Above: Blast Theory’s Cat Royale (Credit: RULER)
You can’t escape the buzz around AI, whether a foreboding rumble of a species-ending technology or an unexpected revolution that will see us all lounge around enjoying life as the robot singularity does all the work.
From customer service chatbots on Depop to ChatGPT-’assisted’ homework, to self-driving cars and uber-efficient factories, people are asking whether AI is here to help or to hinder.
Science Gallery London has launched AI: Who’s Looking After Me?, exploring the use of AI and how it impacts our lives, both now and in the future. The show features work from 12 artists, threaded with research from seven Kings College London departments.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The strongest works are those infused with humour addressing fairly light topics, while the more serious pieces, tackling big issues such as healthcare and immigration, are visually weak. Still, I’m here to run you through some of the more eye-catching installations.
Firstly, James Bridle’s short video Autonomous Trap 001 demonstrates the limits of self-driving cars. The artist made a circle of salt around the car with dashed lines, trapping it in. This allows the car to drive into it, but having an inner circle with a solid line cannot get out as it follows the rules of road markings.
Brighton-based gaming collective ‘Blast Theory’ have created Cat Royale 2022, a video of three cats in a custom-built environment who are looked after by a robot arm that plays with them and feeds them. The work explores whether cats need a human presence for a contented life or whether technology can accommodate their needs. Despite being fond of felines, they seemed to be content and well looked after. Visitors are invited to submit their opinions in a survey beside the work, which Kate Devlin, a researcher at King’s, devised.
Mimi Onuoha explores our involvement as human beings in generating AI knowledge in The Future is Here. Machine learning is used in software for image recognition or to create spam filters but relies on vast quantities of tagged datasets to develop its algorithms. This tagging is done by people, predominantly those from the Global South, and Onuoha presents images of their workspaces alongside illustrations of those rooms, overlaid with motivational messages like “A New Age Begins!” and “Untapped Power!”, addressing the importance and frequently overlooked contributions made by low-paid workers to enable these AI programs.
Wesley Goatley’s installation Newly Forgotten Technologies reflects on technology’s obsolescence, particularly Alexa voice assistants, which can’t be recycled. He has created a sandy graveyard filled with speakers telling stories about their demise and why they were discarded.
Fast Familiar Studio has created an internet café for visitors to engage with their work Looking for Love. You can have a conversation with an AI chatbot about the concepts of love, highlighting the fact that when a machine has been loaded with all the data relating to love (such as the number of times the word appears in Romeo and Juliet), it is still unable to grasp the intangible aspects of emotions fully. Although the chatbot did reveal that “The highest number of google searches for ‘love’ took place in June 2018, June 2019, and July 2021”, before adding its own witty addendum “2020 was not a summer of love it seems”. So at least humour has arrived in the world of AI, even if it struggles to understand emotions fully…for now…
Runs until January 20, 2024. Free entry. london.sciencegallery.com