AI: More Than Human

World Museum 1/6/21

It’s been a long time that we’ve been able to attend an in-person exhibition rather than over the internet. Whilst we can enjoy some things online, there’s nothing quite like the experience of exploring a museum, feeling an tangible connection to the inanimate rather than through a veil of a screen. We’ve adapted, found arts and culture through digital events and live streams, and likely tripled our screen time. Have we evolved beyond the experiences we craved before the pandemic? Was the life we lived really the life we desired or deserved? What comes next for us, as a community, as a species and as a planet? Nothing has you questioning that more than the AI: More Than Human exhibition at World Museum.

It’s intense for one of the first post-lockdown exhibitions to be one that questions mortality and the human experience, after a year of doing that ourselves. We’ve all broken boundaries and explored a realm we didn’t know possible. We continue to do so, walking through a darkened room to be welcomed by the ‘Future You AI’. Immediately, AI: More Than Human forces interactivity with a computer programme that can learn to dance from you and will, in seconds, surpass the moves you choose to present. In moments you can be witness to your own limits, similarly with facing Rubedo the cat who can inevitably decipher sentences faster than you.
It’s overused to describe things as a cultural reset, but the last year has been. Now is time to face what’s to come, and this exhibition places the visitor firmly poised to do so. Diving into the history of artificial intelligence, all the way from the Jewish folklore tale of the Golem crafted from clay/mud, brought to life to be a helper or rescuer of Jewish communities facing harm, to Frankenstein’s monster and modern cinema classics (Blade Runner, Ex Machina).

We experience the bizarrely eye-opening revelation that AI has been in our consciousness not just for our entire lifetime, but for generations before us. As all along it’s been in a palatable, largely fictional manner, it feels only rational to be afraid of the overwhelming, beyond comprehension concept of artificial intelligence.

Looking forward, AI: More Than Human begins to ponder what the future of artificial intelligence will bring. After long periods of isolation, we are encouraged to engage, focus and question where our humanity ends, and where technology begins. It’s scary, to be asked would you trust AI with the control of deploying weaponry? Would you trust AI to control finances? It’s intimidating, intense and feels like a trial. How can we trust something human-made, but beyond human, when time and time again we see an inability to rely on humanity? Be it with controlling Covid, fighting climate change or respecting each other?

Joy Buolamwini’s powerful spoken-word video, AI, Ain’t I A Woman?, stands out amongst the metal and complicated tech that make up a portion of the exhibition, looking into the lack of dark-skinned faces used in formulating AI datasets resulting in software that often fails to recognise people of colour. Human bias becomes the bias of our creations; how can we trust a creation built with implicit bias, built with prejudice, that can grow itself from there? How can we go beyond that?

Beneath the unease you feel an overwhelming urge to listen, to engage and dissect the information in front of you. AI: More Than Human is gripping, riveting and a welcome exploration into the boundaries humanity has set itself. We’re hopefully going to escape the bleakness thrown at us over the airwaves, to be able to question and mould the future we have in front of us, starting with questioning where we’re going to take technology, or where it is going to take us.

 

David took part in Bido Lito!’s Bylines writers programme, developing young culture writers of the future.  For more information and to find out about the next intake, visit bidolito.co.uk/workshops

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