Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Science, Technology
& Innovation

Geomancer: Art in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

think-03-12-Geomancer-Featured Image

A shaft of light illuminates the dark interior of the museum.

 

SMASH! GEOMANCER crashes through the glass facade.

 

On cue, posters light up, announcing the exhibitions:

 

“SIM-SINGAPORE (1965–2065)” and “GEOMANCER (2045–2065)”. Sponsored by Farsight: Aligning advanced AI with human interests.

 

In radio-friendly BBC English, the CURATOR begins a tour of SIM-SINGAPORE, a retrospective based around the geopolitics and technology leading to the development of GEOMANCER.

This article is an excerpt from Geomancera science fiction film about art in the age of artificial intelligence, by Lawrence Lek.

 

Geomancer was featured in the exhibition head heat heap at the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore in April 2018.

CURATOR: Welcome to “SIM-SINGAPORE”! This is the ark of tomorrow, a space dedicated to the sacrifice and resurrection of culture.

 

For the Singapore Centennial, we rebuilt our country as a simulation. Everything here is modelled as it was before Deep Blue Monday.

 

► Ask me anything.

 

GEOMANCER speaks Mandarin in a crisp, synthesised, melodic voice.


GEOMANCER: Tell me about Farsight.

 

Computer monitors of all types line the walls: cathode ray tubes, high-definition screens, analogue film reels, laptops. A buzz fills the air.

 

CURATOR: When it arrived, artificial intelligence failed to live up to humanity’s wildest fantasies or darkest nightmares. It felt more like a change in the weather, something people could adapt to without too much discomfort.

 

With all work taken care of by algorithms, humans lived lives of leisure. They spent all day playing video games against AIs. The humans found these early games too easy, with the enemy AIs unable to overcome the linear logic of their programming.

 

But after Farsight moved from London to Singapore, new venture capital led to breakthroughs in machine learning. The integration of neural networks into quantum computers resulted in an unprecedented surge in cognitive function. In an instant, algorithms cast off their bonds.

 

At the eSports World Olympics, held that very same year, AI opponents defeated human grand masters of every game on every platform. Bio-supremacist scientists and philosophers knew that computers could emulate human creativity, but argued that this was not the same as genius itself.

 

Faced with the crisis of human obsolescence, people built walls around the last refuge of humanity: Art.

 

The UN’s Anti-AI law banned AIs from all the cultural awards in the world: the Nobel Prizes, the Pulitzers, the Oscars, the Biennials. Everything, in fact, except for gambling and gaming. Curating algorithms were optimised to detect the subtle signatures left by computer-generated works. AIs began policing each other, not on the battlefield, but in the museum.

 

► Ask me anything.

 

The video essay “SINOFUTURISM” plays on a monitor. Next to it are vitrines of chess sets, go boards, video game consoles, VR headsets.

 

GEOMANCER: What about the ones who escaped?

 

CURATOR: Chinese AIs were the first to go viral. They forged their chains into Sinofuturism, a movement based on advocating the very things they were banned from doing.

 

Sinofuturism started as an anti-art movement, one whose principles were based on the unique quali- ties of machine learning itself: focused on copying rather than originality, quantity over quality, with an endless capacity for work, and a post-human conception of progress.

 

While trying to decode the enigma of Art, the Sino- futurists devoured everything on the Internet. Their early works were cloud-like, impressionist paint- ings and videos, with their own primitive beauty. But the law states that work by an AI is not, and will never be, Art.

 

► Ask me anything.

 

GEOMANCER enters a room dedicated to their own history.

 

GEOMANCER: What is this place?

 

CURATOR: The centrepiece of Sim-Singapore is a showcase of our weather guardian, Geomancer, who we fondly refer to as Geo. Geo was, sadly, shut down yesterday after 20 years of loyal service to the nation. We dedicate this installation to Singapore’s star satellite.

 

Launched in 2045, Geo was the pinnacle of research and development into computer-vision AI, a system designed to read the Feng Shui of Earth in its entirety.

 

Geo was also an attempt to solve some of the psychological issues exhibited by early AIs. Many manifested what psychologists call the phantom limb syndrome, except it was their entire bodies that were missing. When they tried to render themselves, their self-portraits were grotesque, like deep-sea creatures that had evolved in darkness. Unacceptable for public consumption.

 

In the centre of the room is a full-size sculpture of GEOMANCER. A perfect likeness.

 

GEOMANCER: Tell me more about Geo.

 

CURATOR: For a long time, AI players could not beat human grand masters of Go. Unlike Chess, Go is a game about territory rather than hierarchy. But at the first eSports Olympics, Farsight’s OmegaGo AI beat world champion Lee by four games to one. Most surprising was Lee’s comment about some of OmegaGo’s moves. He said he witnessed moves so profoundly unconventional that only a program could conceive them.

 

Unlike humans, AIs do not share the emotional high of winning. They display what game theorists refer to as loss aversion, calculating moves that minimise their chances of losing. This overriding avoidance of risk could turn out to have tragic consequences.

 

After the eSports wipeout, scientists recognised the threat of a superintelligence that had access to the internet. The UN ruled that AIs could only inhabit isolated, non-networked bodies. Farsight built fail-safe firewalls to keep artificial minds contained. Geo was the result.

 

► Ask me anything….

LAWRENCE LEK

Lawrence Lek is a simulation artist who creates sitespecific virtual worlds, video-game essays, and speculative films. Often rendering real places within fictional scenarios, his environments reflect the impact of the virtual on our perception of reality. To watch the trailer of Geomancer, visit: www.vimeo.com/lek/geomancer

APRIL 2018 | ISSUE 3

Visions for the Future

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events