This week, the research studio [at]ificial intelligence kicks off! The research studio is an elective course, open to all bachelor art students of Zuyd. This year, the research studio takes place in the curriculum of iArts. Students from the Theatre Academy, Conservatory, Fine Arts, Visual Communication and iArts participate in this 10-week course, taught by Nina Willems, Ties van de Werff and Peter Missotten.
The core theme of this course is artificial intelligence (AI) and its societal and ethical implications. The societal and ethical implications of AI are challenging. Will AI make our workforce obsolete? How to program self-driving cars to make the right decision? How to govern the power that Silicon Valley-tech corporations such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have over our habits and activities? How to prevent the biases of algorithms that result in discrimination (such as the bias of Google Images towards people of colour, or the recent Dutch crisis in tax fraud)? How to preserve our privacy in a world in which data about our preferences has become the new currency? And what about the post-truth information bubbles, the result of polarized suggestions of algorithms, that only weeks ago resulted in democratic threats in the US? These are only some of the dilemma’s connected to a technology that seems only just getting started.
The questions that AI encourages us to ask, are not only challenging but also hard to predict. We don’t know yet what is or will be at stake, or how to approach it. As the technology develops, so too will the uncertainties around it: the kinds of questions we can ask, the unexpected consequences of such technologies, and our imaginations about them. Artificial intelligence and ‘smart’ algorithms shape the way we live in our digital society. But at the same time, the debate about AI and the technology itself gets shaped by us: how we develop and engineer the technology, but also how we try to imagine and engage with the uncertainties around this emerging technology.
What is there to do for artists? How can we as artists and makers engage with such emerging technoscientific topics? How can we contribute to the lively societal debate around AI in a meaningful way? How can we go beyond hype, hope and fear scenarios? How do contemporary artists already engage with AI in their work? Throughout the past century, we have imagined both bright and dark futures with intelligent computers. From Capek’s theatre play R.U.R, Asimov’s novel I, Robot, and sci-fi movies such as Metropolis, HAL 9000: A space Odyssey, Terminator, Her and Ex Machina. Contemporary artists more and more embrace AI as an artistic tool, medium or topic to critically engage with. In the research studio, both students and teachers will explore how we can engage with AI from an artistic perspective, using methods of artistic research and artistic engagement.
This research studio is a collaboration between iArts and the two research centres of the arts at Zuyd: research centre of Technology Driven Art and the research centre for Arts Autonomy and the Public Sphere.
Image: Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy generative Adversarial Network print, on canvas, 2018, published by Obvious Art, Paris. Emond de Belamy is the first artwork created using AI to be featured in a Christie’s auction.