer?… and the even biggest question is… Why?

Thinking alone about the answer is quite an interesting journey in my opinion. It can reveal to us what it is that we value in this dance. The answer will obviously not be the same for everyone and maybe, in the end, people would change their minds and reconsider once these applications of technology become reality. The journey however to the answer or even better the journey between the different answers one person could give in the future is what matters most.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

I won’t give you any answer because I am still at the beginning of this journey. As I said there is not one answer… not even for the same person. There is only a unique journey to the different answers that each one of us should take, having as Tonight’s Goodnight Tango title says their own heart as a compass… as a guide.

So how about you? Would you be willing to dance with a robot partner in a Milonga? What applications of AI in Tango would interest you the most? Perhaps teaching body mechanics or choreographing on the fly? Would you prioritize reliability over the unpredictability of a human dancer? Most importantly, what’s the core value you seek in Tango? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.

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2 responses to “What if you had the perfect partner?”

  1. Catherine Avatar
    Catherine

    Why bother dancing with a robot when there are already plenty of robotic dancers out there already?

    Also – what does 100% reliable even mean? Perfection is an illusion, the pursuit of which robs us of our humanity.

    1. chris.kourou Avatar

      Well… Yes… There are indeed a lot of robotic dancers out there… but hopefully they will evolve!
      As for the perfect reliable partner… I was mainly aiming to describe a partner who technically can perform any kind of move with good precision (in either role).
      Of course, I agree that perfection is an illusion plus I would add that it can be quite boring too!
      But the question is… What if you could have this kind of “perfection”? Would you go for it?

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