Emoção Art.ficial 5.0

Bions

It was a great pleasure to be part of the Emoção Art.ficial 5 (Artificial Emotion 5)  symposium, held in São Paulo, Brazil 1-3 July 2010. The symposium ran along side the exhibition, which continues until September 5. Speakers presented their talks over three evenings, plus an afternoon session on the final day.

Murray Campbell spoke about the application of AI to game playing, specifically in the development of chess playing systems. Murray was one of the leading members of the team that devised ‘Deep Blue‘, the chess playing computer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It was interesting to hear Murray reflect on the more commonly asked philosophical questions regarding machines beating the best human players. Deep Blue was of course, extremely good at playing chess, but it did not play like a human player, nor could it do anything but play chess. This is not to diminish the incredible intellectual and technical feat of developing such a system, but sometimes Deep Blue’s victory has been seen as the swan song for all human intellectual dominance – a position clearly not tenable given current technology and our practical abilities with artificial intelligence.

Next up, I gave a talk on evolution and art. I have to say that earlier in the day, Brazil lost to Holland in the world cup, so the mood of the audience was, well, a little sombre. I illustrated how evolution can discover novel solutions without the direct influence of a designer, and talked about my creative approach to evolution based on models of ecosystems. There were some challenging questions from the audience, even through the bilingual translation and the bottleneck of having to write questions on paper rather than asking them in person…

On Saturday afternoon we were entertained with a panel discussion on the post-human, with post-humanity’s number one showman, Stelarc going in tandem with local academic Lucia Santaella. Its always great to see Stelarc perform, but I also think his collection of robotics videos – taken from leading research labs all over the world – could warrant a significant documentary on their own. Drawing their inspiration from insects, worms, bugs and snakes, the anthropomorphic assimilation and agency we can so easily intuitively ascribe to these robots is startling.

The final speaker was Paul Pangaro, the Emoção Art.ficial mainstay, having given talks at two of the previous biennial events. Paul’s speciality is Cybernetics, the broad theme for the trilogy of Emoção Art.ficial festivals that culminated in the event this year.  Paul was a highly entertaining and knowledgeable speaker, fluent in all the cybernetic jargon which he deftly tried to explain in the short time frame allocated. While cybernetic theory is interesting, I have to admit I got lost in the connection between Gordon Pask‘s conversation theory and consciousness. Still, I am inspired to read Pask’s books on conversation theory, even if only to better understand why I don’t see the connections Paul did.

All up, I think a very stimulating symposium that left me wanting more details and more speakers. The associated exhibition is also well worth visiting if you happen to be in São Paulo before September 5.

Here’s a flickr set from my visit:

Daria and StelarcVisit to Leonardo and Rejane's studioBird,  São PauloEmoção Art.ficial 5Bill Vorn's RobotsSão Paulo at nightAutoportraitDrawing RobotBionBionBill Vorn's RobotsBill Vorn's RobotsBuildings, São PauloItaú Cultural building, São Paulo, BrazilEarly morning, São Paulo, Brazil, view from my hotel roomHotel window, Brazil