‘More than human’: Wonders of AI on show in London

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An installation entitled Synthetic Apiary, by Neri Oman and The Mediated Matter Group, is pictured during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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An AI robot with a humanistic face, entitled Alter 3: Offloaded Agency, is pictured during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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An installation entitled Personal Food Computer v3.0, by during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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The robotic arms of the Makr Shakr cocktail maker are pictured as they mix a cocktail during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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An AI robot with a humanistic face, entitled Alter 3: Offloaded Agency, is pictured during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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The robotic arms of the Makr Shakr cocktail maker are pictured as they mix a cocktail during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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The robotic arms of the Makr Shakr cocktail maker are pictured as they mix a cocktail during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
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An assistant looks at an installation entitled Myriad (Tulips) by Anna Ridler, during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition entitled "AI: More than Human", at the Barbican Centre in London on May 15, 2019. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
Updated 16 May 2019
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‘More than human’: Wonders of AI on show in London

  • Visitors will be able to take a journey from the long-held dream of creating artificial life to the reality of today’s most cutting-edge projects
  • There are also robots of all shapes and sizes, from Sony’s small dog Aibo to a large mechanical arm that prepares and serves cocktails

LONDON: Managing the health of the planet, fighting discrimination or boosting innovation in the arts; the fields in which Artificial Intelligence can help humans are countless, and an ambitious London exhibition aims to prove it.
Under the title “AI: more than human,” the immense Barbican cultural center brings together more than 200 installations, exhibits and projects by artists, scientists and researchers from all over the world.
From Thursday until August, visitors will be able to take a journey from the long-held dream of creating artificial life to the reality of today’s most cutting-edge projects.
An immersive space by Japanese collective teamLab forms one of the most intriguing exhibits, with art and science combining to let the visitor leave their mark on an evolving digital wall projection.
There are also robots of all shapes and sizes, from Sony’s small dog Aibo — whose first version from 1999 has now evolved into an AI model — to a large mechanical arm that prepares and serves cocktails.
Other exhibits explore the complex systems that keep big cities ticking over and push forward research into medical conditions from cancer to blindness.
The current limits of AI are investigated, including racial bias in some facial recognition software.
Properly designed AI can help prevent harm, Francesca Rossi, head of ethics at IBM Research, told AFP.
“If the machine can understand this concept of bias, then it can alert us if it sees that there is bias in our decision making,” she said.
Although the idea of decoding the human brain and imitating its functions was born in the mid-1950s, AI only exploded in 2010 thanks to very fast state-of-the-art processors that allow the analysis of huge amounts of data.
The machines have since come on leaps and bounds.
IBM’s Deep Blue beat Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997 while AlphaGo — developed by Google’s DeepMind team — in 2016 beat Lee Sedol, world champion in the 3,000-year-old Chinese board game known as Go.
Both are present in the exhibition, helping to outline how AI can help solve problems of enormous complexity, such as climate change.
“The thing that we dream about would be, what if a machine could say: ‘here is a clever way of changing how we run our economy that fixes climate’,” explained Swedish philosopher Anders Sandberg, Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford.
But for that, “we need to find a good way of putting human values into machines so they will act without accidentally harming you,” he added, joking that AI could conclude the best solution was to eradicate human beings.
Despite its ambitious scope, the exhibition is only one part of a larger project called “Life Rewired,” which explores the impact of technology on society.
The center recently held a concert of baroque music composed by AI after analizing works by Johann Sebastian Bach.
“We gave the machine-learning algorithm all of Bach’s keyboard works,” explained the project’s architect Marcus du Sautoy.
“That’s a lot of music, but often machine-learning needs millions of data points to learn from,” added the Oxford mathematician.
He hopes to demonstrate that, rather than competing with humans, artificial intelligence can help humans “to think outside of our narrow creative window.”
“Humans get very stuck in ways of thinking, we often end up behaving like machines,” he said.


Cannes Diary: The world’s glitziest film festival through the eyes of an industry insider

Updated 22 May 2019
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Cannes Diary: The world’s glitziest film festival through the eyes of an industry insider

  • The director says Cannes is more than just a movie festival
  • Attendees wear color-coded badges, which specify their title and occupation

Film director Hadi Ghandour takes us behind the scenes at the Cannes Film Festival with his revealing diary entries.

Day 1

I am on a train from Paris to Cannes. A middle-aged woman maneuvers her way around my legs and sits beside me. She is on her phone, making sure to loudly telegraph to the entire train that she is attending the festival. “I hope Xavier Dolan doesn’t disappoint me like last time! And can you believe that Alain Delon is being honored? What a travesty!” We are all supposed to be impressed. My festival experience begins before I get there, it is a preview of things to come. I am forced to endure her pontification for the next five hours.

The train arrives on an overcast afternoon. The first thing I do is pick up my badge. Without it you are considered a third-class citizen. I inch past the security blocks that barricade the Croisette like a fortress and make my way to the Grand Palais.

What makes this place so distinctive and often daunting is the sheer amount of stuff going on. It is not only a film festival, but a massive market, an annual industry meet-up, a sprawling seminar, a paparazzi hunting ground, an awards ceremony, and an everlasting party.

Cafes, restaurants and hotel lobbies turn into networking hubs and industry meeting grounds. TV screens that usually broadcast football matches or music videos air live feeds of press conferences and red carpets. Beachfront apartments are transformed into movie company offices, with their logos hanging from the balconies and the harbor morphs into international pavilions for global cinema.

I often find that the most interesting films play at the Director’s Fortnight. It is late in the evening. My friend has snatched up a couple of priority invitations to Robert Eggers’ latest picture “The Lighthouse.”

Envious eyes watch us zip through the interminable line that wraps around the JW Marriott.

I sink into my chair but, within moments, a sense of dread washes over me when I hear the shrill voice from earlier today. It’s the woman from the train. The festival may be larger than life, but it is still a very small place.

“The Lighthouse” is hypnotic, terrifying and has remarkable performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. It is guaranteed to give me nightmares later.

Willem Dafoe stars in The Lighthouse. (AFP)

Day 2

I am having a breakfast meeting by the shore. A seagull swoops in and boldly pilfers a piece of bread from the basket. Even the seagulls here are fierce and determined.

 A 50-something gentleman interrupts our conversation and humbly introduces himself as a filmmaker from Saskatchewan who has been in the business for years.

He slides over a heap of DVDs. Films he has written, directed, produced, edited, shot, acted in and composed. He points at one of them, which is enveloped in a half-ripped cover. “This one here is my masterpiece,” he tells me.

Everyone has something to pitch. The whole town is like a never-ending speed date. Shifty eyes dart around mid-conversation. First, they land on your color-coded badge to decipher your title and worth, then swiftly onto the next person.

Ideas float around with the heft of low-hanging clouds over people’s heads. You can almost see them. The movies in competition may be front and center, but the energy is already directed at the future.

I swing by the Marche Du Film, the festival’s film market. Located in the Palais basement, it is a maze of industry booths where deals are negotiated and struck. It is not only the least glamorous part of the festival, but the least glamorous place you could ever visit.

The market begins to suffocate me so I decide to watch a movie, “Lilian” by Andreas Horvath. Waiting in line at this festival is a rite. You must always add an hour and a half to a movie’s running time to gauge your overall time investment.

The sun is setting and the sea is iridescent. A nighttime chill begins to emerge. One of my favorite things to do at the festival is to watch a film on the beach. There is something wonderfully primal and peaceful about it. A bunch of strangers gathered on a sandy shore beneath the moonlight, watching and listening to a story unfold.  A documentary is playing, “Haut Les Filles” by Francois Armanet. Everyone has sunk into their chairs and are wrapped up in blankets to protect them from the gusts of wind. They look so peaceful and vulnerable, a poignant end to the vicissitudes of their day.

A woman checks her phone in the Marche Du Film. (AFP)

Day 3

It is 7:30 a.m. and I make my way to a film screening — “Frankie” by Ira Sachs. On my way there I spot a group of people, one of them is in a wrinkled tuxedo that has lost its respectability. Last night hasn't yet ended for them. 

The film dips me in and out of a light and pleasant sleep, but I somehow suspect this could be its intended effect.

I walk out of the Grand Theatre Lumiere. The glare assaults my eyes and brings me back to the real world, which suddenly looks more mundane.

I begin to exit the Grand Palais when I am approached by a festival attendant. She randomly offers me a seat at the press conference for “Young Ahmed,” the latest movie by the Dardennes brothers. Perhaps she liked my countenance, but most likely she needed to fill a few empty seats. 

Things are in overdrive today. It’s the Tarantino film premier and everyone seems to be seeking access to the screening. I overhear a woman pleading for that golden ticket. “My son is diabetic!” she says. What in the world does that have to do with getting a movie ticket?

After lunch, I glance at my watch and realize I’m about to miss my train. I run to the station and just barely make it. 

Three days in Cannes feel like a week. It is a cycle that ebbs and flows between the mad rush of the movie business and the peace and refuge of movie watching. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. But it’s all about the movies, so who can really complain?

Quentin Tarantino premiered ‘Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood’ in Cannes. (AFP)