R&D in Artificial Intelligence

In the summer of 2017, I was selected for Collusion‘s Artificial Intelligence Lab and follow-up R&D, in Cambridge. Working with philosophers from the Centre for the Future of Intelligence, I considered prediction and the idea of the Laplace’s Demon in relation to the physicality of machines. What if we move away from the fascination with machines acting/looking like people, and instead go in the other direction? In our anthro-centric world, I wondered about those qualities already shared between humans and machines (and by extension many other physical objects).

By stripping away digital culture and seeking out an ‘honest’ technology (as I also did on my Rambert residency), I tried to shift the spotlight away from the spectacle of tech, and back onto the human-human relationship. A major crisis of our time centres on social perceptions of ‘difference’ and ‘otherness’, and I wondered whether machines may be most useful as a way to create bridges. By using them to rehearse relationships with other humans, machines may help us to be more empathetic towards those that we’d normally consider dissimilar to us.

I used a mermaid to symbolise the machine BIOS, partly to stand pleasingly for a digital data version of Laplace’s Demon, and partly just to point out the ‘Fiji Mermaid‘ quality of AI in contemporary discourse, which I see as a bit of a sensationalist mash-up. The new AI discussions we’re having are exciting, but often rife with exploitative misdirection, side-show like ‘buzz’ and ultimately hollow promises.

Practical tech I experimented with on this R&D project included RFID, underwater film, pixel graphics and projection mapping.

Here’s some of the test footage of Rosa as the mermaid, projected on the wall at the Cambridge Junction event, last autumn.