Essay

A Young Person Recommends... AI: More than Human

Marianne Tynan reviews the AI: More than Human exhibition which runs from 16 May - 26 Aug 2019 at the Barbican. 

From the first ideas that helped generate artificial intelligence (AI) in ancient storytelling and mythology to the cutting edge receptive robots being developed today, this exhibition will guide you through how AI took a science fictional concept and introduced it into our daily lives.

The introduction of AI through literature and film can be seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), also featuring in children's comics and television shows such as Doraemon (1970-present). These forms of media explore the origins and development of AI theories throughout time and across different cultures; providing various examples that people from both western and eastern civilisations can relate to. In this way, our personal experiences provide context for the remainder of the exhibition. Whether you’ve followed the journey of AI or have only just begun exploring it, I found it interesting to learn that the ideas that form the basis of AI date back as far as the 1500s from ancient Hebrew writings about the creation of Golem, an animate being allegedly created from clay.

As you progress through the exhibition you can see how AI develops from cryptography used to make the Enigma Machine during the early-to-mid twentieth century to the human interaction and communication with primitive intelligence developed and programmed by Ishiguro Lab (Osaka University) and Ikegami Lab (Tokyo University).

You can see how this innovative technology is being used both practically and artistically. Correlating with the concept of AI, the exhibition can be quite overwhelming due to its engaging and interactive nature. It features various research projects including work created by DeepMind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Neri Oxman.

AI is a topical discussion at the moment, paired with a range of emotions towards its rapid growth. Whether it’s generating a Spotify playlist, finding your next dating match or helping you find what you’re looking for online through personalised adverts, we are now realising how ingrained AI is in our lives rather than a distant and estranged technological phenomenon. Recent news headlines suggest AI revelations such as autonomous cars could be common on our roads by 2021; linking with Einstein's famous notion: ‘it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity’.

AI: More than Human poses question such as; How has AI redefined the role of an artist? How does AI challenge authorship and ownership? What are the ethical implications? What does it mean to be a human in the age of artificial intelligence?

Whether a technological singularity will result in our civilisation being ruled by robot overlords or not, the integration of AI into our daily lives is going to have significant consequences that should be explored and discussed, this exhibition being a perfect place to do so.

Whether you’re an avid AI fan or merely curious to learn more I would definitely recommend checking out this exhibition which will be at the Barbican Centre till the 26th of August. Don’t forget to stop by MakrShakr and grab a drink from the resident robot bartenders to have the full AI experience!

- Marianne Tynan