Human history is inextricably tied to technology. The most recent chapter in our history has been dominated by the digital revolution, which has exponentially accelerated the development of new technologies.
And the result is in every way extraordinary. We have created a world that consists of both real and virtual spaces which seamlessly merge and inevitably overlap. A world in which we are no longer the sole protagonists. Starting with the production lines in our factories, we share more and more of this new world with increasingly intelligent man-made systems.
This trend has recently seen an enormous boost from neural networks, which are triggering a revolution in computer science: Software will no longer be created by humans, instead creating itself out of raw data. “The repercussions of this ‘summer of AI’ will be massive,” says Gerfried Stocker. “Now that we’ve taught our machines to see, hear and feel with sensors, we are using artificial neural networks to digitize the processes of thinking and decision-making.
And as this technology becomes even more efficient and powerful, the role that we humans take in actively shaping our future becomes more important, not less important. “No matter how intelligent machines and programs one day become, we will always be the ones who determine whether they are the cause of our problems or part of their solution,” says Gerfried Stocker. In order to look as far ahead as possible, you need a telescope. But when deciding which direction you want to travel, you need a compass.
Biotecnology is also part of the discourse, inextricably linked to the progressive evolution torwards the cyborg. The new Ars Electronica Center Bio Lab, visitors can isolate their own DNA and cultivate cell cultures. And now for the first time, visitors can even try out the “CRISPR/Cas9” gene scissors, well publicized in recent times. Anyone will be able to see firsthand how easily and selectively this tool can insert, remove, and switch off individual genes.
From biotechnology to climate change and crisis, to human –machine interfaces, subject of the Second Body Lab at the new Ars Electronica Center where some examples of these new human-machine interfaces are demonstrated.
The exhibition “Understanding Artificial Intelligence,” the new Ars Electronica Center describes how systems of Artificial Intelligence, from self driving cars, to Facebook news, to virtual assistants, work. In order to make this understandable in a playful way, the Ars Electronica Futurelab has created interactive stations where visitors can observe neural networks learning and “thinking”:
Should a mouse be afraid of an elephant? Afraid of a trout? Of a cat? By answering these questions, visitors help train an artificial neural network. Each of their answers provides the system with one more clue as to which combinations of weight, size, speed, claws, and teeth ought to make a mouse turn and run for its life.
In such a large and extended vision it was implicity necessary to talk about AI and ethics starting from the question: Can AI systems be objective as well? Can they operate free of prejudice and make fair decisions?
(extracts from the press release)
Ars Electronica 2019. Out of the Box,Linz, Austria, 05 – 09.09.2019
images: (cover 1) pinocchio – CREATIVE ROBOTICS – Kunstuniversität Linz: Johannes Braumann, Amir Bastan Puppetry: Katharina Halus, Marionette: Michael Lauss. Ars Electronica Futurelab. Credit: vog.photo (2) SEER: Simulative Emotional Expression Robot / Takayuki Todo (JP) Credit: vog.photo (3) ShadowGAN / Ars Electronica Futurelab (AT) Credit: Ars Electronica / Martin Hieslmair (4) Mirages & miracles / Adrien M & Claire B. Credit: vog.photo (5) recoveriX: Schlaganfall-Rehabilitation/ g.tec medical engineering (AT) Credit: vog.photo