THE INFINITE GUIDE
"Although today's technologists, in their sober pursuit of utility, power, and profit, seem to set society's standard for rationality, they are driven also by distant dreams, spiritual yearnings for supernatural redemption. However dazzling and daunting their display of worldly wisdom, their true inspiration lies elsewhere, in an enduring, other-worldly quest for transcendence and salvation."
(Noble, in The Religion of Technology, 1993)
The Infinite Guide is a speculative art work and research project, powered by a conversational Artificial Intelligence, (a natural language human-computer interface). It took place simultaneously online and at KARST in Plymouth from the 1st - 9th September 2018.
ABOUT THE INFINITE GUIDE
The Infinite Guide explores how people 'feel' about Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered conversational systems. These are systems that enable people to 'talk' to computers through interfaces such as chatbots (text based computer programmes/interfaces that mimic conversation with people) and voice assistants (voice based computer programmes/interfaces such as Alexa, Siri, Google Home etc.)
The project also explores how people 'feel' about the idea of digital immortality (a hypothetical idea of being able to upload your brain into a computer). The overall intention is to create a dialogue between people using these systems, people designing these systems and the systems themselves to critically inform their shared futures.
You are invited to talk with the Infinite Guide through its online chatbot (through Facebook Messenger or on this website) and in the physical spaces through its voice interface. The AI producing these conversations is trained to have short conversations with people about the future and digital immortality. The responses generated will be poetic and oraclesque. It attempts to understand how you 'feel' about these topics and your experience of speaking to the conversational system itself.
The conversational data generated by the AI is not intended as advice or guidance. It is only intended as a poietic and performative experience, to generate questions and encourage a critical dialogue.
WHY THE INFINITE GUIDE
There is an urgency to explore what it means to be human, individually and collectively, as we increasingly live with and through current and near future AI technologies. The Infinite Guide sets out to engage, provoke and involve more people in reflecting and discussing their desired future relationship with technology and data.
The work is grounded in the proposition that as the complexity and power of intelligent systems expand beyond human comprehension, faith is necessarily reintroduced. This positions the computational system as an ideological and mythic incarnation of an emergent artificial spiritual guide. A guide residing in cathedrals of computation (Bogost, 2015). A technological future forged in the naïve, biased and diversity challenged furnace of silicon valley will flavour our conversations and thoughts if left unchallenged.
This research is part of an ongoing enquiry which explores the emergent social relationship between humans and artificial intelligence systems.
THE AI SYSTEM
The AI system (LSTM Recurrent Neural Net) powering the Infinite Guide is trained with an intentionally biased and non-diverse corpus of data aggregated from a collection of writings from luminaries of the transhumanist movement who are largely western, white and male, such as FM-2030, Anders Sandberg, Ray Kurzweil, Zoltan Istvan, Vernor Vinge, Max More, David Levy, R.U. Sirius, Aubrey de Grey, Michael Rae, and Nick Bostrom. Deliberately non-diverse and non-representative, the AI generates its own poetic responses in the style of an oracle, based on its training data, guiding its chosen users towards digital immortality.
This project is conceived by B Aga, and developed with Coral Manton, Mike Phillips and Chris Melidis, from the i-DAT Research and Design Collective at University of Plymouth, alongside Crumb Solutions, Intercity, Story Juice and a group of young people facilitated though FACT, KARST and PSCA.