The installation exposes the creation of an artificial intelligence and its workings to a general audience. It deals with bias within programming, the notion of losing control in a world supervised by machines and the utopia of creating an all-knowing Big Data oracle.
In 1969, Marshall McLuhan said in an interview by Playboy Magazine: “man thus becomes the reproduction organs of the machine world just as the bee is of the plant world, permitting it to constantly evolve to higher forms.“
Bitcoin mining consumes more energy than Switzerland, the African continent becomes a contaminated waste disposal for Europe´s discarded machines, and mountain ranges between New York and Chicago are blown up to make way for faster fiber-cable connections in between the stock exchanges in order to gain milliseconds for high frequency trading operations. Our civilisation is already transforming the planet to build abstraction machines to reach beyond ourselves. In this ever-evolving feedback loop, human beings, the data they produce and their thoughts become resources themselves, which are then extracted and harvested by machines. In turn, these require more resources and power to keep on running.
“A portrait of the AI as a young Cyber Oracle “ talks about material and immaterial forms and flow of resources, their future use and the metaphysical implication they have for the constitution of human life and other forms on intelligence. It investigates our relationship towards technology, and how humans have always looked for the “ghost in the machine”. For example, “Buckelbergwerke” were portable miniature displays of a mining operation with several automated elements and sounds carried by retired miners on their back. These showcases of a mechanical world theatre (“Theatrum mundi”), were displayed at amusement fairs and used the same rotating mechanism originally developed for excavations fuelling industrialisation.
This ongoing imaginary dimension towards the tools we create, currently culminates with the discourse on Artificial Intelligence, a technology still at an infant state but already connected to wild metaphors and speculations. What is the appropriate picture for the invisible flow of data within it? Is it like fire, both powerful and dangerous? Or is it more like the ripples of water created by a stone thrown into a lake? Will we be able to control it, e.g. by putting fire extinguishers everywhere, or will we become the tools of its emergent qualities?
Nobody knows what impact Artificial Intelligence will have on society, yet the discussion surrounding the last American presidential election, Brexit as well as increasing concerns for data privacy, show that there is a need to facilitate a meaningful dialogue of how AI and Big Data should be used and regulated. As many of these discourses are rather emotional than rational, art could play a vital role in evaluating the involved risks and benefits.
What is more, there seems to be a near magical quality hidden in the discourse on AI. It is directly linked with the exponential growth of computing power, questions of singularity as well as a culture that installations irrational concepts and fears on science. As algorithms play an ever-increasing role in the production of cultural goods, our installation analyses this development right now from an artistic and scientific perspective. Part of this discussion is also about the question: how user interaction and the participation of the public could influence this growing industry?
The first part of the installation is conducted as a Prototype program, the Cyber Oracle. It is a unique algorithm programmed by the Artificial Intelligence specialist Dejan Porjazovski based on discussions with JRC scientists Blagoj Delipetrev. It lets the user choose from different data sets including philosophy, Shakespeare, cooking receipts, the telephone book and the open source code of the Open A.I. program, which is one of the most advanced language models nowadays. The public can interact with the algorithm by providing their own thoughts and questions, and then choosing the level of chance and contingency and the length of the text generated by the machine. By letting the audience choose between different data-sets based on various sources, the work exposes the bias of algorithms, that is always reproducing the ever-present bias within culture and the data collected from it. Furthermore, the program is also able to generate a short piece of classical music to correlate with the emotion expressed by the audience towards the generated text.
The second part of the installation consists of a Lecture Performance on the current state of A.I. by Paul Wiersbinski. It functions as the inauguration of the work, highlighting the ceremonial use of the art created by the Cyber Oracle. It also features a unique dramatic text written for this occasion, which is based on the on-going dialogue with Blagoj Delipetrev and Henrik Junklewitz, as well as other meetings with JRC staff during the time spent in residency between April and May 2019. The JRC flagship report, « Artificial Intelligence - A European Perspective » and « Building Trust in Human-Centric Artificial Intelligence », will also be used as source material. The aim of this part of the work is to produce an engaging and entertaining presentation to talk about the complex implications of the topic.
Part of the work plans to reflect on the use of Artificial Intelligence as tools for propaganda and fake news in Internet clips and Streams, which have become a visual standard as an expression of authenticity and supposed truth for users who feel oppressed and defective. The viewpoint of the performance coupled to the artistic liberty taken within its creation is to talk about these phenomena of our times in terms of rules, rituals, divination and contingency hidden within the discourse of predicting programs.
Scientists have been using machines for a long time to help their research on complex topics. Our aim can therefore be seen as a step towards emphasizing that in the social and cultural world also, the main factor in creating results is not the increasing amount machines play in facilitating its aesthetics. It is the human actor behind it, who still decides what and how content is produced, and in which way it is delivered to the audience.