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

1 / 8
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)
2 / 8
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)
3 / 8
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)
4 / 8
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)
5 / 8
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)
6 / 8
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)
7 / 8
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)
8 / 8
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
0

‘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.


Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

Jana Ghalayini’s work at Art Dubai invited visitors to draw on their responses.
Updated 25 May 2019
0

Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

  • Female-led art collective wants society to rethink the way women of color are perceived
  • Banat Collective publishes artworks in print and online and hosts events to encourage debate

DUBAI: Sara bin Safwan founded the Banat Collective in 2016 to connect with other like-minded people, championing
their art through the group’s website, banatcollective.com.
The group aims to help society to rethink the way women of color are perceived by showcasing contemporary art, poetry and other writings. The collective publishes artistic works in print and online and hosts events aimed at spreading awareness and encouraging debate.
“A lot of the artists are young and emerging and never had the chance to be either exhibited or publicized, so we interview them to offer a critical, insightful look at their work,” said Safwan, 25.


Now an assistant curator at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Safwan graduated from London’s world-famous Central Saint Martins college in 2015 with a degree in culture, criticism and curation.
It was while studying in Britain that she developed a keen interest in post-colonial theory; the Banat Collective focuses on themes relating to both womanhood and intersectionality, which is an analytic framework to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those most marginalized in society.
“The mission is not only to connect artists but open up discussions about Arab womanhood in the region, because there’s not necessarily any other place to do so. We do that through art, poetry and other writings,” Safwan said.
“I use the word ‘womanhood’ to make it a more accessible term because if I use ‘feminism,’ it’s a very politically charged word that has almost been tainted by Western ideologies. And those Western ideologies don’t necessarily fit within our context as Middle Easterners.”
“In the Middle of it All” is the collective’s debut publication. Released in 2018, the book is a 31-artist collaboration of visual art, writing and poetry. Our book is a means to help us stand out — it’s thoughtfully curated and tackles a specific issue, which is ‘coming of age’,” she says.
“It’s a notion that’s taboo in the Arab world and either unheard of or misunderstood. It was a chance for female artists to tell their own story.
“Throughout the book, we go through many topics such as puberty, identity, sexual harassment and abuse, sisterhood, motherhood, beauty standards and all these other societal expectations.”
The collective held its first exhibition as part of March’s Art Dubai fair, showcasing a short film, “Ivory Stitches & Saviors” by member Sarah Alagroobi, which she describes as an “unflinching glimpse into identity, colonialism and whitewashing.”
Says Safwan: “It’s a tribute to all women of color who have been marginalized and, all too often, erased.”
Another work by Palestinian-Canadian artist Jana Ghalayini is comprised of a 26-meter-long piece of chiffon on which visitors can draw with chalk pastels in response to questions posed by the artist including “How does your environment affect your identity?”
Safwan adds: “The themes we explored were vulnerability and community — it was a way to introduce ourselves in person because previously we only had an online presence.”
Born and raised in the UAE to Honduran and Emirati parents, Safwan is now working with Alagroobi and Ghalayini to brainstorm ideas for future projects that include a podcast series on the notion of shame. The collective is self-funded and run by volunteers.
“I hope there will be more opportunities to showcase our work and collaborate with others. This year, we will be publishing more content,” Safwan said.

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of The Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.