OPEN CALL 03. UNCANNY
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 modeled on Audrey Hepburn2 create a lineage of icarus-like tendencies to form autonomous intelligence from seemingly inanimate materials.
1 Soft, and more soft at ev’ry Touch it grew; Like pliant Wax, when chafing hands reduce, The former Mass to Form, and frame for use.
2 Sorkin, Andrew Ross. Interview With The Lifelike Hot Robot Named Sophia. 25 October, 2017, CBNC. ←
Yet, we now find ourselves in a moment where 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. AI is informed not only by human interaction, but also by the order created within society through the design of objects, systems, images, binaries3. With the acceleration of AI in our daily life, is it becoming difficult to differentiate the creator from the creation?
Perhaps to combat the fear of a possible loss of control, artificial intelligence is formed into recognisable and familiar contraptions, which aim to seamlessly slip into daily life unnoticed, learning to recognise and feed our desires and needs4. Developing from the common senses with which we interpret reality, from sight to hearing to touch, these recognisable and familiar contraptions are also ‘ideals‘5 created from sometimes misdirected desires, handed down from few subjective perspectives and interests6 . We are now able to shape our common human senses – to extract them from ourselves and create new uses for them 7. How should AI be informed and who holds the responsibility for this?
7 Khrennikov, Ilya. Moscow Deploys Facial Recognition to Spy on Citizens in Streets. September 28, 2017, Bloomberg. ←
Within the framework of AI, design, as a metaphor between the material and the immaterial, creates containers which enable technologies to enter in our daily life. Designs which attempt to replicate humans (best seen on shows like Westwood or this Abe Lincoln simulacrum), provoke an ‘uncanny valley’ 8 sensation while at the same time, non-human forms (such as a speaker box, or a cellphone) contain artificial intelligence.These shapes, embedded with AI, create a series of real-time glitches in our daily lives which become even more evident when these familiar forms become unable to contain AI – from driverless cars running red lights 9,to Amazon Alexa’s unprompted and unexpected laughter 10. In a strange feedback loop, this enables a mirror-like experience where our realities are reflected back to us, through an autonomous entity.
Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will one day glean enough information 11 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, would design still be a metaphor enabling AI to “silently” slip into our daily lives? How would AI design itself given the chance?
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?
Fictional Journal’s Issue 03. Uncanny, in collaboration with Baltan Laboratories, dives into the paradox between the ‘creator’ and the ‘creation’ and the future of this relationship – in a moment of awe.
9 Self Driving Uber Running Red Light. 16 December, 2016. ←
10 Alexa Laughs and Rare Moments. 7 May, 2018. ←
11 Yaskawa Electric Corporation. Yaskawa Bushido Project – Machii’s swordplay with MOTOMAN-MH24. 4 June, 2014. ←