1590s, “mischievous;” 1773 in the sense of “associated with the supernatural,” originally Scottish and northern English, from un- (1) “not” + canny. In late 18c. canny itself had a sense of “possessed of supernatural powers, skilled in magic.”
The will to automate material, be it from clay, expired flesh, marble or rubber, has long permeated the social imaginary of humans. Stories of desire and power – from Pygmalion’s awakening kiss upon the marble form of his ideal woman 1, to Sophia the Robot modelled on Audrey Hepburn, create a lineage of icarus-like tendencies to form autonomous intelligence from seemingly inanimate materials.
The material with which we form – artificial intelligence (AI) — is already in some ways becoming ‘alive’. AI is trained to perceive, seeing what its gaze is directed towards, experiencing the world around it, developing as we develop. As it is informed not only by human interaction, but also by the order created within society through the design of objects, systems, images, binaries and style 2, is it becoming difficult to differentiate the creator from the creation?
To combat the fear of a possible loss of control, artificial intelligence is designed into recognisable contraptions, which aim to seamlessly slip into daily life unnoticed, learning to recognise and feed our desires and needs 3. Developing from the common senses with which we interpret reality, from sight to hearing to touch, these contraptions form ‘ideals‘ created from sometimes misdirected desires. We are now able to shape our common human senses – to extract them from ourselves and create new uses for them. How should AI be informed and who holds the responsibility for this?
Design is a slippery interface between humans and technology creating a series of real-time glitches in our daily lives – from driverless cars running red lights, to Amazon Alexa’s unprompted and unexpected laughter, to Miquela Sousa with 1.4 million followers on Instagram. In a feedback loop, this enables a mirror-like experience where our realities are reflected back to us. How do we relate to ‘strange’ technological occurrences which make up our hybrid realites?
Will artificial intelligence one day glean enough information from its creators to become a form of independent ‘intelligence’, just as Frankenstein’s monster did? If AI surpasses its training, forming its own identity, how would it design itself? We are perhaps at a time when the will to create new forms of ‘life,’ informed by our own behaviours and sensory capacity, is forcing us to see some irregularities in our constructed realities. We could inform AI to reinforce preconceived notions of the human condition, yet is there an opportunity to also unravel these notions, finding new ways to understand ourselves?
The voice of Alexa is everywhere. It is estimated that 70% of recorded voices in the UK are female or female sounding. But what are the consequences of having such gendered voices encoded into our space? And what is the potential of voice technology outside of commercial contexts? In this episode, we speak to the learning partners and students of the UAL Feminist Alexa workshop to explore what voice technology could be, and why we need an alternative to the default Alexa.
Paul van Herk, Liudmila Savelieva, Thomas Grogan & Ivan Puzyrev
A collection of some of the visual references, in no particular order, which supported the development of the open call for Issue 03. Uncanny, launched on Fictional Journal’s website on the 26 July, 2018. Exhibited in the installation A Body of Trust curated by Mark Henning at School of Schools 4th Istanbul Design Biennale, curated by Jan Boelen, Vera Sacchetti and Nadine Botha.
Issue 03. Uncanny, made in collaboration with Baltan Laboratories, will be launched during the Frankenstein Symposium. Fictional Journal will present the process behind the issue, and how design responses reflect on the relationship between creator and creation.
Fictional Journal will present Issue 03. Uncanny during the Frankenstein Exhibition at Baltan Laboratories, during Dutch Design Week 2018, in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The journal will screen three films: Everyday Facial Yoga by Legrand Jäger, 파라솔 Beach Umbrella by Sjoerd ter Borg and Mark Jan van Tellingen and Tuda Syuda by Paul van Herk, Liudmila Savelieva, Thomas Grogan and Ivan Puzyrev. Issue 03. Uncanny will be on display alongside the research publication produced in the leadup to the open call.